Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Four¬-Way Fight in Store for Final Round

In the 21 previous editions of the Atlantic Sun Women’s Golf Championship, the conference has never had to implement the team playoff format to determine a winner. Entering the final round of the 2011 A-Sun Championship, the league’s policy manual might have to be dusted off as four teams will begin play separated by three strokes.

Campbell moved up the board into top position thanks to consistent play from its four scoring golfers. The Camels overtook Kennesaw State to lead the Owls by two strokes. Due in part to ever-changing weather throughout the back nine on Tuesday, the Camels’ leading score of 24-over-par 600 represents the highest score to lead through 36 holes in five years.

As the leaderboard tightened late Tuesday, one team already in the clubhouse saw its deficit shrink to the three strokes it must now overcome. When two-time champion Stetson finished play on Tuesday, the Hatters stood in fourth place, eight back of then-leading Kennesaw State. However, once the final putts fell and the tallies came in for Kennesaw State, Campbell and ETSU, the Hatters had forged a tie with the Buccaneers for third and only three back. As head coach Floyd Kerr informed his team of its standing and of the knowledge that sophomore Alexandria Buelow had moved to the top of the individual leaderboard, the team collectively expressed surprise.

The Hatters have claimed each of their two A-Sun crowns by staging final-round comebacks. At this same course in 2009, they found themselves also trailing Campbell by three shots. They rallied by shooting the lowest team score in event history, an even-par 288 to nip the Camels by two strokes. Last year, they faced a more daunting task, entering the final day needing to overcome a 12-shot hole and surpass four teams. The “Comeback Hats” needed every bit of a second straight record-setting final round, a 2-under 286, to edge the Owls by a single stroke.

Not to be discounted in this four-way clash is ETSU. Like Campbell and Stetson, the Buccaneers have a championship pedigree, winning in 2008 and added an at-large selection to NCAA Regional play last year. Like the Hatters, the Buccaneers have shot rounds of 10-over 298 and 17-over 305 to sit three shots in back of the pace-setting Camels. The Buccaneers could gain an advantage by owning one of Wednesday’s early tee times. ETSU’s five will go out in front of Campbell, Kennesaw State and Stetson and like the Hatters last year, could post a number for everyone to try and match.

Despite their hiccups, the closest challenger remains Kennesaw State. The Owls can point to one hole, the par-5 ninth and with proper correction could reclaim the top spot. In Tuesday’s round, the five Owls played the hole in a collective 8-over par, with everyone taking at least a bogey. Contrast those performances with Monday’s, where the five made two pars and three bogeys on the hole. That five stroke difference contributed to the Owls going from three strokes up entering the day to the two behind they find themselves following the round.

Will the never-used team playoff come into effect in the early afternoon hours on Wednesday? Follow the progress at GolfStat.com.

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