The 40th-ranked Mississippi State women’s golf team is set to tee off in the NCAA Championships at the par-72, 6,372-yard UGA Golf Course beginning Tuesday for the first time in school history.
In fact, this year’s squad is not only the first Lady Bulldog squad to play for a national title but also the first women’s golf team from the state of Mississippi to advance to the NCAA Championships.
MSU finished third in the NCAA Central Regional as the 19th seed to advance to this year’s championship behind a school second-best 8-over-par 872.
After a stellar regular season, the Lady Bulldogs have stepped their game up a notch this postseason. In the SEC Championships and the NCAA Central Regional, they have posted a 20-6-1 ledger against ranked teams, including a 14-stroke victory over once-No. 1 Washington.
“This is a very exciting opportunity that this team has earned through their hard work and dedication,” third-year MSU coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said. “Coach (Leigh) Phillips and I told them before the regional they had just as good of shot as anyone at making nationals because it was like a new season. Well here we are again. There are 24 teams in the field and we all have the same shot at the title.
“To be as young as we are and as committed to our ‘one shot at a time' mentality, I’m eager to see how well these ladies will represent Mississippi State this week.”
First-round action will get underway at 6:30 a.m. CT Tuesday, while MSU is slated to tee off alongside No. 5 Arkansas and No. 6 Vanderbilt at 11 a.m. on hole No. 10.
Instead of the typical three-day, 54-hole tournament that is played during the regular season, the championship format will be 72 holes over four days.
Live stats will be available through HailState.com for all four rounds, while live video streaming of the 17th and 18th holes will be available via NCAA.com/liveschedule for the final two rounds Thursday and Friday.
Brown-Lemm boasts the youngest roster in the tournament field. With a trio of sophomores, a junior and a freshman, MSU is only one of two teams without a senior on its roster (USC).
No. 15 Ally McDonald enters the event as the reigning GolfWeek.com National Player of the Week after she carded a school-record 10-under-par 206 to win the NCAA Central Regional by five strokes. The sophomore’s 69-69-68 dominated the talent-packed field and vaulted MSU into the finals.
McDonald, a Fulton, Miss., native, notched the greatest season in Maroon and White history by all accounts. She owns the school’s single-season stroke average record (72.33) and has posted 18 (of 33) rounds of par or better, also a program record. The only single-season record McDonald has not broken is the eagles record (3) and she is only one shy of it.
Fellow sophomore Rica Tse also got into the 60’s action with McDonald as her final-round 3-under-par 69 helped her climb the leaderboard. She finished with a season-best 5-over 221. After struggling much of the spring season, the New Zealand native regained form during the SEC Championships when she posted a 12-over 228 to finish tied for eighth.
Mary Langdon Gallagher will become the second generation in her family to play in the NCAA Championships, as her father played in three and her mother player in four. Gallagher just missed a Top 25 card in the NCAA Central Regional as she matched Tse’s 221 to finish tied for 30th. The junior from Greenwood, Miss., opened with a 4-over-par 76 but posted par and a 1-over during the last two rounds.
Also on a hot streak of her own, Elena Warren notched a pair of career-best 71’s in the NCAA Central Regional. The sophomore from Austin, Texas, has posted the four lowest tourney tallies of her career this spring. Warren’s best showing came at the talent-packed SunTrust Gator Invitational where she fired a 13-over 233 and finished just outside the Top 25
Gabi Oubre’ rounds out the Lady Bulldog lineup as she is quietly having a solid freshman campaign. Her 76.97 scoring average ranks fourth all-time among MSU freshmen and she is only six birdies shy of tying McDonald’s rookie record (73) set a season ago.
State will be joined by six other Southeastern Conference schools in Athens: No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 Vanderbilt, No. 10 Florida, No. 32 South Carolina and No. 38 Auburn. Other teams in the field include No. 1 USC, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 7 Purdue, No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 Arizona, No. 12 Arizona State, No. 13 Stanford, No. 14 Tulane, No. 15 Oklahoma State, No. 17 UC Davis, No. 18 Texas, No. 24 Northwestern, No. 25 Michigan State, No. 35 Oregon, No. 47 Wisconsin and No. 48 San Jose State.