Following a successful fall season that saw two tournament wins, the South Carolina women’s golf team will begin its spring season with its eyes set on winning a national championship.
The Gamecocks will begin the spring season on Feb. 20 in the Moon Golf Invitational as the third-ranked team in the country. The team feels that by the end of the season they will be in a position to win championships.
“We have goals of winning SEC and national championships,” head coach Kalen Anderson said. “We've got to have a little luck on our side, everything needs to, kind of, align. But we definitely, certainly have the talent.”
Before a potential championship run is possible, the Gamecocks have to navigate a spring schedule where the team will compete against a number of teams in various tournaments.
From Feb. 28 through March 2, the team will host the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate. The tournament takes place on Hilton Head Island and will make history as the first all-women's regular-season college golf tournament aired live on the Golf Channel.
South Carolina currently has three top-100 players in the country, including the 13th ranked player in freshman Hannah Darling. Darling is positioned ninth in the world amateur rankings and has had an impressive start to her collegiate career.
“I think overall there were a lot of positives to take, there’s obviously a few events I didn’t quite perform as I would’ve liked. But yeah, I mean obviously, first semester here I’m still sort of getting used to things,” Darling said.
Darling finished the fall season with three top-10 finishes and a 70.83 scoring average. She was selected to the ANNIKA Award watchlist. The ANNIKA is given to the best women’s college golfer and is selected by college golfers, coaches and media members.
Darling said she is not going to worry about personal achievements throughout the season, but instead focus on playing her game.
“At the end of the day, if I play well, that will take care of itself,” Darling said. “If that comes around or anything happens with that, then great. But if not, there’s really no stress.”
This desire for team success and a competitive drive is what Anderson says separates her players from other schools' players across the country.
“This group was having so much fun, there is so much camaraderie,” Anderson said. “We’re not playing together all the same time, but you can just feel the energy going from one group to the next, and I think it’s very unique to have that in golf.”
The team features players from six different countries. Despite this, junior Mathilde Claisse said the Gamecocks have had no difficulty coming together and getting along.
“I love how this team is evolving, how we are interacting with each other, like the fact that we are coming from different countries, from different cultures. I mean, I freaking love this team,” Claisse said.
Claisse has taken a veteran role on the team given her familiarity with the program and her experience with the usual courses the team plays. She has been on the team the longest as a consistent starter.
“I’m lucky enough to have experience on those courses from those tournaments that we play, so I’ll be more than happy to give advice to the girls and feedback from what I did,” Claisse said.
South Carolina will depend on Claisse and others to achieve its goal of competing for a national championship.
“It’s ring season,” Claisse said. “Hopefully, we’ll get two of them.”