AUGUSTA, Ga. (March 15, 2019) – The world’s most anticipated golf tournament is set to descend on Augusta, Ga. in four weekends, and ETSU Women’s Golf gets to experience competition in the area before the legions of patrons arrive for the first round of The Masters April 11, the Bucs opening play Saturday morning at the Valspar Augusta Invitational, just a 10-minute drive from Augusta National Golf Club.
ABOUT THE BUCS
While playing in close proximity to the site of The Masters in early spring is a great storyline in itself, it’s not the only one ETSU carries into Forest Hills Golf Club.
Senior Hee Ying Loy (Johor, Malaysia) is coming off the third tournament win of her spectacular ETSU career, finishing 4-under-par two weekends ago at the snow-shortened River Landing Classic. Loy’s margin of victory would have been larger than the healthy three strokes it already was, but because many in the field were unable to finish their second round, despite the overwhelming majority being on the final few holes of it when darkness suspended play on day one of competition, scores reverted to the conclusion of the first round. That meant Loy’s opening round 68 was the only number she needed to win the tournament for the second time in as many attempts, though should the snow that cancelled the final round have held off, Loy’s dominance of River Landing would likely have been even more apparent, as she held a six-stroke lead at the suspension of play the first day, well into red numbers again with just two holes to play in her second round.
Loy’s notable history isn’t just at the River Landing Classic, but this weekend's tournament as well, as the Buccaneer star finished second at the championship her freshman season, never finishing below 13th in ETSU’s three years of competition at Augusta during Loy’s career. Her results in the city are a good omen, as she will be back in less than one month to vie for the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, selected to participate in the prestigious event the week before the Masters earlier this year.
As a team, the storyline for the Bucs is their proximity to the Southern Conference’s most important weekend of the year, the league championship. April 14-16 at Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head, S.C., the event will bring together the nine schools in the league that participate in women’s golf, Stefanie Shelton’s squad trying to log their best finish since rejoining the SoCon five seasons ago, a pair of third- and sixth-place finishes on the books the previous four years. The Valspar Augusta Invite marks one of just two more tournaments the Bucs have before the conference title is handed out and NCAA regional participants are determined.
ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT
Event: Valspar Augusta Invitational
Dates: March 16 & 17
Course: Forest Hills Golf Club
Opponents: Augusta, Central Arkansas, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Daytona State, Memphis, Princeton, Purdue, South Florida, Texas Tech, Toledo
Defending team champion Georgia is not in the field, though the previous three champions are, in 2017 victor Purdue, host school Augusta, Division II in all sports except golf, and Coastal Carolina, who won in 2015. The only player to best Loy in 2016 when she claimed runner-up was F. Gustafsson Spang of East Carolina, the Pirates not in the 2019 version of the championship, Spang having since graduated.
This weekend marks eight consecutive years ETSU has competed in the tournament, going through a number of name and title sponsor changes over the years. Previously the Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate, the 3M Jaguar Intercollegiate and the 3M Augusta Invitational, the Bucs have seen team success often in the tournament that has ranged from 13 to 18 teams over the previous seven years, finishing in the top-half of the field all but twice in that time, topping out in fourth-place at the 2014 and 2016 contests.
ETSU will send Loy, Warda Amira Rawof (Kuala Lampur, Malaysia), Tereza Melecka (Belcovice, Czech Republic), Kornbongkoat Sararat (Nongkhai, Thailand) and Allison Woodward (Unicoi, Tenn.) to compete towards the Bucs team score, while Ankita Kedlaya (Bangalore, India) will compete as an individual. Kedlaya will be paired with Harlie Valinho of Daytona State and will begin play on the 18th hole for Saturday’s 8:30 a.m. shotgun start, while the five competing to contribute to the Blue and Gold’s team score will be paired with Charlotte and Coastal Carolina on holes four through seven.
Live stats for both days of the tournament are available with Golfstat, with recaps to follow each day of play at ETSUbucs.com.
For more information on Buccaneer women’s golf, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the women’s golf page.