While many teams don’t face their toughest week at the very beginning of the season, Penn State’s women’s golf team appears to be doing just that when it takes part in the Cougar Classic this weekend.
The team also appears to be up for the challenge.
For the third consecutive year, the Nittany Lions will travel to the Yeamans Hall Club in Hanahan, S.C., to compete in the tournament, which is hosted by the College of Charleston. The tournament will begin play Sunday and conclude with its final round on Tuesday.
“It is a very competitive field. It’s probably going to be one of the toughest tournaments that we’re in this entire year,” said head coach Denise St. Pierre.
There will be no lack of talent at the event.
According to the event’s press release, 10 of the top 15 teams from the 2012 NCAA National Championships, including the top five teams, will make up part of the 24-team field. No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 USC, No. 4 LSU, No. 6 UNC, No. 7 Auburn, No. 8 Duke, No. 9 Vanderbilt, No. 12 Georgia, No. 13 Florida, No. 15 Tennessee, No. 18 South Carolina, No. 21 Virginia and No. 23 N.C. State all graced Golfweek’s season ending top 25.
St. Pierre said that the tournament will provide an opportunity to show the team where they stand with some of the best schools in the NCAA.
“It’s a good measuring stick,” she said. “Certainly, how you compete amongst the very, very best in the country is a good measuring stick for where we need to go.”
Penn State, which finished at No. 84, could very easily be intimidated, but junior Ellen Ceresko said the team is welcoming the challenge.
“We’re actually going to go into the tournament and we’re going to send a message, saying ‘We’re here. The Nittany Lions are here, and we’re just as good as you guys’,” Ceresko said. “We’re going to do the best we can with the best attitude and the best mentality.”
Ceresko, who is returning to play after missing all of last season with an injury, said she can’t wait to take on the nation’s powerhouses.
“We’ve worked so hard, not just on the course, but off the course,” she said. “I’m very excited and looking forward to competing with the best of the best because I know we’re right up with them.”
At the same time, though, St. Pierre said the team also realizes it’s playing tough competition. While she said the team isn’t fazed by it, it does respect the talent the other teams have.
“I think there’s a respect, for sure. You got to respect those teams,” St. Pierre said. “Anytime you get an opportunity to play with the elite players in your sport, you welcome that challenge as a competitor, and I think that’s where they’re at.”