Schmelzel ties career low twice over weekend
Entering Sunday with a three-stroke lead, the South Carolina women’s golf team had their sights set on being top dog at the Florida State Match-Up in Tallahassee.
When all was said and done, the team did just that, holding off No. 12 Clemson by two strokes to claim first place out of eleven teams to open the spring season.
The No. 13 Gamecocks bested the other six ranked teams in the field as well as four other challengers with a final score of 871 ( 7), an accomplishment coach Kalen Harris says was huge for building momentum for the rest of the season.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Harris said. “With Clemson, coming down the stretch it was really tight all day. I’m proud of the way they played, they played well and it was fun to play well and battle until the end. It was nice to see everyone step up throughout the week. Everyone really contributed.”
South Carolina’s best individual performance of the weekend came from sophomore Sarah Schmelzel. A 2013 SEC All-Freshman Team selection, Schmelzel took sole possession of second place out of 60 individuals with a weekend score of 212 (-4).
Schmelzel’s second-place finish was the best of her career. She also tied her personal low 18-hole score, shooting a 70 on both Friday and Sunday.
“Sarah played really steady all week. She was very patient all week. She had a really solid tournament,” Harris said. “I was really happy for her.”
Throughout the day Sunday, the Tigers slowly erased the three-stroke cushion that the Gamecocks had built. A turning point in the match-up came on the par-five 16th. Schmelzel birdied while the Clemson player she was paired with bogeyed, providing South Carolina with the push they needed to capture the victory.
Another major factor in the Gamecocks’ triumph was the play of freshman Katelyn Dambaugh. Her final-round score of 67 set the low 18-hole score for any player in the tournament to catapult from T-28th at the start of the day to a T-7th finish with a weekend score of 219 ( 3).
Harris noted that despite starting in the middle of the pack on Sunday, Dambaugh’s surge was crucial to the team’s victory.
“Katelyn’s been playing really, really well. She qualified really well and I know she didn’t play as well as she’d like the first two days. But that 5-under was huge for us and I’m proud of her as well,” Harris said, “She’s got that ability to go very low and she got it done today. It was fun to see her have a good round. That’s the kind of golf she’s able to play.”
Three other Gamecocks also finished in the top-20. Senior Samantha Swinehart and freshman Jia Xia Yang – who competed in the tournament as an individual – both finished T-12th. Junior Justine Dreher finished the weekend T-16th.
Ten of the eleven teams either set or tied their best team score of the weekend on Sunday. South Carolina bounced back to shoot 285 on the day after shooting 293 on Friday and Saturday, one stroke behind Clemson for best team round score.
Although conditions were more favorable Sunday, Harris didn’t discredit her players’ performances.
“Overall, the greens were still pretty tough. Some of the greens were definitely a little tricky. In terms of the weather it was the nicest day and probably the least challenging from the wind aspect,” Harris said. “But we capitalized and we needed to.”
South Carolina returns to action March 7-9 when the team hosts the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in Hilton Head, S.C., at the Long Cove Club.