The Georgia women’s golf team, which is currently No. 5 and No. 7 in the Golfweek and Golfstat national rankings, will begin play in the Mountain View Collegiate in Tucson, Arizona, on Friday. The Bulldogs are the highest-ranked entrant in the 15-team field, which also includes No. 16 Iowa State and No. 25 Missouri.
“We’re excited to go to a different part of the country and experience different conditions,” head coach Josh Brewer said. “About seven weeks from now, we could be shipped out West for (NCAA) Regionals. This week will help us learn how to handle the time change on our bodies and everything else associated with going so far from home.”
The 54-hole event will be contested with 36 holes on Friday followed by 18 on Saturday at the Mountain View Golf Club. Rounding out the competing teams are Colorado State, Kansas State, Kennesaw State, Middle Tennessee, Minnesota, New Mexico State, Ohio State, Purdue, San Jose State, Texas State, UT-San Antonio and Wyoming.
The Bulldogs’ playing five will consist of Harang Lee, Rinko Mitsunaga, Bailey Tardy, Jillian Hollis and Sammi Lee, who will be making her first appearance in Georgia’s lineup this season. In addition, Mary Ellen Shuman will compete as an individual.
“Sammi has been working hard,” Brewer said. “I always believed in her ability and this is a great opportunity for her. Hopefully, she’ll do the same thing in this tournament that Mary Ellen did last weekend – give us one or two good rounds – and that will help build some confidence and momentum going into the Liz Murphey.”
Tardy and Harang Lee are the highest-ranked individuals in the field. Tardy and Lee currently are No. 5 and No. 10, respectively, in both the Golfweek and Golfstat rankings.
“Usually this time of year, a lot of us go to Arizona for a big junior tournament called the Thunderbird,” Tardy said. “I’m looking forward to the warm weather and the different altitude. We’re coming off spring break so we should be fresh. We had sort of an ‘off’ tournament two weeks ago so I think we’re excited and ready to get back out there and try to win.”
Tardy took a break from golf on Monday when she was recognized by the Georgia House of Representatives for her achievements on the course, including her recent inclusion on the United States team for the 2016 Curtis Cup.
“That was really cool,” Tardy said. “I’d never been to the State Capitol so it was neat being in the House of Representatives and seeing what goes on there. My uncle (Frank Ginn) is in the (Georgia) Senate, and I have a lot of close family friends who work there. Seeing what they do was very interesting.”
Hollis, who has four top-10 finishes in seven tournaments this season, also is eager to return to competition.
“We’re all really excited about getting out to Arizona,” Hollis said. “The weather is supposed to be good, and the ball flies really well out there. I made some slight changes to my swing last week, and I’ve been hitting the ball better. I’ve put in a lot of work on my short game as well. It seems to be working really well. I’ve been getting the ball close to the pin consistently. I’m hoping to keep that going into this weekend.”
To date, Georgia has three team wins and an additional runner-up showing in seven tournaments this season. Individually, Tardy won the Windy City Collegiate and Mitsunaga won the Lady Bulldog Individual Invitational, two of 20 top-10 and 34 top-34 finishes by Georgia golfers this season.
“I’m just looking for everyone to keep working like they have been and playing that way too,” Brewer said. “They’re doing a great job. Everyone has really had good moments last fall and this spring. I hope we just keep continuing to build on that.”
Live scoring will be available throughout the tournament at www.birdiefire.com.