Milena Savich will be competing in her third NCAA Regional in
May 9, 2012
Bulldogs head to Ohio State for NCAA Central Regional
The Georgia women's golf team will open NCAA competition as the No. 3 seed in the Central Regional in Columbus, Ohio this Thursday-Saturday.
The Bulldogs will be among 24 teams and six individuals competing at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course. Additional Regionals will be held simultaneously in State College, Pa., and Erie, Colo.
"The No. 3 seed seemed right," head coach Kelley Hester said. "We've been one of the top nine or 10 teams in the country for the better part of the year."
The Bulldogs are currently ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in all three polls - No. 9 by Golfstat and No. 10 by both Golfweek and Golf World.
Georgia will play with top-seeded Southern Cal and No. 2 seed Auburn in the first two rounds. The Bulldogs, Women of Troy and Tigers will tee off from No. 1 starting at 9:06 a.m. on Thursday and will open play at No. 10 at 1:26 p.m. on Friday. Final round pairings will be set by team standings after 36 holes.
The Bulldogs and Tigers are among seven Southeastern Conference teams in the Central field, which also features Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
"Several people have asked me where I wanted to do and I was hesitant to say," Hester said when Regional assignments were announced. "I didn't want to put too many eggs in one basket but in the back of my mind, I was thinking Ohio State. It's the course I'm probably most familiar with since the 2006 NCAAs were there and we played in a Regional there in 2000 when I was an assistant coach. It's also probably the easiest travel of the three."
The top eight teams and the top two individuals who are not members of those teams will move on from each Regional to compete in the NCAA Championships at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn., on May 22-25.
"The bottom line is if you play well you make it through," Hester said. "We'll focus on what we need to do to do that. They seed the top 18 teams to get a balanced field and it appears to me that it's balanced fairly. This Regional is SEC heavy. That probably reflects on what we already knew...the SEC is tough, especially this year."
Four-fifths of the Bulldogs' lineup has been constant throughout the 2011-12 campaign. Seniors Milena Savich and Marta Silva Zamora, junior Emilie Burger and freshman Rocio Sanchez Lobato have competed in all nine tournaments to date. That quartet has combined for 31 of UGA's 32 par-or-better rounds and all 10 top-10 and 18 top-20 individual finishes.
For all intents and purposes, Burger and Silva Zamora, who both were named first-team All-SEC, have been co-No. 1s for Georgia this season. They are listed among the top-25 in three individual national rankings and are 1-2 on the team in every statistical category, with very little differentiation between first and second.
Burger is No. 15 in the Golfstat head-to-head rankings, No. 17 on the Golfweek ledger and No. 21 in the Golfstat Cup. Silva Zamora is No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and No. 16 in both the Golfstat Cup and Golfstat head-to-head rankings.
Sanchez Lobato, who was named Freshman All-SEC, was Georgia's top individual at both the Cougar Classic and Tar Heel Invitational and tied for eighth at the SECs.
Savich, a native of Carmel, Ind., has bounced back from a cumbersome junior campaign with a strong senior season. Her 75.92 average is nearly two strokes better than a year ago.
While the Bulldogs' top four golfers have been steady, identifying the final member of the quintet has been tricky. Four players have tried but have only managed to contribute counting scores in 33.6 percent of UGA's rounds.
Amelia Hill, who will occupy the No. 5 spot at the Central Regional, was the most successful of those, chipping in a combined 2.5 counters (.417) at the Cougar Classic and SECs.
UGA a national leader since '70s
The University of Georgia has been one of the nation's premier women's college golf programs for decades.
The Bulldogs have posted 25 top-20 and 20 top-10 finishes at AIAW and NCAA Championships since 1979, including winning the 2001 NCAA title.
Since the NCAA went to a Regional format in 1993, Georgia also has claimed three East team titles (1993, 1998 and 1999) and one individual crown (Reilley Rankin in 1998).
This is the Bulldogs' third appearance in the Central since the expansion to three Regionals in 2001. Georgia placed second in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 2007 and 11th in Columbus, Ind., two years ago.
In addition to the team success, three Bulldog golfers have claimed individual national titles.
Terri Moody earned medalist honors at the 1981 AIAW Championships at the UGA Golf Course, while Cindy Schreyer and Vicki Goetze took home individual crowns at the 1984 and 1992 NCAA Championships, respectively.
SEC provides stiff competition
Eight SEC teams are currently among the nation's top-25 teams in an aggregate ranking of the three major polls - the Golfweek/Sagarin Index, Golfstat and the Golf World coaches poll as outlined below.
SEC Teams In The Top 25
|Alabama||No. 2||No. 2||No. 2||2.0|
|Auburn||No. 4||No. 5||No. 5||4.7|
|LSU||No. 7||No. 6||No. 6||6.3|
|Georgia||No. 9||No. 10||No. 10||9.7|
|Vanderbilt||No. 10||No. 12||No. 9||10.3|
|Tennessee||No. 14||No. 15||No. 12||13.7|
|Florida||No. 15||No. 13||No. 15||14.3|
|S. Carolina||No. 25||No. 20||No. 25||23.3|
SEC leads nation in NCAA bids
Eleven Southeastern Conference teams earned bids to the 2012 NCAA Women's Golf Championships, equaling the league's most ever bids two years ago.
