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Women’s golf adjusting to life without two All-Americans

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Women’s golf adjusting to life without two All-Americans

Courtesy of UA Athletics

Courtesy of UA Athletics

Courtesy of UA Athletics

Courtesy of UA Athletics

James Ogletree, Sports Writer

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Just four months ago, the Alabama women’s golf team had just set the NCAA scoring record, it included three of the top five amateur players in the world and it appeared to be on the fast track to avenging its narrow loss in last year’s national championship match.

Within a few weeks, though, the team looked very different. Out went the two superstars, Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, who earned their LPGA Tour cards in November and elected to turn professional.

In came two freshmen who had never played a collegiate golf tournament.

“Obviously, they were my teammates, so I was happy for them, but at the same time I was obviously a little sad because it’s my team and we never want to split up,” sophomore Angelica Moresco said. “Since Lauren [Stephenson] and Kristen [Gillman] left, we probably bonded together even more because it was us, you know? We had to go through this all together and stay positive and support and push each other.”

While the qualifying process was taking place throughout October, freshmen Mary Mac Trammell and Carolina Caminoli filled in, making their first starts for the Crimson Tide in Austin, Texas and Atlanta.

Three days after the East Lake Cup in Atlanta ended, it was confirmed. Stephenson and Gillman, who had already told coaches and teammates there was a good chance they would turn pro if they qualified, punched their tickets to the tour.

“We went from being possibly the best women’s golf team of all time to having to have a whole different perspective on it,” coach Mic Potter said. “It was good to get [Trammell and Caminoli] experience in the fall because we’re going to need it in the spring.”

As the team opens its spring season in California on Sunday, Potter and assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel have been pleased with the team’s response. Only five eligible players remain – meaning the same five will play each tournament during the spring – and four of them were not on the team last year.

The addition of Jiwon Jeon, a transfer from Daytona State College and the No. 4 amateur player in the world, has been crucial, and SMU transfer Kenzie Wright has also exceeded expectations. Those two and Moresco, the team’s only returner, now occupy the team’s top three spots, and Potter said they must step up and lead.

“I feel like I’m the big one of the family but I’m really not,” Moresco said, laughing. “I’m just a sophomore but I feel sometimes like I am the one who knows more how it works here at Alabama.”

Potter and Moresco both said trial by fire has helped the freshmen learn that they belong. Their first two tournaments left much to be desired, but Potter surmises that a lack of competition for spots could actually help them get their games and their minds into tournament shape.

“I’ve always liked to have some competition for spots,” Potter said, “but there’s also something to be said for knowing that you’re preparing for the next tournament every day, and I think that will make this team better.”

The players have their own private swing coaches, so Potter and Rosenstiel often refrain from offering them significant technical advice.

Without Gillman and Stephenson – fundamentally sound, accomplished players whose consistent scores Potter said were “automatic” – the coaches have placed a greater emphasis on scoring well with savvy decision making than on refining mechanics.

“If I go look at the field in a tour event, you see all kinds of golf swings,” Potter said. “Given the game [our players] all have right now, there’s a way to score better. And that is to pick your targets more appropriately, know where your misses can be… and understanding that most of the shots they hit are good enough to score from. If we can do those things better every day, we can be a really good team.”

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Women’s golf adjusting to life without two All-Americans