Augusta State's come a long way

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Kristen Bragg isn't the type of person who enjoys flying. You won't find her among the passengers looking out the window at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Imagine her thoughts when she found out that she'd be among the four Augusta State women's golfers making a trans-Atlantic flight to Biarritz, France, to compete in the Biarritz Cup.

"I'm really excited to get there, but I'm not excited about getting on the plane," Bragg said two days before the team's July 12 overnight flight from Atlanta. "It's eight hours, and I'm bringing a sleeping pill with me. I'll be knocked out."

By now, Bragg and Sarah Mooney have already met up with fellow Augusta State golfers Tamara Luccioli and Anna Lindeborg, from Liege, Belgium, and Stockholm, Sweden, respectively.

The quartet joined coach Laura Coble and her husband, Rusty, both of whom will compete in the individual divisions.

Having played practice rounds at Biarritz Le Phare Golf Club, they're ready to represent the United States as part of the four-country Nation's Cup competition, a 72-hole event that begins today.

"It really makes you want to play well because you're representing both your country and your city," said Bragg, a rising senior at Augusta State. "You don't want to have the scores come back and show you played bad."

The event is hailed as the premier amateur tournament in Europe, and it includes four divisions: women's scratch, men's scratch, senior men's and the Nation's Cup.

Previous participants include Sergio Garcia, Jean Van de Velde, Thomas Levet and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Beating teams from Italy, Spain and France is the goal, but golf isn't the sole reason for the trip.

In connection with the Sister-City Program, championed by former Augusta mayor Charles DeVaney, Biarritz has been one of Augusta's sister cities for several years.

"(Augusta State Director of Athletics) Clint Bryant and Dr. (Edouard) Servy have been working on this since the beginning of the year. They decided basically in March that we were going," Laura Coble said.

"We began planning, researching back then. This is a great opportunity. This is hopefully going to pave the way for us to do this every four years, and for the men's team to do the same."

The "four-years" distinction is important because NCAA regulations allow one trip every four years to be funded by sources outside of the school itself.

Bragg, Mooney and Laura Coble were on hand for a July 10 Augusta Commission meeting, where they received a proclamation that they took on the trip. In short, it thanked the folks in Biarritz for hosting the team.

For the women's program, the trip to Biarritz is another sign that what Laura Coble called "a spot in your eye, a vision 8-10 years ago" has produced a program that has made great strides since its inception in 2001.

"From what I've seen before I became coach, as member of the community, it's exciting to see something come to fruition like it has," Laura Coble said.

"Before, they were just talking about being able to have a women's program. But now, to see it come to where it is today is really exciting."

Reach Justin Williams at justin.williams@augustachronicle.com.

THE BIARRITZ CUP


WHO: Augusta State women's golf team


WHAT: The premier amateur tournament in Europe


WHERE: Biarritz Le Phare Golf Club; Biarritz, France


WHEN: Today through Sunday


NOTABLE: Augusta State rep-resents the United States and will compete against teams from Italy, France and Spain.

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