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ORLANDO, FLA. - On the heels of a highly successful 2011-12 campaign, the Seton Hall women's golf team has set its sights on its second all-time appearance at the BIG EAST Championship. This year, the conference's marquee event will take place at Reunion Resort and Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., April 22-24.
Hosted by USF, the 10th annual championship will be held on the Resort's Watson Course. Highlighted by fast, firm and wide rolling fairways, a variety of strategically placed bunkers and large greens, the 7,257 yard, par 72 Watson Course, a Signature Design by Tom Watson, is as much about strategy as it is about length. Demanding a well thought out approach from every player regardless of skill level, this course puts a premium on a solid short game with spacious green complexes where club selection can vary from putter to lob wedge to three-wood.
Seton Hall made its BIG EAST Championship debut last year at Innisbrook in Tampa. For the Pirates it was a learning experience as the team finished last among the eight-team field, 134 strokes behind Notre Dame, the team champion, and 69 strokes behind seventh place Cincinnati. This year's Seton Hall team however, is much different. With a year of experience under their collective belt, the Pirates and Head Coach Sara Doell will look to move up the leader board.
"It has been a great year to date as we have made incredible strides from last year," Doell said. "We have proven that we can compete with other BIG EAST teams as we have a 4-3 record against Rutgers, a 1-1 record against Georgetown and tied Cincinnati in the only event we competed against them."
Doell will bring a team of five ladies who have competed in every tournament for the Pirates this year, a young group of three impact freshmen and two battle-tested sophomore leaders.
2011-12 Stroke Average: 77.09
2012 Spring Stroke Average: 78.70
Basalone has been the undisputed leader of the Pirates since the program's inception last year. Her name will go down in the Seton Hall record books as the first women's golfer in school history to win an individual tournament title, a feat she accomplished at the Lehigh Invitational this fall. Basalone shot a 3-over-par, 73-74-147, and claimed the victory on the first hole of a playoff. A dominant performer, she also has three other top-10 finishes to her credit in 2011-12 including a third place tie at the Siena Invitational and a fourth place tie at the Rutgers Women's Invitational this spring.
"Hannah has had a great year, winning the Lehigh event this past fall and staying consistent the entire year," Doell said. "She is very level-headed and has a great sense of emotional maturity on the golf course. Last year in BIG EAST, she was battling a bad sickness and her results suffered. She is in good health this week and I think she has the potential to have a solid performance."
Despite being under-the-weather, Basalone was the Pirates' top performer in last year's championship, finishing in 26th place with a 28-over-par, 92-75-77-244.
2011-12 Stroke Average: 78.00
2012 Spring Stroke Average: 77.90
Cantu has taken charge this spring and is currently playing some of the finest golf of her young Seton Hall career. The Houston, Texas native has led the team with a 77.90 spring stroke average and has led the Pirates in the last three tournaments. Cantu has logged three top-10 finishes this year, and most recently, tied for sixth place at Columbia's Roar-EE Invitational. Her 7-over-par, 75-76-151, at the event is her career-best. Cantu also tied for fifth place at the Siena Invitational with a 12-over-par, 77-79-156, to open the spring season.
"Christina has been playing very solid golf these past few weeks," Doell said. "She is hitting it well and is feeling very confident in her short game and wedges. She is coming off of a solid sixth place finish at the Roar-EE Invitational and she looks to carry her confidence into the Championship. "
Cantu placed 28th at the BIG EAST Championship last year with a 30-over-par, 82-78-86-246. She finished second on the Pirates' score card, just two strokes behind Basalone.
2011-12 Stroke Average: 79.05
2012 Spring Stroke Average: 80.22
Cutter had a very strong fall for the Pirates, establishing herself as the leading performer among the Pirates' trio of freshman phenoms. Due to injuries, her spring season hasn't been as strong, but she will be key to Seton Hall's success at the BIG EAST Championship. Cutter has recorded two top-10 finishes this year including a second place showing at the Siena Invitational with a 6-over-par, 75-75-150, the single best tournament performance by a freshman in Seton Hall history. The second place finish led the Pirates and guided the team to it's first-ever team title.
"Mckenzie is a fighter," Doell said. "She has been suffering from a back/ hip injury that sidelined her during the last round of the Hoya Invitational. Last week at Columbia, she struck the ball well and has been swinging with less pain. She has taken care of herself this week by resting, being in the training room and doing her rehab and stretching. She is very mentally tough, and pain or not, I know that she will fight for the Pirates and play some great golf this week."
2011-12 Stroke Average: 80.22
2012 Spring Stroke Average: 81.50
In a short period of time, Kruse has proven to be an integral part of Seton Hall's success. Her two best tournaments individually have been in the team's top two finishes. Her career-best finish was a third place tie at the Lehigh Invitational. She fired a 6-over-par, 75-75-150, lifting the team to a second place finish. Kruse placed 12th, her second-best finish, at the Siena Invitational, a tournament that resulted in Seton Hall's first-ever team championship.
"Last week, Ali made some minor changes in her golf swing with Coach D, and as a result, I believe she is feeling much more confident," Doell said. "This past fall, Ali's best performance was in our last event where she finished third at the Lehigh Invitational. I believe that she will have a similar strong performance in our last event of the spring."
2011-12 Stroke Average: 81.48
2012 Spring Stroke Average: 80.90
The more rounds McClure plays, the more her game matures. The Tucson, Arizona native has seen marketable improvement since the fall alone, shaving more than a full stroke off her average. Her best performance against par and her first top-10 finish came at the Siena Invitational. McClure tied for seventh with a 13-over-par, 80-77-157, in helping the Pirates to a team victory. Most recently, McClure finished second on the Pirates' score card with a 14-over-par, 80-78-158, at the Columbia Roar-EE Invitational. Indeed, McClure is playing her best golf at the right time.
"What a great turn around for Erin this spring," Doell said. "Erin is playing much more confidently, swinging more balanced and has a much better perspective and attitude on the golf course. She has much better understanding of how your mental awareness and positive energy can directly affect your performance. She has worked hard to improve in these areas and it shows. I am excited to watch her compete in her first BIG EAST Championship."
The 2012 BIG EAST Championship will be played in three rounds over three days, Sunday through Tuesday. Saturday each team will have a practice round. Tee times for the first round were determined by each team's Golfstat ranking. The Pirates will tee off with Rutgers at 8:00 a.m. from tee #1 as part of the first group of the day. Pairings and groups for the subsequent rounds on Monday and Tuesday will be determined by the team's standing on the leader board.