Thursday March 14, 2013Fifth-ranked Gator Women Welcome Top Competition to 41st Annual SunTrust Gator Women's Invite
For the 41st-straight year, some of the best women’s golfers in the nation will be in Gainesville this weekend to compete in the SunTrust Gator Women’s Invitational, hosted by the fifth-ranked University of Florida women’s golf team.
After finishing in the top-10 for the seventh straight tournament this year with a tie for tenth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate late last month, the Gators have continued their strong year that includes three team titles to go with five individual medalist honors.
This weekend’s invitational will consist of three rounds with one round being played each day starting on Friday at the Mark Bostick Golf Course (Par 70, 6,074 yards). Admission is free for those wishing to attend the tournament.
“We’re excited to be playing at home this weekend,” head coach Emily Bastel said. “This only happens once a year for us, so we’re anxious to have all the teams in, showcase our golf course and give our hometown fans something to cheer about.”
“We don’t get an opportunity to play at home very much, so it’s nice for the people in Gainesville to be able to come out and watch. They follow the girls all year and they are a tremendous support system for us. We’re excited about that and this is always a nice time of year for us. We get in our comfort zone at home and the girls will know what to expect.”
Out of the 15 teams in the field, seven of the top-25 teams in the nation, including Florida, will be competing this weekend in Gainesville. Alabama comes in as the highest-ranked team at No. 2, according to the WGCA/Coaches’ Poll, followed by North Carolina at No. 4, Florida at No. 5 and Oklahoma at No. 6 to round out the teams from the top-10. Baylor (No. 17), Oklahoma State (No. 19) and Virginia (No. 20) are the remaining ranked teams.
“Not only do we have seven ranked teams in this year’s field, we’ve also got the defending national champions in Alabama,” Bastel said. “We’re excited about hosting a good field and testing our game against some of the best in the country like we do week in and week out.”
The Gators have claimed the team title of the tournament in the last two years and will be looking for a three-peat starting tomorrow. Over the last 13 years, Florida has won the title eight times with 18 championships overall since the tournament’s inception. However, UF has not had an individual winner of the tournament since Tiffany Chudy clamed the honor in 2008. That streak could end this weekend with the two players Florida has at the top of its lineup.
Sophomore Camilla Hedberg (Sitges, Spain) holds three medalist honors while the remaining two belong to senior Isabelle Lendl (Goshen, Conn.). Both players will be looking for another title this weekend on their home course as they have led the Gators all year at the top of the lineup.
Hedberg is currently ranked second in the nation by GolfStat.com with a 71.42 average over 19 rounds. Lendl has also been in the top-15 all year as she is currently No. 13 heading into this weekend with a 71.95 average through 19 rounds. For a number of weeks in the fall, Lendl was the top-ranked player in the nation after her two tournament wins at the Dale McNamara Invitational and the Tar Heel Invite. Last time out, both finished tied for 13th at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate.
As for the remaining players in the UF lineup, senior Mia Piccio (Bacolod City, Philippines) will be making her seventh tournament appearance of the year. Piccio didn’t have the best of outings at the Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate as she finished tied for 60th at 10-over par, but has finished in the top-25 in every other tournament she has played in. Her best coming at the Cougar Classic to start the year as she tied for sixth place at 3-under (213), a collegiate best.
Junior-transfer Elcin Ulu (Istanbul, Turkey) will also be trying to right the ship as well as she has finished below the top-40 in each of her last two tournaments. Ulu has shown that she can be a solid No. 3-4 player in the lineup after finishing tied for third place at the Florida Challenge back in January with the help of a first round 69, the lowest score of her collegiate career.
Freshman Ursa Orehek (Domzale, Slovenia) rounds out the Gator lineup as she has also had a great first year as a Gator. Orehek has made the lineup in five tournaments this year with her best 54-hole score coming at the Betsy Rawls Invite, a 10-over (226) and a tie for 37th. Orehek is averaging an even 77.0 over 14 rounds, with her lowest round of 73 coming at the Cougar Classic back in September.
“It’ll be good to have Ursa back out on the course for us after she had been dealing with an injury,” Bastel said. “It helps our chemistry and also, from a scoring average standpoint, she was with us for our two wins in the fall.
First groups are set to tee off for round one at 9 a.m. on Friday and play will run through Sunday. Live scoring will be available on GolfStat.com and results will be posted on GatorZone.com along with a complete recap after each day’s play.