Ole Miss Set for SEC Championship in Birmingham
April 20, 2017

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -  The Ole Miss women's golf team will tee it up with an old conference rival to begin the 2017 SEC Women's Golf Championship at Greystone Golf and Country Club.

The SEC will utilize a new two-team pairing structure this season, a change from the traditional threesome format. The Rebels will be the first group to the tee box to open the three-day SEC tournament, playing alongside the LSU Tigers.

"We're playing twosomes this year, so it'll be a better place of play. We're excited about that," said head coach Kory Henkes. "We're going to go down there and do what we came to do and play some good golf. It's always a fun week, and it's a good course. The girls who have played there really like it, so they're excited to get back out there."

The SEC Experience
Senior Madisen Bentley is one of three Rebels bringing SEC experience to Birmingham, and she'll be in the first twosome of the tournament, teeing off at the first hole at 8 a.m. CT Friday morning. The University Place, Washington native will look to make up for a difficult first trip to Greystone.

"It's Madisen's last year, and she didn't have her best performance last year at SECs, so I know she wants a little revenge on the course," Henkes said. "I think it sets up well for her, she just struggled last year. She's hitting it a lot better now, and I think it'll be a good week for her."

Next up is another senior, Maria Toennessen, who brings more SEC experience than the rest of her teammates combined. The Grimstad, Norway native will be making her fourth SEC Championship appearance. She finished tied for 37th in this event as a junior, including an even-par 72 on the final day.


 

 

The only other Rebel with an SEC tournament appearance is sophomore Martina Flori. The Montecatini Terme, Italy native is No. 1 in the Ole Miss lineup, and for good reason. She's currently playing the best golf of her collegiate career.

In March, she had what was, at the time, her best career result, an eighth-place finish at the 3M Augusta Invitational. Then in April, she shattered that, tying for second at El Tigre Invitational, where she shot a career-best 5-under (67) in Round 3. She's been hot all season, and Henkes believes that stemmed from her breakout performance at SECs last year: 73-75-74--222 to tie for 20th.

"Martina played great last year. I think that was kind of Marti's breakout tournament," Henkes said. "It really got her going for this year."

The Newcomers
Finally, the Rebels have two golfers making their first ever appearance at the SEC Championships.

Freshman Pi-Lillebi Hermansson holds the No. 2 slot, and like the golfer at No. 1, Hermansson is also coming off her best collegiate finish. The Djursholm, Sweden native tied for 12th two weeks ago in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, giving her momentum going into what will likely be the first of many SEC tournament appearances.

Junior Katy Harris will take a different kind of momentum to Birmingham. After winning the final tournament of the fall, the St. Simons Island, Georgia native hasn't had the spring season she hoped for, but she knows what it takes to compete against the best. In her tournament win at the Palmetto Intercollegiate, she went head-to-head against one of the top players in collegiate golf and came out with her third victory.

"Katy's a competitor," Henkes said. "You put her in there against some of the best, she wants to win. I think you'll see the competitiveness come out of her once we get there and see all the teams."

The Outlook
When Harris transferred from Mercer after her sophomore season, a chance to play in the Southeastern Conference was at the top of her wish list, and there won't be any better competition than in Birmingham this weekend.

The SEC boasts eight teams in the top 40, and all 14 of its members are ranked in the top 70 nationally, including No. 1 Alabama at the top.

"They're excited about it," Henkes said. "With golf, you're not playing just SEC teams each week, you're playing all kinds of teams. Some of these teams we haven't seen all season. So I know they always get excited about getting to play in the SEC Championship. It's tough from top to bottom, really tight competition. So it'll be fun to test their abilities against the best of the best."

Last season, the Rebels performed impressively against the best. Ole Miss entered the SEC Championships ranked last in the league and finished seventh. Of course, in golf, it isn't player vs. player--it's player vs. course, and the Rebels are eager to see what they can do on this surface.

"It's a course they like and are excited about," Henkes said. "Having that good mental picture about the course is always a good thing going into it, especially when it's a course you like and can play well on. It gives them a good attitude going into the tournament."

With the course mapped out, Ole Miss has been sharpening its short game. One of the best ball-striking teams in the nation, the Rebels worked this week on their weaknesses: wedges.

"Practice been good. We've made it really hard on them," Henkes said. "The one thing that has been holding us back is our wedge game. I think we're a top-10 team in the country in ball striking, and then if you look at our short-game and wedge numbers, they're just not up to par. The girls have really enjoyed the practices, even though they've been tough and challenging. They're like, `This is good, this is what we need.' So we'll see if it pans out this week."

The Field
No. 1 Alabama
No. 13 Arkansas
No. 39 Auburn
No. 8 Florida
No. 6 Georgia
Kentucky
LSU
Missouri
Mississippi State
Ole Miss
No. 11 South Carolina
No. 32 Tennessee
No. 20 Texas A&M
Vanderbilt

Ole Miss Rebels   
1. Martina Flori, Sophomore
2. Pi-Lillebi Hermansson, Freshman
3. Katy Harris, Junior
4. Maria Toennessen, Senior
5. Madisen Bentley, Senior

For all Ole Miss women's golf news and information, go to OleMissSports.com, and follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissWGolf and Facebook at Ole Miss Women's Golf.     

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