The 2016 Sunshine State Conference Women's Golf Championships are scheduled to begin Sunday morning at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne where Florida Southern will be one of nine teams competing for the title. It's the first time the SSC Championships have been held on Key Biscayne, with Barry University serving as the host.
Crandon Golf is located just 10 minutes from downtown Miami on the island of Key Biscayne. Designed and built in 1972, and re-designed in 1993, it rates as the third most difficult municipal golf course in the United States behind Bethpage Black on Long Island and Torrey Pines in San Diego. Crandon Golf hosted the Senior PGA Classic from 1987-2004 and offers a unique playing experience that features seven saltwater lakes, mangrove thickets and holes overlooking Biscayne Bay.
The tournament will feature 54 holes, with one round each day from Sunday through Tuesday. Tee times will range from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., and live scoring will be available through the SSC website. First-round pairings will be determined by the Golfstat team rankings, with second and third-round pairings based on team scores up to that point. With Crandon Golf also hosting the SSC Men's Championships at the same time, the women will begin the first and third rounds on hole 10, and the second round on hole 1.
As of April 13, Rollins, Florida Tech and Barry are the top three teams in the Golfstat rankings, Nova Southeastern is #5, Lynn is #7, Saint Leo is #9, and Florida Southern is #27. That would put the Moccasins with Tampa and Eckerd for the first round. Provisional SSC members Embry-Riddle and Palm Beach Atlantic are not participating.
Even more important for the Moccasins are the NCAA Regional rankings which will be used to make selections for NCAA postseason play. Coming into the conference tournament the Moccasins are sitting at #14, with the top 12 teams going on to play in the NCAA South Super Regional, May 2-4 in Pensacola. A strong showing this week in Miami would help the Mocs' cause when compared to Armstrong State, West Georgia and Limestone who are ranked 12, 13, and 14 respectively.
Head-to-head against Armstrong State this year, the Moccasins are 3-2. They are 1-3-1 against Limestone and did compete in any tournament with West Georgia. The Moccasins have also seen a big jump in their own scores from the fall to the spring portion of the schedule, with a difference of roughly 10½ strokes per team round.
Scheduled to compete for Florida Southern at the SSC Championships are seniors Kit Creighton and Colleen Panosian, redshirt junior Shannon McKew, junior Britta Bernth, and sophomore Abbey Williams. This will be the third year in a row Creighton and Panosian have played in the conference tournament, and Bernth and Williams will be there for the second time. All four of those golfers have further postseason experience having also played in last year's NCAA South Regional.
McKew leads Florida Southern this season with a 78.19 stroke average, though Williams isn't far behind at 78.61 and has the Mocs' best career average among current players at 78.37. McKew is coming off the first individual win of her college career after she won medalist honors in the West Florida Argonaut Invitational last week. It was her third top-five finish of the season. Williams was second on the team in stroke average during her freshman campaign and has maintained that position this year while posting two top-10 finishes.
Creighton and Panosian, who are 4-year letter winners for the Mocs, have the most postseason experience and were the team's second and third golfers at last year's SSC Championships in Sorrento. Last year saw Panosian among the early-round leaders, and Creighton was just outside the top-10 going into the final round. Bernth was only two strokes behind them in the final standings while playing in the first postseason tournament of her career.
Barry is the defending SSC champion after winning its first ever conference title in women's golf last year. The Buccaneers clinched the title with a tournament-record two-under par 286 in the final round after trailing by eight shots. It was the closest race in league history with the Buccaneers just one shot ahead of both Rollins and Lynn, and only two shots ahead of fourth-place Nova Southeastern. It was the fifth year in a row, however, that the winning margin was four shots or less. Barry was also the fourth different team in the last four years to win the championship, following Lynn in 2014, Florida Southern in 2013, and Nova Southeastern in 2012.
Since the tournament was first conducted in 1999, Rollins has won the most league championships with eight, but their last title came in 2009. (The Tars have been runner-up the last two years by a combined margin of five shots.) Florida Southern and Nova Southeastern are tied for the second most league titles with four.
Individually, Barry's Nikky Ferre is back to defend her title, which she won after becoming the first golfer to ever break par in the SSC Tournament. The senior from Weston, Florida had a one-under par 215 to edge out Florida Southern's Emily Rymer by one shot, with Rymer's score of 216 the second lowest in tournament history. Ferre, who is one of three Buccaneers from last year's SSC Tournament who are back in 2016, isn't the only previous SSC champion in the field either. Saint Leo junior Marie Coors was the 2014 medalist before slipping to 27th in 2015.
Florida Southern's most recent SSC medalist was Jana Peterkova in 2002, though since then Moccasins have had five runner-ups, including Rymer each of the last two years.
Following the SSC Championships, selections for the NCAA playoffs will be announced on Monday, April 25. The top 12 teams from each region will earn bids to their respective Regional Tournaments, with the South being held at Marcus Pointe Golf Club in Pensacola, Florida, May 2-4. The NCAA Division II National Finals are at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora, Colorado, May 18-21.