Oct. 11, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The eighth-ranked Michigan State women's golf team will head to one of its favorite destinations of the season this weekend (Oct. 12-14) as it competes in the Tar Heel Invitational at the par 72, 6,285-yard UNC Finley Golf Course.
The Spartans have posted their lowest team score of the season the past three years at the Tar Heel Invitational, including a record-setting performance in 2009 in which MSU set a school 54-hole record with an 860 (285-283-292) and claimed first place.
"That was one of the highlights of my career here at Michigan State so far," said senior Caroline Powers of winning the 2009 Tar Heel Invitational, as the Spartans won by 12 strokes over a field that featured nine Top-25 teams. "It was one of the biggest program wins we've ever had."
"There's something about the golf course, there's just a feeling about it that everyone has always loved," MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. "That memory of winning there is still very fresh. I still think it was the biggest regular-season win the program has ever had."
MSU will look to repeat that success against another difficult field. Twelve of the 18 teams in the tournament are ranked in the Golfweek Top 50, including six in the Top 25. Michigan State will tee off at 9 a.m. in Friday's first round from hole 10, along with No. 10 Auburn and Louisville.
"Week in and week out, that's our philosophy - to play against the top teams and the best players in the country," said Slobodnik-Stoll. "We want to be tested against the best as much as we can."
In their first two tournaments, the Spartans placed second at their home Mary Fossum Invitational on Sept. 15-16 and took third at the Mason Rudolph Championship held Sept. 21-23 in Franklin, Tenn., to vault into Golfweek's Top 10.
"I think we have so much depth this year," said Slobodnik-Stoll. "Caroline obviously is an incredible anchor for this team. If you ask her, she will tell you this is her favorite tournament of the year coming up. But I think it's having a lot of players who are capable of making that top five, and they're all pushing each other because no one likes to sit at home. That's good competition for everyone."
Powers, who finished runner-up her first two tournaments and owns a season scoring average of 72.67, is currently the highest-ranked Big Ten player by Golfweek at No. 7 in the country. She tied a then single-round school record with a 68 in last year's Tar Heel Invitational en route to establishing a program-record score for 54 holes with a 208 (69-68-71) while finishing tied for second. Powers has carded seven under-par rounds in three previous Tar Heel Invitationals; she tied for 31st as a freshman in 2009 and tied for 10th in 2010.
"From the first year I played in the tournament, it just sets up well for me," said Powers. "I've made a lot of birdies on the course and I just try to keep the mistakes at a minimum."
Joining Powers in the starting lineup will be juniors Allyssa Ferrell, Christine Meier and Liz Nagel, and sophomore Jenny Sritragul. Ferrell is second on the team with a 74.50 average and is coming off a 10th-place showing at the Mason Rudolph Championship. She is ranked 70th in the nation by Golfweek.
"Birdies," said Slobodnik-Stoll on what's been the difference with Ferrell this season. "It's been so wonderful, she's been playing great. You can see the confidence she has in herself. She's such a great player and she's done so well in the summertime in USGA events, which is wonderful that she represents Michigan State, and she's been a steady player for us. This fall, if you look at her scorecard, she's just making the putts now. That's always been her strength, she's always had a great putter, but now she's making the putts for birdie instead of making a putt for par."
Live scoring for the Tar Heel Invitational will be available at golfstat.com.
Tar Heel Invitational Quick Facts:
Dates: Oct. 12-14 (Friday-Sunday)
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Course Information: UNC Finley Golf Course (Par 72, 6,285 yards)
Participating Teams (18): No. 36 Arkansas, No. 10 Auburn, No. 42 Baylor, Central Florida, Colorado, No. 5 Duke, No. 3 Florida, No. 27 Kentucky, LSU, Louisville, Michigan, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 50 Mississippi, No. 23 North Carolina, No. 13 NC State, South Carolina, No. 24 Virginia, No. 45 Wake Forest (rankings according to Golfweek).
Format: Three-day, 54-hole tournament with 18 holes to be played each day. Tee Times: Tee times begin at 8:51 a.m. off No. 1 and No. 10 tees on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, there will be a shotgun start at approximately 9:15 a.m.
Results: Live scoring will be available on www.Golfstat.com