After earning a spot in the NCAA Regionals the past two seasons, the Augusta State women are seeking much more this go round.
With four returning starters off last year’s squad, the Lady Jaguars are looking to make history. Senior Natalie Wille said she believes her team is primed to make the first NCAA Division I Championships appearance in the program’s history.
“I know we can do better,” Wille said. “It’s all about going to the regionals and doing your best. I really want to make nationals.”
Augusta State opens play today in the Dale McNamara Invitational in Tulsa, Okla. The event concludes Tuesday.
The Lady Jaguars will play in four events in the fall and five in the spring. Augusta State will play host to its home event, March 15-17, at Forest Hills Golf Club.
Second-year coach Kory McPherson, who was hired 13 months ago, has just seven players on her roster. Five of the Lady Jaguars are upperclassmen, though, and four (Wille, senior Marit Bjerke, junior Christine Duschek-Hansen and junior Casey Kennedy) are returners; senior Julia Stalbro also is in the starting lineup for the first event. Kennedy led the team with a 75.19 stroke average and two top-five finishes last season, while Wille posted a 75.23 average.
Augusta State began last year on a strong note with three consecutive top-five finishes. Then, the Lady Jaguars were disqualified from The Challenge at Onion Creek, the final fall event, after two players failed to sign their scorecards. Augusta State would’ve placed third. Instead, the finish knocked them down about 30 spots to No. 83 in the Golfstat head-to-head poll.
“We were playing great in the fall and that thing happened in the last tournament,” Kennedy said. “That gave us a kick in the butt.”
The Lady Jaguars bounced back strong to win the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic and also finished as runner-up in their home event. Augusta State qualified for regionals, where they played well for two rounds before struggling in the final round.
“I thought it was a pretty solid year,” Thompson said. “Obviously this year, we want to take it one step further.”