College Golf

Meadow, Crimson Tide women back on Hilton Head for Darius Rucker tournament

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comMarch 8, 2013 

Stephanie Meadow has trouble pinpointing one home, although she is always partial to her native Northern Ireland.

She has spent the past three years in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as a member of the Alabama women's golf team. Before that, she lived four years on Hilton Head Island, where she was a student at Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy.

Her parents still live on the island and she returns periodically to visit and sleep in her old room.

Meadow returns this week to the place she knows well, trying to help the Crimson Tide defend its Darius Rucker Intercollegiate title at Long Cove Club. Meadow was medalist at the inaugural event last year, a win that was followed by a monster year of golf.

Meadow helped Alabama to the 2012 NCAA title, won the Ladies British Amateur and secured the winning point for Great Britain & Ireland at the Curtis Cup.

"Obviously I just want to try and get better as my own player," said Meadow, now a junior. "I did a lot of great things last year. I still feel like I can improve and always get better."

In its second year, the tournament hosted by South Carolina features a strong field, highlighted by the defending national champion Crimson Tide.

Competitors, coaches and Long Cove members were treated for a second year to a private concert by the event's namesake, Hootie and the Blowfish frontman-turned-country artist Darius Rucker, a South Carolina native.

Rucker performed all of his hits Thursday, including a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel," and apologized to concert-goers, saying he planned to watch some of his tournament this year but received a call from the reality show Duck Dynasty to shoot a video this weekend.

"Play well," he said before exiting the stage at Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head.

Alabama coach Mic Potter lost all-American Brooke Pancake, now an LPGA Tour rookie, but returns all-Americans in Meadow and Jennifer Kirby. Junior Hannah Collier, the hero of the 2012 NCAA Championship, is also back, and freshman Emma Talley was the top recruit in the 2012 class.

The Crimson Tide appear loaded again.

"More depth never hurts, more competition within your team never hurts," Potter said. "I think we've got all that going on."

Potter doesn't want his players focused on the strong field or their playing partners. Attack the golf course, is the directive. Potter liked his players' focus when they waited out the weather delays to win here last year.

The Crimson Tide like the Pete Dye layout, Potter said. And when the Crimson Tide like a golf course, Alabama has had success. That's how Potter explains a third-place finish at the 2012 SEC Championship and a tie for fourth at the NCAA East Regional before claiming the program's first national title at Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn.

The Crimson Tide like Long Cove in part because its greens are similar to the ones Alabama regularly practices on in Tuscaloosa, Potter said.

His team finished 3 over to win the weather-shortened Darius Rucker last year, 11 shots clear of North Carolina. Meadow finished 5 under par to lead the way.

Potter is her coach now, both technical and as a member of his team. But she still keeps in touch with her former instructors at the Hank Haney IJGA, including director of golf Matt Fields, who was her instructor.

"The knowledge that I learned from all the guys over there was amazing," Meadow said. "I definitely would not be in the same position I am today."


What: 54-hole women's college golf tournament

When: Today through Sunday; First- and second-round tee times are from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. off Nos. 1 and 10; Final round begins at 9 a.m. Sunday

Where: Long Cove Club, Hilton Head Island

Details: Spectators are welcome. For information, call 686-1070.

Field: South Carolina, Auburn, Arizona State, Furman, Louisiana State, Texas Christian, Alabama, Arkansas, Central Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest

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