Six league schools are competing against Georgia at the Central Regional - Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Alabama, Florida and South Carolina are in the East Regional, while LSU is in the West Regional field.
The achievement is not an all-sports record for the SEC, however.
In 2001, 2002 and 2004, all 12 schools earned spots in the 64-team bracket for the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships. In addition, 11 SEC men's golf and women's tennis teams garnered NCAA bids in 2009 and 11 women's squads reached the NCAAs last spring.
The SEC leads the nation in participating teams in this year's NCAA Women's Golf Championships. The PAC-12 has 10 schools, followed by the ACC and Big 12 with seven and the Big Ten with six.
The most SEC teams to advance from Regional play to the NCAA Championships is seven, a tally set three times - 2006 (Columbus, Ohio), 2008 (Albuquerque, N.M.) and 2011 (College Station, Texas).
Curing fall's first-round woes
Georgia's most obvious shortcoming throughout the fall season was a series of slow starts.
The Bulldogs' first-round fall average of 301.25 was significantly higher than their second- (289.50) and third-round (290.25) marks.
After numerous conversations over the winter, head coach Kelley Hester and assistant coach Jeff Hull decided to add some competitiveness to Georgia's practice rounds this spring.
"We added some competition in our practice rounds in the spring to get us in that competitive mindset prior to starting the tournament," Hester said. "That has paid off for us. We were able to do that because we had an individual with us at every tournament this spring and were able to do some three-on-three competitions. We'll only have five golfers in the postseason so we're sill trying to figure out how we'll go about that at the Regionals, but it's certainly something we'll do because it has worked so well for us."
This spring, the Bulldogs' first-round average has dipped to 293.80 and actually is better than their second- (297.00) and third-round (302.00) marks.
A very consistent Burger
Junior Emilie Burger has notched seven top-20 finishes in nine tournaments this season...and she's done so with remarkably similar results.
In six of Georgia's eight 54-hole events, Burger has finished at either 1-over or 2-over. And one of those variations was a 1-under tally at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic to open the spring.
Burger was 8-over 150 at the rain-shortened Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, but said she was planning on shooting either 65 or 66 on Sunday.
Marta returns to form
Marta Silva Zamora, the reigning National Player of the Year, endured - by her standards - a somewhat sub-par fall when she posted a 73.58 stroke average and just two top-20 finishes.
This spring, Silva Zamora has looked like the same amazingly consistent player who posted nine top-10s in 10 events during 2010-11.
Silva Zamora opened the spring by capturing her sixth individual title at UGA at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic. She has followed that with additional top-5s at the Darius Rucker (4th), Liz Murphey (3rd) and SECs (5th).
Silva Zamora is one "W" shy of the Georgia record for career individual titles shared by Vicki Goetze and Shauna Estes.
Another "Columbus" for Savich
The trek to OSU's Scarlet Course make a third trip to "Columbus" for NCAA Regional competition for senior Milena Savich.
Savich competed in the Central Regional on the OSU Scarlet layout as a freshman at Michigan before transferring to Georgia. She tied for 61st individually, and the Wolverines finished 15th in the team field.
As a sophomore, she competed in the Central Regional contested at the Ottter Creek Golf Club in Columbus, Ind. Savich tied for 50th there, while the Bulldogs placed 11th.
Hill begins with a bang
Amelia Hill carded a 3-under 69 in her collegiate debut at the 2009 NCAA Fall Preview.
Hill's round was the best collegiate debut ever by a Bulldog golfer. She became just the sixth Georgia freshman since 1998 to open the season with a par-or-better score, joining Marta Silva Zamora, Carolina Andrade, Mallory Hetzel, Taylor Leon and Angela Jerman.
Trio receives SEC honors
Emilie Burger, Rocio Sanchez Lobato and Marta Silva Zamora earned SEC accolades on May 4.
Burger and Silva Zamora were tabbed first-team All-SEC, while Sanchez Lobato was named to the All-Freshman squad. In the process, Silva Zamora became just the seventh four-time first-team All-SEC performer in women's golf. She is the third Georgia golfer to do so, joining Shauna Estes (1997-00) and Whitney Wade (2004-07).
"Emilie, Marta and Ro all have had very solid seasons and this recognition is well deserved," Kelley Hester said. "With each of them, I still think they may have their best golf this season ahead of them in the postseason."
Burger has contributed a team-high 98.1 percent counting rounds during the 2011-12 season. Her best individual finish was a runner-up showing at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, where she came within a stroke of the UGA record with a 6-under 66 in the first round.
Silva Zamora leads the Bulldogs in stroke average (72.92), top-10 finishes (5) and par-or-better rounds (10).
Sanchez Lobato has four top-20 and two top-10 individual finishes this season. She led Georgia and tied for sixth in the season-opening Cougar Classic.