Spartanburg, S.C. – The USC Upstate women's golf team will play its third tournament in the month of February when it opens play at the Red Rocks Invitational Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Pacific time. The tournament was supposed to start on Saturday and end on Sunday, but weather has forced the even to start on Friday and end on Saturday.
The Red Rocks is a 36-hole event being played on the Oak Creek Golf Club. The teams will play 18 holes each day. Oack Creek is a par-72 layout and plays at 6,084 yards. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Upstate is one of 20 teams from across the United States playing in the tournament. Joining the Spartans in the event is Creighton, Eastern Michigan, Eastern Washington, George Fox, Grand Canyon, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, North Dakota State, host Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Portland, South Dakota, Southern Utah, Toledo, Utah Valley, Weber State and Western Michigan.
Upstate is making its fourth appearance in the Red Rocks Invitational, having played in the tournament since making the move to Division I in the 2007-08 season. The Spartans finished tied for 10th in 2008 with sisters Richelle and Richia Wedzik tying for 21st to lead the team. A year later, Julie Miller claimed a tie for ninth to help the Spartans finish in a tie for seventh. Last year, Upstate finished 18th in the tournament.
Upstate head coach Todd Lawton will send the lineup of Rachel Lewis, Amanda Hall, Taylor Pleier, Johanna Ebenhag and Summer Wall into action this week. Wall is seeing her first action in the spring. Ebenhag is the only current Spartan to have played in the Red Rocks Invitational, teeing it up last year for the Spartans. She was the fourth-lowest Spartan in the tournament a year ago.
Looking Back at the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic
Although Upstate battled in the second and third round, the Spartans could not get past a rough start in the first round and finished 32nd out of 33 teams in the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic Feb. 20-22. Upstate opened with a 350 on Sunday. The Spartans rebounded for a 317 on Monday and a 330 on Tuesday, but couldn't move up on the leaderboard. Rachel Lewis led the way for Upstate, finishing tied for 85th with rounds of 83, 76 and 79 for a 238 total. Amanda Hall was the second-lowest Spartan in the tournament, posting rounds of 86, 80 and 80. However, the three other scores were over 250 totals which prevented the Spartans from moving up.
Looking for Consistency
From the mid-point of the fall season, Upstate looked like it had begun to gain some consistency up and down the lineup. However, as the Spartans began the spring season, the scores have largely been inconsistent. Following a tough first round at the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic on Feb. 20, head coach Todd Lawton held a team meeting. The result, Upstate shot rounds of 317 and 330, both remarkably better than the 350 recorded in the opening round. Lawton would like for the focus employed in the second and third rounds to be carried into this week's tournament at the Red Rocks Invitational.
Lewis Leaps Into the Lead
Though just a freshman, Rachel Lewis has assumed the primary leadership role on the team with her performance on the course. While seniors Johanna Ebenhag and Summer Wall are the veteran leaders on the team, Lewis has become the player others look to as a marker on the course. She tops the Spartans with a 79.7 stroke average and four top-20 finishes. She is also the only Spartan to record a round below par on the season, shooting a 69 in the Great Smokies Intercollegiate.
Freshmen Continue to Pace Spartans
From the start of the season back in September, the freshman class has been the catalyst for the Spartans this season. As few as three and as many as four freshmen have dotted the lineup in tournaments this season. Rachel Lewis, Amanda Hall and Taylor Pleier have emerged as steady players in the lineup, routinely qualifying and finishing in the top three spots on the team in every tournament. Lewis is the only player on the team to average below 80 at 79.7 strokes per round. Hall is second at 82.1, while Pleier is third at 83.5. The three are very close on the course and have established a solid foundation as freshmen as Upstate plays in its final year in the transitional period from Division II to Division I membership.
Lewis, Hall Earn Top 10 Finishes
Last year, Upstate relied heavily on the game of Jennifer Judge. She claimed one top 10 finish on the year and was the only Spartan to finish in the top 10 in any tournament. This season, freshmen Rachel Lewis and Amanda Hall have each recorded top 10 finishes to lead the Spartans. Lewis finished tied for ninth at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate with an even-par score of 144. Hall finished tied for 10th at the Winthrop Intercollegiate in Upstate's last tournament outing.