Rebels Ready For More in 2017-18
May 10, 2017

It was the best statistical season in Ole Miss women’s golf history, but even still, it’s hard for head coach Kory Henkes to be content as she and her squad sit at home while NCAA Regionals are underway around the country.

Henkes’ second season at the helm ended in the lowest team scoring average in school history, 298.47—more than two strokes better than the 2008-09 squad, which averaged 300.71 behind Dori Carter, who is now representing the Rebels on the LPGA Tour. However, the competitive Ole Miss coach can’t help but look forward.

“I think we have some good returners coming back next year along with our incoming freshman class. Our program, we’ve moved up close to 70 spots in the rankings in the last two years, so we’re moving in the right direction, but we’re definitely not where we want to be by any means,” Henkes said. “We want to be playing in regionals and competing for SEC Championships. We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re willing to put in that time and effort and make sure we find the players who are on board with us as well.” 

Harris’ Win Highlights Fall
The Rebels’ opened the four-tournament fall season with a strong showing at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship. Despite replacing three of its top four golfers in terms of scoring average from the previous season, Ole Miss shot its lowest team score (879) since the previous October.

The season-opener in Knoxville, Tennessee also marked a fantastic start to a brilliant freshman year by Pi-Lillebi Hermansson. The Djursholm, Sweden native played the best tournament of her season (217) to notch the first of three top-20 finishes.


 

 

“We’re really proud of Pi,” Henkes said. “I think this is just scratching the surface for her. She’s going to be an outstanding player. She has All-American potential if she keeps putting in the time and effort that she does on a daily basis. She loves the game of golf and works extremely hard and is a little bit of a perfectionist, but that’s ok. We love the girls who want to put in that kind of time and effort. I think Pi’s got a really bright future ahead of her.”

Senior Madisen Bentley matched that 217 in the Rebels’ next tournament, Furman’s Lady Paladin Invitational, to tie for 15th. Bentley’s best finish of the year guided a strong seventh-place finish in a field of 20.

Ole Miss finished seventh again at the Ron Moore Women’s Intercollegiate in Denver, where another senior led the way for the Rebels. Maria Toennessen fired a 2-under (70) in Round 3 to continue the string of 217s atop the Ole Miss leaderboard and tie for 12th. It was a tremendous collective effort by Ole Miss, as all five Rebels finished in the top 50 for the team’s best 54-hole score of the year, 877.

After the team’s best scoring tournament came its best finish of the year—a fourth-place result at the Palmetto Intercollegiate, highlighted by the first individual medalist of the Henkes era.

Junior Katy Harris turned in a masterful performance, navigating strong coastal winds in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Harris was in contention after a 73-70 to start the tournament. The winds picked up for Round 3, and so did Harris’ game. The St. Simons Island, Georgia native was right at home, shooting a 3-under (69) on the final day to outduel one of the top 50 players in college golf.

Harris held a one-stroke lead over Coastal Carolina’s Malene Krolboll Hansen going into the 18th hole, where a stack-up of groups closing out their rounds resulted in the golf equivalent of icing the kicker. But she showed no signs of nerves as she sunk a 10-foot par put to clinch the tournament.

The potential to win, which was on display in Kiawah and throughout the year, has Harris as one of the team’s key components going into next season, and Henkes hopes she’ll rise to the challenge and lead a young, but talented, Rebel group during her senior year.

“We really could use Katy to step up and be a good leader next year and be really diligent with her practice. Making smart decisions is a big part of that, because your underclassmen look up to your seniors. We need Katy to step up in that role,” Henkes said. “She just got fitted for some new clubs. That should help her be a little more consistent next year. She definitely has the talent. We’re hoping she gives it 100 percent next year and meets all the goals she’s trying to accomplish.” 

Flori Heats Up in Spring
The Rebels didn’t have the most prolific start to the spring, but sophomore Martina Flori caught fire in the final two regular-season tournaments to lead a strong finish to the 2017 campaign.

The Montecatini Terme, Italy native played an outstanding 4-over par (75-72-73--220) tournament at the 3M Augusta Invitational, hosted by Henkes’ former team, Augusta University. Flori’s round was the best of her career, as was her finish, tied for eighth place.

Two weeks later at El Tigre Invitational in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Flori was even better and finished just a stroke off of her first collegiate tournament victory. The sophomore used the best round by any Rebel this year, a 5-under (67) in Round 3 to storm her way from 13th to a three-way tie for the lead when her round concluded. However, Cal State Fullerton’s Martina Edberg, ranked No. 17 in the nation individually, sunk a birdie putt on her final hole to swipe a dramatic victory.

The Rebels then headed to Greystone Golf & Country Club for the the SEC Women’s Golf Championship. With a strong finish against the deepest conference in golf, the Rebels had an outside shot at an NCAA Regional bid.

Ole Miss showed signs of how dangerous it can be: an even-par 72 by Flori in Round 1, and a 3-under 69 by Harris in Round 2, but the Rebels couldn’t quite put it all together against a field that featured nine eventual NCAA qualifying teams, as well as four individuals. Ole Miss finished 13th, ahead of one of those nine, No. 39 Auburn.

The 2017-18 Rebels
Ole Miss returns its top three golfers in terms of scoring average: Flori (74.88), Hermansson (75.04) and Harris (75.11). With two top-10 finishes late in the season, Flori captured the top spot in the Rebel lineup. She’s ranks among the top golfers in the nation in fairways hit and greens in regulation. With a little sharpening of the short game, she’ll be a threat to win every weekend.

“Marti is one of the top ball strikers in the country. She’s done an excellent job working on her mental game and working on her short game, so as soon as all of that can come together, she’s going to be unstoppable,” Henkes said. “We’re hoping she works hard this summer and comes back with a good fresh attitude. She’s going to be a leader next year as well for our team being an upperclassman.”

But that top spot isn’t secure for the Italian. Hermansson and Harris will challenge for the No. 1 honor, and Henkes believes her incoming freshman class, featuring the No. 1 high school golfers from both Mississippi and Louisiana, will do the same.

“The girls coming in are going to be gunning for Marti, and that’s a good thing,” Henkes said. “It’s always healthy when everyone’s pushing each other at practice.”

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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