What's a team to do after losing four players, including a pair of All-Americans, from a lineup that won four team titles and spent most of last spring ranked No. 1 in the nation?
Feel sorry for yourself or reload and go out and win your first tournament of the season against one of the strongest fields of the fall?
South Carolina head coach head coach Kalen Anderson chose the latter, as her Gamecocks completed a wire-to-wire victory in their season opener at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, played at the Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, Minn.
Minus the services of All-Americans of Pauline Roussin-Bouchard and Ana Pelaez, along with Lois Kaye Go and Pimnipa Panthong, the new look Gamecocks won the ANNIKA on Wednesday with a 14-under score of 850, which was good for a seven-shot victory over fourth-ranked Duke (-7; 857) and nine shots better than No. 2 Wake Forest, which finished third (-5; 859). Alabama (863) and Texas (E; 864) rounded out the top-five.
The 12th-ranked Gamecocks fired a loud shot over the bow on Monday when they opened with a 10-under round of 278 and after following with an even par 288 on Tuesday, wrapped up the championship by closing with a 4-under round of 284.
Duke matched the Gamecocks shot-for-shot on Wednesday, but South Carolina didn't flinch, winning the ANNIKA for the second time.
Paced by freshman Hannah Darling's
6-under 66, the Gamecocks also counted scores from newcomers Tai Anudit
(71) and Louise Rydqvist
(72), along with junior Mathilde Claisse
(75) on Wednesday to wrap up the title.
Julia Johnson outlasts Darling for individual title
of Ole Miss outlasted Darling for the individual crown, taking the title by one-stroke with a 12-under score of 204.
Annika Sorenstam and medalist Julia Johnson of Ole Miss
Johnson, who entered the final round with a five-stroke lead over Darling and Calynne Rosholt of Arizona State, survived a nervy start to card a final round 70, earning her fourth career victory. After making a double bogey on her opening hole (#10), Johnson immediately answered with back-to-back birdies and was 4-under for her final 15 holes.
Darling, the reigning R&A Girls Amateur champion and GB&I Curtis Cup stalwart, shot her second 6-under round of 66 of the tournament, but fell one shot short of winning her collegiate debut, finishing at 11-under 205.
South Carolina will return to action at the Windy City Classic, Oct. 4-5 at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Ill.
Second Round Recap; Sept. 14
The rebuilt South Carolina Gamecocks maintained their lead at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate being held at the Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, Minn. on Tuesday.
After carding an impressive 10-under opening round score of 278 on Monday, South Carolina grinded out an even par 288 in round two and will take a six-stroke lead over No. 2 Wake Forest into Wednesday's final round.
Duke sits in third place at 3-under 573 while Alabama jumped four spots up the leaderboard into fourth place after turning in a 4-under 284 on Tuesday, which was the lowest team round of the day.
Steady was the word of the day at Royal Golf Club, where Mathilde Claisse's 2-under 70 in tough scoring conditions was the Gamecocks' low round of the day. After opening with a 1-over 73 on Monday, the junior shot 14 spots up the leaderboard into a tie for 11th place at 1-under 143 two-under round. She made the turn at 1-over but made birdies on three of her four final holes of the round for her 2-under 70.
Freshman Hannah Darling, who held the first round lead after firing a 6-under 66 in her collegiate debut, turned in a 1-over 73 on Tuesday and slipped back into a second place tie with Calynne Rosholt of Arizona State at 5-under 139.
Julia Johnson of defending NCAA champion Ole Miss vaulted into first place among individuals with her second consecutive round of 67. At 10-under 134, Johnson is five-strokes clear of Darling and Rosholt while Duke teammates Gina Kim and Erica Shepherd are six back at 4-under 140.
The Gamecocks will be paired with the Demon Deacons and Duke again for Wednesday's final round.
First Round Recap; Sept. 13
South Carolina's 2021-22 season is off to a fast start as the Gamecocks enjoy a seven-stroke lead after the first round of the ANNIKA Intercollegiate being held at the Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, Minn.
Paced by 2021 R&A Girls Amateur champion Hannah Darling's
bogey-free round of 66, the Gamecocks carded a first round 10-under score of 278 on Monday and enjoy a seven-stroke lead over fourth-ranked Duke (285) and are eight-strokes clear of No. 2 Wake Forest (286).
A trio of Pac-12 schools - Arizona State, USC and UCLA - are tied for fourth at 1-under 287.
These aren't your same Gamecocks that spent most of last season as the top-ranked team in the country, only to fall short in reaching the match play portion of the NCAA Championships. Junior Mathilde Claisse, a veteran of 15 starts over the last two years, is the only holdover from last year's team competing this week at the ANNIKA.
Faced with the losses first-team All-Americans Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, who decided to pursue her professional career after two seasons in Columbia, and Ana Pelaez, head coach Kalen Anderson reloaded her roster with a strong freshman class, led by Darling, and Louise Rydqvist of Jönköping, Sweden. A pair of talented transfers in Tai Anudit, a graduate transfer from Kennesaw State and Justine Fournand, make up the team's scoring five-player lineup.
Darling, who represented Great Britain & Ireland in the Curtis Cup, fired a 6-under 66 in her collegiate debut and holds a one-stroke lead over Julia Johnson of defending NCAA Division I champion Ole Miss.
Darling made the turn at 4-under, carding three-straight birdies on holes five through seven. The Midlothian, Scotland, native shot 2-under on the back, closing with a birdie at the par-5 18th hole.
South Carolina's two transfers also enjoyed impressive debuts at their new school.
Anudit had five birdies en route to a 4-under 68 and is tied for third heading into the second round while Fournand also posted a red number with a 1-under 71 and is tied for 15th.
The ANNIKA Invitational will continue with second round action on Tuesday.