|WG Preview: CAA Championship|
WILMINGTON, North Carolina- The UNCW women’s golf team looks for its fifth conference title in eight seasons this weekend as it takes part in the 2014 Colonial Athletic Association Women’s Golf Championship at St. James Plantation in nearby Southport, N.C.
The 54-hole, five-count-four tournament, being held on the par-72, 6,066-yard layout of the Plantation’s Reserve Club, is open to the public. The first and second rounds are scheduled for Friday and Saturday and will feature three-player waves teeing off of the No. 1 and No. 10 tees starting at 9 a.m. Sunday’s final round is slated to begin at 8 a.m. Live stats will be available for all three rounds and may be accessed by clicking on the link at the top of the page.
UNCW will be joined in the nine-team field by fellow league members Dayton, Delaware, Drexel, College of Charleston, Hofstra, Richmond, Towson, William and Mary and defending champion James Madison.
The Seahawks have enjoyed plenty of success in conference tournament play in recent years as they have won four of the last seven conference championships while also posting two second-place finishes over that same time period.
“We feel we can play at a higher level when late April comes,” said UNCW Women’s Golf Head Coach Cindy Ho. “We’re hitting a little less club and there’s nicer weather and that’s how we’ve been able to continue to dominate at the conference tournament.”
The Seahawks make the 29-mile trip to Southport where the CAA golf tournament has been hosted for the last two years. Nicklaus Design created the 18-hole course that includes rolling terrain, forcing the players to concentrate on strategy and shot making.
“We take our lumps during the middle of the year playing strong opponents on difficult courses,” said Ho. “When we get to the conference championship the golf course, while still challenging, doesn’t compare to some of the courses we play during the year.”
Senior Lori Beth Adams, the reigning CAA Golfer-of-the-Year, finished in second place to pace the team to a runner-up result in 2013 with a team score of 950 (332-304-314). James Madison took the team title with a score of 942 (321-298-323).
This season, Adams has maintained a 74.66 stroke average and will anchor the UNCW lineup alongside fellow seniors Laverry Kumar (79.76) and Megan Burnham (81.95) as they look for their third conference title after capturing the crown during their freshman and sophomore seasons (2011 & 2012).
Joining the senior trio in the lineup will be sophomore transfers Meghan Theiss (78.41) and Annette Lyche (78.00). The duo, which joined the program in January from Louisville and Baylor, respectively, have both played strong this spring to earn a spot in the championship field.
“Lori Beth Adams has been our top player the last two years. She’s been in the lineup every since she was a freshmen, and has started every event,” said Ho of her top senior. “She has gained a lot of confidence from that. We look for her to set the pace and shoot something low because our team’s success revolves around her.”
Adams hopes to carry the momentum from the UNCW Seahawk Classic two weeks ago where she recorded the first win and eighth top five finish of her collegiate career. She will face strong competition as last year’s top finisher, Shabril Brewer from JMU, along with freshman sensation Laura Fuenfstueck from conference newcomer College of Charleston.
“Charleston is a very good team, very deep and talented. They will be our primary competition this year. They have a great scoring average and (Laura) Fuenfstueck is one of the top players in the country ranked near Lori Beth,” said Ho.
The 2014 CAA Championships promise to be another close contest. The top two teams from 2013, JMU and UNCW, finished within eight strokes of each other, and return the majority of their teams. College of Charleston is added to the mix this year, who is currently ranked 66th in the nation.
“Our key is can we play very well for three days in a row,” said Ho. “We cannot spot a team as good as Charleston 10-13 shots in that first round, it’s too hard to overcome.”
The winner of the CAA Championship will receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Women’s Golf Regionals May 8-10.
“We have to get off to a much better start in those first nine holes, that’s huge for us. Our team has the length to play this golf course. If our short game is good and we are putting well, and we can maintain that for all three days, we can come out on top,” said Ho.