After back-to-back runner-up finishes at the SAA Golf Championships in 2018 and 2019, the Oglethorpe women's golf team is ready to take the next step and contend to win its first conference title.
"We're proud of our second-place finishes," said Oglethorpe Director of Golf Jim Owen, "but we want to close the gap and win the SAA championship this year."
The Stormy Petrels return a talented, experienced nucleus of leaders and excellent golfers in seniors Mara Tiger and Ana Garcia. Tiger has been a three-year standout and a mainstay in the Petrel lineup. Garcia earned All-SAA honors in both 2018 and 2019.
Rising junior and two-time All-Region and All-SAA performer Angel Sanchez returns from an injury-marred sophomore campaign and is poised to elevate her game to the next level. She had a couple of near-misses on individual victories in 2018-19 despite her elbow injury. Her 77.71 scoring average was the second-lowest in school history despite the fact that she competed in only 14 of the team's 19 rounds of golf.
Fellow junior Alivia Mattiace will be counted on to continue to drop her scoring average now that she holds a veteran presence on the squad. Mattiace carried an 82.47 scoring average, and her goal is to move under the 80 mark.
Oglethorpe assistant golf coach Eric Quinn will be looking for contributions and time in the lineup from junior Emma Meadows and sophomores Graci Hallenbeck and Jazmyne Everett. Hallenbeck had a particularly good summer competing in amateur events in Georgia. She improved a great deal during the summer, and Owen and Quinn are excited to see her contend for a spot in the lineup in 2019-20.
The coaching staff is also excited to welcome an outstanding recruiting class to campus this fall.
"The freshmen are going to elevate the team from the minute they tee it up," said Quinn. "There are lots of impact players in this group of four freshmen."
A local product from Buford, Sarah Hsu led her Lanier High School team to three consecutive state championship appearances, and she finished sixth individually at the event as a senior. She has numerous individual wins and top-five finishes on the junior golf circuit over the last couple years and is primed to make her presence felt.
Fellow freshman Kharynton Beggs from Charleston, South Carolina, had a good junior golf and high-school career highlighted by her endeavors as part of the First Tee program, taking her to the legendary Pebble Beach in California for the pro-am event there. She brings lots of tournament experience to the table, as well.
Freshman Hannah Willerson helped lead Rome's Darlington high school to back-to-back state championships as a junior and senior. She previously won a state championship as a sophomore at Gordon Lee High School and earned all-state honors there.
Mary Tworek will add depth to the incoming class. She played her high school golf at North Cobb High School.
The 2019-20 schedule is easily the best slate in Oglethorpe women's golf history. The school-record highest-ranked finish in 2019, No. 17 in the national coaches' poll, earned the Petrels an invite to PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, for the NCAA Division III Fall Preview. It will feature an outstanding field of elite teams. After that, the Petrels travel to Montgomery, Alabama, for the MCC Women's Intercollegiate and another good regional field in late September.
When the calender flips to October, the Petrels head back to Florida and Miramar Beach, where they'll take on another loaded field in the Golfweek Division III Fall Invitational at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
"These two Florida tournaments feature potentially the best fields we've seen during the fall season," said Quinn.
The Petrels end the fall in-state, at Coosa Country Club in Rome, for the Chick-fil-A Collegiate Invitational October 21 and 22. The team held the first-round lead there in 2018, but were chased down by Division II Shorter and had to settle for a second-place finish.
"Last year's theme was a lot of second-place finishes," said Quinn. "It is time for us to take the next step."