It’s not a football Saturday in the Southeastern Conference, but make no mistake about it, Alabama, No. 1 in the latest Golfstat rankings, vs. No. 8 Georgia for the title in the Red Bracket of the 45th Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic Sunday at the Bulldogs’ home, the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga., will be a high-stakes matchup featuring some of the most talented players in women’s college golf.
The host Bulldogs rolled into the final with a deceiving 3.5-1.5 victory over No. 16 Arkansas.
The Georgia trio of Becky Tardy, a sophomore from Peachtree Corners, Ga., Harang Lee, a senior from Spain, and Mary Ellen Shuman, a senior from St. Simons Island, Ga., rolled to easy match-play victories over their familiar 6,300-yard, par-72 UGA layout to give the Bulldogs an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
The other two matches were called early since they couldn’t affect the outcome. Rinko Mitsunaga, a sophomore from Roswell, Ga., was leading the Razorbacks’ Alana Uriell, a junior from Carlsbad, Calif., 1-up through 13 holes, and Jillian Hollis, a sophomore from Rocky River, Ohio. who had won the individual title in Friday’s qualifying round, was all square with Arkansas’s Kaylee Benton, a sophomore from Buckeye, Ariz., through 12 holes.
Tardy, a member of the 2016 U.S. Curtis Cup team, capped a big day with a 5 and 4 victory over Maria Fassi, Arkansas’ talented sophomore from Mexico. Lee was just as impressive in a 6 and 5 win over Cara Gorlei, a sophomore from South Africa. Shuman cruised to a 5 and 4 win over Summer Roachell, a senior from Conway, Ark.
No. 52 Denver gave the top-ranked Crimson Tide all they wanted in the other semifinal before falling, 4-1, again a deceiving score since two of the matches were halved and the final match was halted when the outcome was determined.
Alabama got impressive wins, though, from Cheyenne Knight, a sophomore from Aledo, Texas, and Lauren Stephenson, a sophomore from Lexington, S.C.
Knight rolled to a 6 and 5 victory over Lauren Whyte, a junior from Scotland, while Stephenson decisioned Sophie Newlove, a sophomore from England, 5 and 4.
The Pioneers’ Muriell Bruun, a senior from Norway, battled freshman Kristen Gillman, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion from Austin, Texas, to a draw in their match. And Alabama’s Mia Landegren, a senior from Bridgewater, Conn., had to settle for a half-point as she and Jessica Dreesbeimdieke, a junior from Namibia, were all square after 18 holes.
The Tide’s Lakareber Abe, a junior from Angleton, Texas, had a 1-up lead over Jessica Canty, a senior from Northern Ireland, heading to the 18th when that match was called.
The marquee matchup of the quarterfinals Saturday morning pitted No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Southern California and the Crimson Tide claimed a convincing 3.5-1.5 victory.
Gillman earned a 3 and 2 win over Tiffany Chan, a senior from Hong Kong, Knight captured a 4 and 3 victory over Muni He, a freshman from San Diego, and Abe rolled to a 5 and 4 decision over Allisen Corpuz, a freshman from Honolulu, Hawaii.
Denver earned its semifinal date with Alabama with a hard-fought tiebreaker decision over No. 19 Oklahoma State after the teams battled to a 2.5-2.5 tie. Denver got a 3 and 2 victory from Newlove over Isabella Deilert, a senior from Sweden, and a 2 and 1 win from Carty over Emma Broze, a junior from France.
Georgia cruised to a 4-1 victory over Daytona State, the top-ranked junior college team in the country, in its quarterfinal match. Tardy was particularly impressive in claiming a 7 and 6 victory over Jiwon Jeon, Daytona State’s talented freshman from South Korea. The Bulldogs also got victories from Lee, Hollis and Mitsunaga.
Arkansas reached its semifinal match with Georgia with a tiebreaker decision over No. 40 Auburn after the teams battled to a 2.5-2.5 draw. Fassi claimed a 3 and 2 victory over Kelli Murphy, a junior from Elgin, S.C., and Benton was a 3 and 2 winner over Elena Hualde, a freshman from Spain, to power the Razorbacks.
Auburn defeated Daytona State, 3-2, and Southern Cal rolled to a 5-0 decision over Oklahoma State in the consolation bracket and the Tigers and Trojans will meet Sunday for fifth place.
I'll try to wrap up the consolation Black Bracket Sunday. My new "day job" is often really a night job, but it still allows me plenty of time to catch up on some good stuff for the golf blog.