Postseason play begins this weekend for the Florida Southern women's golf team as it heads to Boca Raton, Florida for the 2018 Sunshine State Conference Championships. The three-day tournament running from Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday features one round each day at Osprey Point Golf Course where Lynn University will serve as host. The SSC Championships were last held in Boca Raton in 2011 at Boca Country Club.
Play begins each day at 7:30 a.m., and first-round pairings are determined by the GolfStat team rankings. Pairings for the final two rounds will be based team scores up to that point. Live stats will be available throughout the tournament at the SSC Championships Home Page.
Scoring in the tournament will consist of stroke play for all three rounds, with teams playing five golfers. The four lowest scores in each round count toward the team score. If two or more teams are tied at the end of regulation play for the championship, then those teams will compete in a sudden-death playoff on a pre-determined hole using the same scoring format (four lowest scores counting). Any golfers tied for medalist honors will also compete in a one-hole playoff to determine the SSC individual champion.
With the SSC the nation's premier Division II women's golf conference, six of the nation's top-10 teams according to the most recent Golfstat rankings will be participating. The winner of the SSC Championships receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division South Super Regional in May, though the SSC will likely have several at-large selections as well. In terms of national ranking, Nova Southeastern is No. 1, followed by Saint Leo (No. 4), Barry (No. 5), Florida Southern (No. 6), Rollins (No. 9), and Lynn (No. 10).
This is the third year in a row the SSC Women's Golf Championships have had six top-10 teams. Two years ago, Rollins was ranked No. 1 in the country going into the tournament and won, but last year top-ranked Barry finished fourth while fifth-ranked Nova Southeastern came away with the league title. Three years ago in 2015, when there were five top-10 teams in the tournament, top-ranked Rollins finished second and No. 6 Barry won the title.
The Moccasins have won the SSC title four times in the 19 years the conference has conducted a championship tournament. Their most recent came in 2013 when they defeated Nova Southeastern in a playoff. It remains the only time a playoff has been needed to determine the team champion at the SSC Tournament. That makes Florida Southern one of five different schools to win the SSC Tournament over the last five years: Florida Southern (2013), Lynn (2014), Barry (2015), Rollins (2016), and Nova Southeastern (2017).
Nova won last year's tournament by five shots over Florida Tech and Saint Leo, and over the last seven years the average margin has been less than three shots. The individual champion was Charlotte Puts of Barry who had a final score of even-par 216 for a one-stroke victory over two-time champion Marie Coors from Saint Leo. Neither player is back this year, but nearly all of the other top-10 finishers are. That includes senior Michelle Ruiz from Nova Southeastern, who was third with a five-over-par 221, and Florida Southern senior Abbey Williams, who tied for fourth with Lynn junior Krissy Ortiz at six-over-par 222.
Florida Southern's last individual champion was Jana Peterkova in 2002, though the Moccasins have had four runner-ups since then, including Emily Rymer in 2014 and '15.
Williams is the only Moccasin senior competing in this year's SSC Championships. She has climbed from 32nd as a freshman, to 17th as a sophomore, and up to fourth last year as a junior. Since the SSC Championships went to three rounds in 2003, only Emily Rymer in 2014 and 2015 has had a better score for a Moccasin than Williams' 222 (+6) last year. Williams goes into this year's tournament with a 77.00 season stroke average, and against many of the same teams and golfers she'll be facing this week, she had a 17th-place finish out of 100 golfers at the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational in early March with another six-over-par 222.
Another returning player for Florida Southern who also placed in the top-20 of last year's SSC Championships is junior Tori Higgins. She tied for 17th while playing in her first championship tournament with a 227 (+11) and this year is second on the team with a career-best 76.21 stroke average. Higgins is coming off a ninth-place finish at the Argonaut Invitational, is averaging 74.78 strokes in her last three tournaments, and has four top-10 tournament finishes this season.
The third member of head coach Robbie Davis' lineup this week who is making a return trip to the SSC Championships is sophomore Amanda Gartrell. The team leader in stroke average last year and again this year, Gartrell has trimmed that average by more than two shots per round and has a team-high eight top-10 tournament finishes. That includes five in the top-five, highlighted by back-to-back tournaments at the Lady Moc Classic and Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational where she shot a one-under-par 215. Gartrell owns six of Florida Southern's nine-under-par rounds this year, with the other three belonging to Higgins.
Davis will have two freshmen in the lineup too with Ashley Zagers and Shelby Lewis making the trip to Boca Raton. Zagers is third on the squad with a 76.48 stroke average with a 78 or better in all but three rounds this season. She has three top-10s, and put together one of her best tournaments at the Argonaut Invitational to end the regular season with a ninth-place finish. Lewis has a 77.14 average and has been part of the Mocs' regular lineup in the last three tournaments, during which time her average has dropped to a little over 75. She finished 12th at the Argonaut Invitational.
Following the SSC Championships, selections for the NCAA playoffs will be announced on Monday, April 30. The top 12 teams from each region, along with the top six individuals not on one of those teams, will earn bids to their respective Super Regional Tournaments, with the South scheduled for Germantown Country Club in Germantown, Tennessee, May 7-9. The NCAA Division II National Finals are at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, May 16-19.