USC shooting low, scoring high

Katelyn Dambaugh and her University of South Carolina teammates are ranked No. 1 in women's college golf. Provided

The basketball team isn’t the only South Carolina women’s athletic program with something to crow about; the women’s golf team also ranks among the top teams in the country.

Golfstat, a ratings service that compares head-to-head competition, ranks the Gamecocks No. 1 in the nation ahead of Southern Cal and Arkansas. Golfweek magazine has South Carolina No. 2, behind Washington (No. 4 in Golfstat). In five tournaments this season, the Gamecocks have won twice, finished runner-up once, and placed third and fourth.

But it’s a long way until May, when the NCAA women’s championship will be played in Eugene, Ore., cautions South Carolina coach Kalen Harris.

“It’s nice to be No. 1 at this point, but it’s February. We want the result to be in May,” Harris said. “We’re just plugging away, every day, every week, trying to get better and let the results take care of themselves. We’re confident in what we’re doing, our process, and we’ll continue to do what we’re doing and let the results fall where they’re going to be.”

Just like the second-ranked women’s basketball team with Aleighsa Welch, the women’s golf team also features a prominent standout from Goose Creek — former Pinewood Prep golfer Katelyn Dambaugh. Last year, Dambaugh was second-team All-Southeastern Conference and made the league’s All-Freshman team.

“Katelyn is doing a great job for us. We’re happy to have her here,” Harris said of the former U.S. Junior runner-up. “She’s a great kid, a talented player and a great representative of our athletic department.”

Harris said Dambaugh’s talent was evident at an early age and she has adjusted well to college (3.7 GPA in Sports Management) and golf.

“She’s had her times when she’s stepped out and had great rounds and come up huge for us,” Harris said. “She has the ability to go really low. She’s a fiery player and an exciting player.”

Dambaugh’s scoring average this year is 74.00 in five tournaments, fourth on the team, but her career scoring average is 73.78, best among the seven players on the squad. Her freshman scoring average of 73.70 is the lowest by a freshman in school history.

Dambaugh has been battling tendinitis this season and recently sprained her wrist when she hit a tree root beneath her ball.

“I’ve been doing a lot of exercise and trying to strengthen my arm. It’s getting better and I’m able to play now without a lot of pain,” Dambaugh said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit with my confidence, and a few parts of my game need some work. But that’s what golf is. It comes and it goes. It will come back eventually. It’s nothing I’m too worried about.”

Dambaugh said the Gamecocks’ lofty national ranking is exciting.

“Going into the season we knew we were going to have a pretty good team and knew that we would be able to contend for a national championship,” Dambaugh said. “We’ve been taking it day by day, working as hard as we can. So far it’s paid off.”

The Gamecocks’ hold on the No. 1 ranking will face a stiff challenge in a few weeks. Their next tournament is the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate on March 6-8, hosted by South Carolina and played at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head. The field includes Southern Cal and Arkansas.

“It’s an awesome tournament,” Dambaugh said, made even more special to her by the hometown connection with the musician. “I’ve played golf with Darius a few times. He’s a member at Bulls Bay, where my golf coach, Greg Boyette, teaches. He’s a really nice guy, down to earth. It’s really cool he puts on a tournament for us.”