For a lot of people, keeping up with college golf may not be at the top of their list of things to do. However, much like Basketball's March Madness, the first two - three weeks of April awakens an interest in the world of college golf. At least that pretty much describes this author. I do follow what Auburn's golf teams are doing during the year but it's during April that I pay close attention.
April is the time every year that most Division I conferences hold their annual conference championships. Just like in basketball, the conference golf tournaments can be a time when past transgressions can be forgiven and forgotten. In short it can be a time of redemption, a time when seasons can be saved and a time stars can be made.
Case in point is the Auburn Tigers Women's Golf Team. Auburn is one of the Winn ingest programs in the history of the South Eastern Conference. During the 17 years that Head coach Kim Evans had been at the helm, the Tigers won six SEC Championships and have been recognized as one of the top five programs in the nation. However, 2010-2011 has not been a stellar year. The Auburn women did not make the top ten in four of eight tournament starts this year or finish any higher than fifth place in those eight starts.
As a consequence the team held a meeting before the beginning of the championship tournament to get some priorities in order. The value of that move was evident Sunday afternoon when all of this year's disappointments quickly became ancient history.
Playing at the Auburn University Golf Club, the Tigers dominated from the opening tee besting second place Alabama by 11 shots and finished 23 strokes ahead of 3rd place LSU. Auburn claimed their eighth SEC Title with an even par 864.
Their win is even more impressive when one considers that the SEC is one of the nation's toughest conferences. Twentieth ranked Auburn dominated seven ranked teams including last year's defending champion and second ranked Alabama, No. 6 six LSU, No. 13 Tennessee, No. 14 Georgia, No.19 Vanderbilt, and No. 24 Florida.
Of course the victory prompted team members to douse Coach Evans with Gatorade. And for a college coach nothing tastes sweeter than a Gatorade shower after winning a championship.
The championship can not be attributed to home field advantage because the home team has not traditionally done well at their home course. One would think playing a familiar course would be a plus but the pressure of expecting to do better as well as playing in front of family and friends is usually more than most teams can overcome.
But this team overcame and overcame in a big way. All-American Cydney Clanton led Auburn with a two under par 214. Haley Wilson had a 220 score, while Patricia Sanz and Marta Sanz both finished at 222. Marta had a low round Sunday of a one under 71.
Clanton remarked afterwards, "This team has worked hard all year and we haven't necessarily got much out of it, but we finally won and it's a great feeling."
Coach Evans said there is a lot of leadership in this group but it "Starts with Cydney Clanton, she is the heart and soul of this team. They showed their heart on that back nine (and) this is a big time team effort."
Speaking of "big efforts," Evans has now led the Tigers to seven of their eight SEC Titles including five in the last nine years. Sunday she said, "This one might be the sweetest."
Well, at least as sweet as the Gatorade shower the team gave her after winning the SEC ...
For her seventh time.