Women’s Golf Central: Cougar Classic

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The 30th season of the Tennessee women’s golf program, as well as the Diana Cantu era on Rocky Top is set to begin this week, as the Lady Vols tee off the 2021-22 season at the 17th annual Cougar Classic in Charleston, South Carolina.
The tournament, hosted by College of Charleston, will be a two-day, 54-hole event, with the opening two rounds scheduled for Monday, followed by round three Tuesday.
The field is made up of 17 teams, six of which are in the Golfstat Top 25, along with eight individuals.
The Lady Vols opened the 2005-06 season by winning the team title at the Cougar Classic, with Marci Turner claiming the tournament’s individual title, after carding a 212. Turner would be named a Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) Second Team All-American that year.
Bailey Davis
Highly touted freshman Bailey Davis, of White Plains, Maryland, is set to begin her Lady Vol career Monday. The three-time Maryland girls 4A State High School Champion has been slotted at the top of Tennessee’s season-opening lineup.
Prior to her arrival on Rocky Top, Davis qualified for the USGA Girls’ Junior Championship twice and was a three-time qualifier for the Girls’ Junior PGA Championship.
Vanessa Gilly
In her freshman campaign last year, Gilly competed in 27 of Tennessee’s 30 team rounds. With an average of 75.00 and a low round of 67, Gilly’s best finish came at The Ally at Old Waverly where she finished tied for seventh.
Gilly will tee off her sophomore year second in Tennessee’s lineup.
Kayla Holden
Holden, a sophomore, is primed for the first fall action of her young collegiate career. Despite not participating in Tennessee’s three fall events of 2020, she found the lineup in each of the Lady Vols’ seven spring tournaments.
Last season’s Gators Invitational served as Holden’s second collegiate tournament. Her three-day score of +2 (212) was good for a sixth place finish and led to her being named the SEC Co-Freshman of the Week.
Nicole Whiston
Whiston enters her junior season after having recorded the third-lowest stroke average among Lady Vols last year. She is fourth in Tennessee’s lineup this week.Late in the 2020-21 season, Whiston logged a top-10 finish at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic, finishing tied for sixth (E, 216). That week, she tied her career-best round of 68 (-4) during the second round and was awarded with the SEC Newcomer of the Week award following the event.
Mikayla Bardwell
Entering her senior season, Bardwell has logged 92 rounds played and currently owns the fifth-best career average in program history, at 73.97 (minimum of two seasons and 45 rounds). She is a mere 0.57 behind Erica Popson’s (2009-13) program-best 73.40 career average.
Last season, Bardwell posted four top-10 finishes, including three finishes in the top-three. At the NCAA Louisville Regional last spring, she carded the fourth-lowest third round score in program history, with a 66 (-6).
Bardwell put a bow on her junior campaign last year with a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, competing at the NCAA Championship as an individual. Despite finishing T97 at the event, Bardwell gained great confidence heading into her fourth season with the Lady Vols.
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Hadley Walts (individual)
After not competing in a tournament with the Lady Vols last season, Walts is set to tee off her senior season by competing as an individual this week at the Cougar Classic.
Walts’ score of 207 at the Westbrook Invitational in the spring of 2020 is tied for the fourth-best score after 54 holes in program history.
No. 9 Baylor, No. 15 Arkansas, No. 21 Maryland, No. 22 Georgia, No. 24 Vanderbilt, No. 25 Florida, No. 30 Miami, No. 31 Michigan State, No. 33 Clemson, No. 35 Tennessee, No. 36 UCF, No. 56 Furman, No. 63 North Carolina, No. 68 Charleston, No. 75 Penn State, No. 94 Wisconsin, No. 101 N.C. State.
(rankings according to Golfweek)
• The 2021-22 campaign marks the 30th season of the Tennessee women’s golf program history. The Lady Vols have claimed 29 tournament wins as a team and have finished second in the SEC Championship on three occasions (1993, 1999, 2006).
• Former Lady Vol golfer Diana Cantu returned to Rocky Top this summer, being named Tennessee’s head coach on June 8, 2021. As the fourth head coach in Lady Vol history, Cantu is set to take the helm in Knoxville, alongside first-year assistant coach Nic Robinson.
• Freshman Davis made headlines this summer, with a remarkable runner-up finish at the 2021 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in July. As the No. 1 ranked player in the state of Maryland and No. 7 in the 2021 recruiting class (Golfweek), Davis is ready to begin her collegiate career with the Orange and White this week.
Yeamans Hall Club – Par 72 – 6,301 yards
Yeamans Hall Club features a course rating is 72.2 and it has a slope rating of 128 on Bermuda grass. The course was ranked No. 99 on Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses” of 2021-22.
Live scoring will be provided by Golfstat and can be found here.
Monday, Sept. 13 – First & Second Rounds – 8:30 a.m. ET shotgun start with Baylor and Georgia
Bailey Davis– 8:30 a.m. ET (Hole 3B)
Vanessa Gilly– 8:30 a.m. ET (Hole 4)
Nicole Whiston– 8:30 a.m. ET (Hole 5A)
Kayla Holden– 8:30 a.m. ET (Hole 5B)
Mikayla Bardwell– 8:30 a.m. ET (Hole 6)
*Hadley Walts– 8:30 a.m. ET (Hole 18B)
Tuesday, Sept. 14 – Third Round – TBD
The Lady Vols return home following the Cougar Classic, as they will serve host to the annual Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship, scheduled for Sept. 20-21 at Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville.

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