Buford, College of Charleston glad she stuck with golf

Photographer: Al Samuels

There was a point during her junior season when C.C. Buford wondered if golf was really in her future.

Buford, a fifth-year senior, was studying to be a physical therapist and wondered if her time might be better spent shadowing doctors and professionals within the field, rather than chasing a little white ball around a golf course for four or five hours each day.

In the end, Buford, a former walk-on, picked golf.

College of Charleston women’s golf coach Jamie Futrell is glad she did.

Buford and the College of Charleston women’s golf team, the reigning Colonial Athletic Association champions, will take part in this week’s NCAA Women’s Golf Regional at the Lonnie Poole Golf Course in Raleigh. The opening round is set for Thursday.

The Cougars are making their sixth all-time NCAA Regional appearance in school history (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015) under Futrell. The Raleigh Regional includes top-seeded South Carolina, LSU, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Florida, Central Florida, Furman, Alabama, Iowa State, Ohio State, N.C. State, Coastal Carolina, Campbell, Seton Hall, Wichita State and Fairleigh Dickinson.

Sophomore Laura Fuenfstueck, junior Mary Chandler Bryan, junior Louise Olsson, junior Morgan Webber and Buford will start for the Cougars on Thursday. Everyone except for Buford played in last year’s NCAA regional appearance where the team placed 22nd at Florida State’s Southwood Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla.

After redshirting her freshman season, Buford rarely played during her first 2½ seasons with the Cougars. She rarely broke 80 when she did get on the course. As a junior, she played in seven of the 12 tournaments the Cougars took part it, and despite shaving four strokes off of her freshman average, she still finished the year with a 78.21 average per round.

“I had some soul-searching to do about what I wanted to do,” Buford said. “Did I really want to play golf or should I maybe start thinking about my future and maybe get out there in the professional world. I think in the end, I realized I loved the game of golf, I loved this team and I wasn’t going to let my teammates down.”

The turning point for Buford came this past summer when she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championships. At her sectional qualifying event in Denver, Buford shot a 73, winning in a playoff to make it to the main event at the Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y.

“My mom was my caddie and I remember I was feeling really good that day,” Buford said. “I was hitting the ball well, I holed out a shot on a par-5 for an eagle, but I made two bogeys on the final two holes. I had to go to a playoff, but won that and made it to New York.”

Buford didn’t make it to the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur Championships, shooting a nine-over 149 for 36 holes and missing the cut by just a single stroke.

“I think C.C. finally realized at the women’s am that she could compete with some of the top women’s golfers,” Futrell said. “I think that did a lot for her confidence and she’s built on that success this entire year.”

Buford has been a mainstay in the Cougars lineup this season, helping lead Charleston to its second straight CAA title and NCAA Regional appearance.

She shot par-or-better in seven rounds, including a career-low 68 twice at the Palmetto Intercollegiate and Kiawah Island Classic, as well as turning in a pair of Top-10 individual tournament finishes.

Buford will finish her career ranked in the Top 15 in program history in single-season stroke average. She was co-recipient of the prestigious J. Stewart Walker Cup, which is the highest award given by the athletics department.

“I’ve got a soft spot for a player like C.C.” said Futrell, a former walk-on baseball player at Charleston Southern. “I was a walk-on, so I know what it takes to kind of earn your spot. No one has worked harder to get to where she is than C.C.”

Buford thinks the Cougars will perform much better at this year’s NCAA regional than they did a year ago.

“I think last year everyone was just happy to get to a regional,” Buford said. “This year, I think we’re on a mission to prove that we belong.”