The nationally ranked LaGrange College golf team will open its 2013 spring schedule at the Pine Needles Intercollegiate in Southern Pines, N.C. The Panthers, under coach Lee Richter, are No. 19 in the Golfstat rankings and 17th in the Golf World/Nike Golf Division III coaches poll.
The two-day tournament is Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 25-26, at the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club course. Last year, the Panthers tied for third at the event. Current sophomore Cory Howard and former three-time All-American Hudson Keener tied for ninth in the individual standings.
Howard and the Panthers are coming off a strong showing in the fall portion of their schedule.
Howard won the individual championship at the Golfweek Fall Invitational and was named the USA South Golfer of the Week, while freshman James Liang was the conference Rookie of the Week at the same time. He was runner-up at the O'Brient Jensen Memorial Tournament and tied for fifth at the Rhodes College Fall Classic. For the fall, he had a 71.13 stroke average per round.
The Panthers as a team finished in the top 10 in all four fall tournaments. They were second at the Golfweek Fall Invitational. In the tournament, the Panthers beat five of the top 10 teams in the nation, including the top-ranked team by 30 shots.
"We played well this fall so we want to pick up where we left off and take the momentum into the spring. We have a really young team so it'll be interesting how it all plays out." Richter said.
"We played well on the course where the national championship is going to be held, so if we can get in, it could get interesting!"
Under Richter, the Panthers have reached the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament five of the last six years and six times overall. The Panthers won a USCAA national title in 2003. They also appeared in two NAIA national championship tournaments, finishing as high as 11th, the best finish in a national tournament prior to the USCAA championship.
LaGrange was second in the USA South preseason coaches poll behind perennial power Methodist. The Panthers are in their first season in the conference and are coming off winning the Great South Athletic Conference Tournament championship in their final appearance. Howard was the GSAC Freshman of the Year, while Richter was the Coach of the Year.
After the North Carolina tournament, LaGrange and Berry College will host the Callaway Gardens Intercollegiate on the Mountain View course in Pine Mountain, Ga. The tournament runs March 2-3.