March 28, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The 40th edition of the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic - one of the oldest intercollegiate women's events in any sport - will be contested at the University of Georgia Golf Course this weekend from Friday-Sunday. A stacked field featuring nine teams in the top 30 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, including No. 12 Georgia, will be competing.
The tournament began humbly in 1973 as the Georgia Invitational before becoming the Women's Southern Intercollegiate Championships from 1977-94. In 1995, the tournament was renamed in honor of Liz Murphey, the Lady Bulldogs' hall of fame golf coach and UGA Athletics' long-time Senior Woman Administrator. The list of golfers who have competed collegiately in the Liz Murphey reads like a "Who's Who" of women's golf, including LPGA Hall of Famers Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Julie Inkster.
Alabama, which is No. 2 in Golfweek's computer rankings, headlines the field. Additional top-30 teams included No. 7 Auburn, the No. 12 Bulldogs, No. 16 Florida, No. 23 Michigan State, No. 25 Florida State, No. 26 Oklahoma, No. 27 South Carolina and No. 28 Virginia. Rounding out the competing schools are Arkansas, Augusta State, Denver, Kent State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Purdue and Wake Forest.
"There's a strong tradition of great teams competing in the Liz Murphey," head coach Kelley Hester said. "It's an honor and a privilege to host the event and showcase the amazing facilities we have at the UGA Golf Course. It's in full bloom right now and so beautiful. I think the teams always enjoy coming here. For many, it's their last event before the post-season so they're trying to figure out where they are and where they're headed. It's not uncommon for the team that wins the Liz Murphey to go on and win their conference tournament and play very well in the NCAAs."
Georgia will enter two teams in this weekend's event.
The Bulldogs' "A" squad will feature the same lineup as the Gator Invitational two weeks ago, with seniors Milena Savich and Marta Silva Zamora, junior Emilie Burger and freshmen Collins Bradshaw and Rocio Sanchez Lobato comprising the playing five.
Burger sports the Bulldogs' best stroke average on the year at 72.30, while she and Silva Zamora both have recorded a team-high three top-10 individual finishes. Silva Zamora, who is the defending Liz Murphey Collegiate medalist, opened the spring by winning the Lady Puerto Rico Classic and is now one victory shy of tying the Georgia record of seven career wins held by both Vicki Goetze and Shauna Estes.
"Emilie has been incredibly consistent this season, especially this semester," Hester said. "Marta is returning to her championship form of last season. Collins is playing with a lot of confidence. She qualified very strong for this event in the No. 3 position. I keep waiting for her to carry that confidence over into the tournament and this could very well be the weekend that happens. Milena and Rocio have been in the top five for every event this year and been major contributors. Rocio has stuggled a little lately, but I think she's figured some things out and will be back closer to her form from the fall. Milena has been solid for us, too. I know Milena and Marta, as seniors, would like nothing more than to go out on top in their last Liz Murphey."
The four Georgia golfers who originally were slated to play as individuals - seniors Tess Fordham and Kiara Hayashida, junior Abby Johnson and sophomore Amelia Hill - approached Hester this week about competing as a team. All four golfers' scores will count each day without the luxury of a fifth "drop" score.
"They came to me and wanted to play as a team as opposed to four individuals," Hester said. "That's not the easy way. It would've been much easier to play as four individuals, especially since they won't have a drop score. I had a few doubts about it, but I wanted to honor the fact that they wanted to do it and represent Georgia. I know Kiara and Tess, who are seniors, would like to got out on a high note in their final Liz Murphey. As a coach, that's the attitude you want your players to have."
No admission will be charged to attend the tournament. Tee times each day will begin at 9 a.m. On Friday and Saturday, three teams will be paired together and tee off in waves. Georgia will play with Oklahoma and Florida State on Friday beginning at 10:40 a.m. On Sunday, the round will begin with a shotgun start.
Live scoring will be updated every three holes at www.golfstat.com.