Big South champs heading to NCAA Albuquerque regional

University of New Mexico Championship Course - site of the 2017 NCAA Women's Golf Albuquerque Regional
University of New Mexico Championship Course - site of the 2017 NCAA Women's Golf Albuquerque Regional

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BUIES CREEK, N.C. – For the 20th time in 25 years, Campbell University is heading to post-season play in women's golf.  The Big South Conference champion received an automatic berth to play May 8-10 in the NCAA Regional at Albuquerque, N.M.

Ranked No.-48 nationally in this week's Golfstat rating and No.-51 in the Golfweek/Sagarin listing, the Camels are one of 72 teams nationally to earn a post-season bid and are seeded 12th in Albuquerque.  The top six teams (and top three individuals from non-qualifying teams) from each of four regional sites will advance to the NCAA Championship May 19-24 in Sugar Grove, Ill.

The post-season berth is the sixth-straight for Coach John Crooks' team.  Campbell advanced to the 2014 and 2015 NCAA Championships before finishing ninth at the 2016 NCAA Regional at Bryan, Texas.

"The truth is when you go to a regional, it really doesn't matter who is there. You have to take care of your business, and if you play well, you have a chance.  We all start from scratch, we're all even par right now."

The 54-hole event begins on Monday, May 8 at the par-72 UNM Championship Course, which has been nationally recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top-25 public courses in the country. The Championship Course is no stranger to major tournaments. It was the site of the 1950, 1976 and 1992 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships as well as the 1998 NCAA Championships. In 1987 the course was the sight of the women's NCAA tourney.

"We've had a chance to play in their tournament and on their golf course on three or four different occasions, and it's a golf course where the greens are very challenging and each pin placement on the green requires a different strategy," said Crooks, who is in his 26th year in charge of the Campbell women's team.  "That's kind of how you differentiate great golf courses in that the slightest change changes everything. The golf course is built around the side of a mountain. It's hosted an NCAA Championship, and is just one of my favorites."

Campbell won the Big South Championship Apr. 19 to secure the league's automatic bid and the program's 20th NCAA post-season trip in the last 25 seasons.  The Camels have finished either first or second in their league tournament 24 times (including 14 titles) in 26 years under head coach John Crooks.

In the Big South Championship at Ninety Six, S.C., Campbell broke the league 54-hole championship mark with a school-record 15-under-par 849 (289-280-280) and defeated runner-up Gardner-Webb (298-285-291—874) by 25 strokes at The Patriot Golf Club. 

The tournament title was the 81st for Crooks on the women's side – second among Division I active coaches behind Duke's Dan Brooks (127) – and  moved him into a tie for third all-time among NCAA women's golf coaches with Dale McNamara of Tulsa (1974-2000).  Campbell, which also claimed team honors last fall at the Palmetto Intercollegiate, has won at least one tournament in 25 of Crooks' 26 years at the helm.

Senior Nadine White shot a school and Big South Championship record 7-under 65 in the final round Apr. 19 to finish second, while Desiree Andersson (third), Annelie Sjoholm (fifth) and Ayelen Irizar (10th) also recorded top-10 performances for the top-seeded Camels.  Anna Svanka finished in a tie for 14th.

The Big South player of the year, Sjoholm ranks 121st nationally in the Golfstat Cup; and leads the Big South with a 73.28 stroke average.  A junior from Vasteras, Sweden, Sjoholm has produced five top-10 individual finishes, including her first collegiate victory at the Amelia Island Collegiate (70-61-69—210).  She has fired a collegiate career low 69 on four occasions this year.  She enters the regional tied for 21st in the country with 95 birdies over 29 rounds.

Last year's Big South player of the year, White will be just the fifth Campbell player to participate in four NCAA regional competitions in the program's history, which stretches to 1989-90.  She stands 148th nationally in the Golfstat Cup and second in the Big South Conference with a 73.52 scoring average.  A product of Brisbane, Australia, White owns the best career stroke average (74.36) of all Campbell women's golfers who have played a minimum of 50 rounds.  Sjoholm's career average (74.53) is second.

A native of Hollviken, Sweden, Andersson was tabbed Big South freshman of the year after ranking seventh in the league in scoring average (75.04) – tops among conference frosh players. She has played in nine events and notched a pair of top-10 showings, including an eighth-place tie at the Palmetto Intercollegiate. She recorded collegiate low rounds in back-to-back days over the first 36 holes of the Big South Championship (69-68).

Irizar has enjoyed her best collegiate season, playing in all 10 events and posting a 75.41 scoring average (ninth in the Big South). She tied for ninth at the Golfweek Program Challenge, where she shot a collegiate low 68 in the second round.

After participating in just one event last fall, Svanka has played in all six tournaments this season. She has posted a 75.65 stroke average (11th in the Big South). A native of Riga, Latvia, who competed in the World Amateur Team Championship last fall, Svanka earned a fifth-place tie at the Amelia Island Collegiate.

Crooks was chosen conference coach of the year for both the women's and men's competition, marking the 18th and 19th time he has been so recognized.  White, Irizar and Svanka joined Sjoholm and Andersson on the all-conference team.

Crooks also guided the Campbell men to a record-breaking performance in the Big South Championship Apr. 22 to secure an automatic berth in the regionals as well.  The Campbell men finished at 26-under-par 838 to break the previous league record of 844 set by Liberty in 2012.  CU sophomore Jesper Svensson won individual honors at 14-under-par (67-66-69—202) to break the league record 204 set in 2007 by the current top-ranked player in the world Dustin Johnson of Coastal Carolina.

2017 NCAA Women's Golf Albuquerque Regional
Dates: Monday, May 8-Wednesday, May 10

Location / Course: Albuquerque, N.M. / Championship Course
Par: 72, 6317 yards
Format: 18-18-18

Field (Golfstat Rank/Automatic bid): 1. Stanford (1) 2. Southern Cal (6), 3. Duke (9/ACC), 4. Miami (16), 5. Oklahoma State (17), 6. NC State (24), 7. California (26), 8. Illinois (32), 9. Pepperdine (36), 10. Washington (40), 11. SMU (41), 12. Campbell (47/Big South), 13. Denver (Summit), 14. New Mexico State (WAC), 15. Cal Poly (Big West), 16. Sacramento State (Big Sky), 17. Houston Baptist (Southland), 18. Texas Southern (SWAC).

Individuals:  1. Martina Edberg (Cal State-Fullerton), 2. Bianca Pagdanganan (Gonzaga), 3. Jess Yuen (Missouri), 4. Gudrum Bjorgvinsdottir (Fresno State), 5. Paige Lee (UC-Davis), 6. Kristin Le (Santa Clara).