Story and photo courtesy of Furman Athletics

Furman women ready to tee it up again at NCAA Championships

Few women's golf teams have produced more professionals than Furman.

Eleven former Paladins have played on the LPGA Tour, including World Golf Hall of Famers Betsy King and Beth Daniel.

Starting Friday in Eugene, Ore., the Furman women's golf team will be back in the national spotlight. The 19th-ranked Paladins make their 17th appearance at the NCAA Championship after scoring a fourth-place finish on May 7 at the NCAA Regional in Bryan, Texas.

They advanced to the 24-team NCAA Championship Friday-Sunday at Eugene Country Club.

Furman last reached the NCAA Championship in 2008 in Albuquerque, N.M., finishing 24th.

"It took a team effort to advance," said Furman head coach Kelley Hester, the 2016 SoCon Coach of the Year, who is in her fourth year at the helm of the Paladins. "I couldn't be more proud of this group of girls and all they have accomplished. While it's always a relief to make it through the regional, this team has been solid all year and has proven that it can compete with the nation's best. We look forward to that opportunity in Eugene."

Sophomore Alice Chen, the 2016 SoCon Co-Player of the Year, tied for sixth in the Bryan Regional, four strokes back of individual winners Bronte Law of UCLA and Georgia's Bailey Tardy.

Chen leads the Paladins with a 73.0 stroke average over 27 rounds this season, the second-best season stroke-average in the history of the Paladin program. On Wednesday, Chen was named to the Women's Golf Coaches Association's (WGCA) Division I All-Region Team.

"Alice has been a clutch player all spring, so it was no surprise that she would lead our team at regionals," Hester said. "She was our top performer in five of our six tournaments this spring, and I look forward to seeing her, as well as the rest of our team, competing with the best players in the country this week at the NCAA Championship."

Junior Taylor Totland, who earned All-American honorable mention accolades in 2015, tied for 24th in the regional after scoring three birdies for a 75 in the final round. Haylee Harford, the 2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year, added birdies on No. 5 and No. 9 to tie for 27th.

Sophomore Jacqueline Bendrick shot a 74 with three birdies to tie for 32nd, and senior Valentina Romero tallied three birdies on the back nine to tie for 71st.

Sixth-ranked Georgia won the regional by six strokes over No. 11 Arizona. Third-ranked UCLA was third, and No. 43 Miami and No. 29 Texas also advanced to the NCAA Championship.

Furman secured the Southern Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by capturing its 15th SoCon Championship last month at Savannah Quarters Golf Club in Savannah, Ga.

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