The past will meet the present this weekend at the University of Georgia Golf Course when many of the nation’s premier women’s golf teams compete in the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic.
This year’s tournament will be the 45th edition of the “Liz,” making it one of the oldest and most prestigious events in all of women’s intercollegiate athletics. While full of history, the current-day tournament features a hybrid format of stroke and match play competition that emulates the NCAA Championships.
“I think it goes back to the history of women’s golf and the program here at Georgia,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “Forty-five years for this tournament. The golf course hosting the national championships five times and hosting another Regional this spring. It goes back to the vision Liz had to build this program. We’re just trying to add one more piece to her legacy. And people understand this is a great test for them before they start the postseason.”
Friday’s opening round will feature 18 holes of strokes play by the 12 competing teams. Those results will be used to seed teams for bracketed match play competition on Saturday and Sunday. Teams tee off from both No. 1 and No. 10 beginning at 8:30 on Friday and at 8:00 on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free to watch the competition.
“I think this format really helps us to prepare for the postseason,” said sophomore Bailey Tardy, who is currently No. 8 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. “It’s a good way to end our regular season. It’s a combination of stroke play and match play, which is what happens at nationals. This weekend’s format keeps both stroke play and match play fresh on our minds for what’s going to happen in the postseason.”
The No. 8-ranked Bulldogs are one of three top-10 and seven top-25 teams in the field which also features No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Southern Cal, No. 11 South Carolina, No. 16 Arkansas, No. 19 Oklahoma State, No. 22 Purdue, Auburn, Denver, Old Dominion and Troy. In addition, Daytona State, the top-ranked junior college team in the nation, rounds out the field.
The Bulldogs’ playing five for this weekend will feature Jillian Hollis, Tardy, Harang Lee, Mary Ellen Shuman and Rinko Mitsunaga.
Georgia is coming off its best performance of the spring a week ago when the Bulldogs finished second at the Bryan National Collegiate. Individually, Hollis and Tardy led the Bulldogs by finishing third and eighth, respectively.
“The Bryan National was the best we’ve played since Chicago (in the fall),” Brewer said “It’s been building. I’ve seen it coming since February so it’s nice to see them rewarded for their hard work. Hopefully, it’s a precursor for what’s coming during the rest of the season.”
“I think we’re building momentum as we head into the postseason,” Lee said. “Jillian and Bailey played awesome last weekend, and that pushes all of us to work harder. I think we have the right mindset for this tournament. It’s the right moment for us to be playing well, finishing the regular season headed in the right direction to play our best of the year.”
This tournament also provides the Bulldogs with a chance to compete on their home course each spring.
“I’m super excited to have the chance to compete on our home course and play in front of lot of my family and friends,” Tardy said. “Playing at home can be a benefit because you know what challenges you to face. Mainly, you know where not to go, but some times that can be to your disadvantage because that can lurk in your mind. Hopefully, we’ll do our normal routine and play like we’ve been playing and have a good week.”
“It’s a lot of fun to host a tournament where so many great schools come to our home course and our friends can come out and watch,” Lee said. “I really like this format. I love match play. It’s totally different. It’s nice to switch it up from other tournaments and play both stroke play and match play. It’s nice that it’s our home tournament and it’s different. I think it’s a fun format to watch, and people may understand it better.”
Following the Liz Murphey, the Bulldogs will open postseason play at the SEC Championships on April 21-23. Georgia will then host an NCAA Regional on May 8-10 at the UGA Golf Course. The Regional will feature 18 teams competing for six spots in the field for the NCAA Championships on May 19-24 in Sugar Hills, Ill., outside Chicago. The Championships feature 72 holes of stroke play, with the top-eight teams advancing to match play to determine the national champion.
“It’s perfect preparation for the postseason,” Brewer said. “You hope Regionals are as easy as they were last year (when Georgia won the NCAA Bryan Regional by six strokes), but you know you have to play great to get out. That last day, we might have to post a score just like on the first day of the Liz when we have to post a score to make the top bracket in match play. We’re under the gun a little bit, so it’s great preparation.”
Tournament namesake Liz Murphey turned UGA’s women’s athletics into a national power as the school’s Senior Woman Administrator from the 1970s through the 1990s. As women’s golf head coach, she led Georgia to 21 team and 18 individual titles from 1979-86, including six top-10 finishes at the national championships. Murphey, who was inducted into the state of Georgia’s Sports Hall of Fame two months ago, also hired many of Georgia’s greatest coaches ever, including Jack Bauerle, Beans Kelly, Andy Landers, Jeff Wallace and Suzanne Yoculan. That quintet has combined to lead Georgia teams to 19 NCAA Championships and 52 SEC Championships.
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