Auburn golf wins 2011 SEC Championship

The No. 20/18 Auburn women's golf team carded a 3-over-par 291 in the final round of the Southeastern Conference Championship, holding off a final-round run from defending champion Alabama to come away with the title. The Tigers finished the tournament with an even-par 864, coming in 11 strokes ahead of the second-place Crimson Tide.

Auburn senior Cydney Clanton was the top Tiger at the tournament, finishing in third place in the 60-player. Clanton carded a final-round 1-over 73 to finish with a 2-under-par 214.Tennessee's Erica Popson won medalist honors with a 6-under 210. Georgia's Marta Silva Zamora carded the low final round, posting a 6-under 67 to finish the tournament in second with a 5-under 211.

Conducted by the SEC and Auburn University, the SEC Championship was a 54-hole stroke play tournament played at the Auburn University Club. The tournament featured eight teams ranked in the top 25 in the nation. The par-72 course played at 6,364 yards for the tournament

For Auburn, the SEC team title is its eighth overall, the seventh for head coach Kim Evans and the team's second in the last three years. The Tigers are now tied with Georgia with eight SEC titles, trailing only Florida with 11. The trio of teams have combined to win 27 of the 31 SEC women's golf championships.

"I think this team wanted it so bad, and all year I've been working together to piece some great tournaments," said Evans. "Individually, they kept on achieving, but as a team they hadn't been. They decided that they were going to put their head in it, mainly their heart, and pulled it off."

Of Auburn's eight SEC titles, this is the first one won at home. The Tigers are the second team in a row to win the SEC title on their home course after Alabama accomplished the feat last season. Prior to Alabama, it had been 18 years since LSU won at home in 1992.

"We host every 12 years, and we got one at home," said Evans. "These kids had a goal from day one - to take this tournament, and they did. I am very impressed with how they did it."

Auburn started the day with a nine-stroke lead over Alabama, but saw the lead slide to as few as four strokes midway through the round. The Tigers bounced back to play the back nine at 4-under-par, extending the lead to 11.

"I am very proud of the girls," said Clanton, Auburn's lone senior in the lineup. "We had a meeting before the tournament and told each other that we were going to stay positive and that we needed to hold each other accountable. We stayed positive all week, we didn't get ahead of ourselves, and we just played golf."

All five Tigers finished in the top 20 of the tournament field with four in the top 15. Clanton led the way in third place, followed by junior Haley Wilson in 11th. Sisters Patricia and Marta Sanz tied for 14th while Carlie Yadloczky finished in a tie for 19th.

Marta Sanz had Auburn's low individual round, carding a 1-under 71. The highlight of her round came on No. 15 as she carded an eagle to put her under par for the first time. After making the turn at 2-over, she posted a pair of birdies and an eagle, along with a bogey on No. 18. Her 71 gave her a tournament-total 6-over 222.

Wilson, a native of nearby Ft. Mitchell, Ala., came in at even-par 72, finishing in 11th place with a 4-over 220. Wilson came into No. 18 at 1-over for the day, but chipped in from the bunker on the right side of the green to get to even-par.

"I couldn't actually see it, but I hit it and it felt pretty good," said Wilson. "I was just trying to give myself a chance to make a par. The crowd reaction gave it away, because I still couldn't see it at that point. I was trying to jump to see it, but I never saw it go in."

Clanton, making her final SEC Championship appearance, notched her third top-10 finish in the tournament by taking third. She finished in a tie for seventh as a junior and a tie for fourth as a sophomore.

After carding three bogeys in her first five holes, Clanton rebounded to shoot 2-under the rest of the round, finishing up with a 1-over 73. Her tournament-total 2-under 214 ranks as the fifth-lowest total for a Tiger in SEC Championship history.

Junior Patricia Sanz carded a 3-over 75 in the final round, finishing in a tie with her younger sister, Marta, at 6-over 222 for the tournament. Yadloczky rounded out the Auburn lineup, carding a final-round 81 to finish the tournament in a tie for 19th with a 9-over 225.

Individually, it was Popson, Zamora and Clanton taking the top three spots. Alabama's Stephanie Meadow and Arkansas' Emily Tubert finished in a tie for fourth with 1-under 215s. Alabama teammates Hannah Collier and Brooke Pancake tied for sixth with 1-over 217s.

Vanderbilt's Anna Leigh Keith took eighth with a 2-over 218 while LSU's Austin Ernst and South Carolina's Suzie Lee rounded out the top 10 in a tie for ninth with 3-over 219s.

In the team race, Alabama followed Auburn with an 11-over 875. LSU placed third with a 23-over 887, followed by Arkansas (892) and South Carolina (893). The Gamecocks had the low final round, coming in with a 1-under-par 287. Tennessee rounded out the top half of the conference in sixth with a 31-over 895.

Vanderbilt ranked seventh with a 33-over 897, finishing just ahead of Georgia with a 35-over 899. Florida placed ninth with a 907, followed by Kentucky (927), Ole Miss (931) and Mississippi State (955).

With the completion of the SEC Championship, Auburn will wait for its selection announcement to the NCAA Regional Championship. Regional s will be held May 5-7 at Daytona Beach, Fla. (LPGA International), Notre Dame, Ind. (Warren Golf Club) and Auburn, Wash. (Washington National Golf Course).