Furman To Open 2013-14 Season At Cougar Classic

Stephanie Carlozzi
Stephanie Carlozzi

GREENVILLE, S.C. --  The Furman women's golf team will open the 2013-14 season this weekend at the 11th Annual Cougar Classic, hosted by the College of Charleston at the par 72, 6,402 yard Yeamans Hall Club in Hanahan, S.C.   

The 54-hole tournament, which features four teams ranked in the Golf World/WGCA Coaches' Preseason Division I Poll, begins Sunday at 8 a.m.  Second round play will tee off Monday at 8 a.m., and the tournament will conclude Tuesday with a 9 a.m. shotgun start.

The Paladins will be joined in the field by Auburn, #24 Baylor, Charleston Southern, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston, #10 Florida, #22 LSU, Maryland, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, #20 N.C. State, UNCG, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wake Forest and Wisconsin.  Fifteen of the 20 teams at the tournament were represented at the 2013 NCAA regionals, while Clemson will be competing in its inaugural event.

"Even though we are only two weeks into the school year, I think it will be great to get compete against a strong field to see where we stack up," said Furman head coach Kelley Hester, who is entering her second year at the helm of the Paladin program.  

In her first year with the Paladins, Hester led the team to a second-place finish at both the Southern Conference Championship and the Lady Paladin Invitational.  Under Hester's tutelage, then-senior Laura Wearn established a new single season school record after posting a 73.35 stroke average over 31 rounds and earned All-American honorable mention accolades from Golfweek during the 2012-13 season.  Wearn, who ranked No. 39 in the Golfstat rankings, received an at-large bid as an individual to the NCAA West Regional. 

"Although we improved in several categories last season, such as stroke average (4 strokes/round) and ranking (20+ spots), we did not meet all of our goals (SoCon Championship win and NCAA Regional appearance)," Hester said.  "With the graduation of Wearn, who led the team in almost every category, some younger players will need to step up and lead this year.  It will be interesting to see who chooses to take that initiative."

Furman will tee-off of No. 1 beginning at 8:45 a.m. in first round play.  The Paladins' lineup includes senior Ingunn Gunnarsdottir, junior Laura DeMarco, sophomores Stephanie Carlozzi and Valentina Romero, and freshman Taylor Totland.  

"Our top two returners were both freshmen last year in Romero, who finished second at the SoCon tournament, and Carlozzi," said Hester.  "I look for our lone freshman, Totland, to contribute immediately. Some of the upperclassmen need to establish their place on the team and compete for playing time."

Admission to the tournament is free and fans are welcome.  Live tournament scoring will also be available via www.golfstat.com.