RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. - With only 12 days left before the start of 2016-17 Great American Conference women's golf season, the GAC's head coaches overwhelmingly tabbed Arkansas Tech, the two-time GAC champion, as the preseason favorite, the league announced on Thursday.
The Golden Suns received the first-place vote from each of the conference's remaining seven head coaches. They won the GAC Championship by 11 shots and earned their fourth-straight bid to the NCAA Regionals. At the Regionals, they tied for third while Caroline Fredensborg advanced to the NCAA National Championships as an individual.
Fredensborg, along with the rest of the lineup Arkansas Tech used at the GAC Championships and the NCAA Regionals, returns for 2016-17. Anna Frandsen became the second player in GAC history to earn the Freshman of the Year and the Player of the Year awards; Pia Nunbhakdi won the medalist honors at the GAC Championships; Avery Struck garnered Second-Team All-GAC honors and Jessica Sachs closed out her season by taking sixth at the GAC Championships and 16th at the NCAA Regionals.
Henderson State edged out Southwestern Oklahoma State for second place in the poll. The Reddies finished as the runner up at the GAC Championships and qualified for the NCAA Regionals for the fourth-straight year - where they finished in seventh. Head coach Forrest Schultz returns four of his five golfers that participated at the NCAA Regionals. Luisa Gartmann earned a spot on the All-GAC First Team as a freshman after she carded four top-10 finishes. Sarah Wright landed on the Second Team and Hanna Brauburger earned a spot on the Honorable Mention list.
The Lady Bulldogs, like Arkansas Tech and Henderson State return the bulk of their starting lineup from last season - a season that resulted in a fourth-straight appearance at the NCAA Regionals. As a freshman, Elin Wahlin received a spot on the All-GAC First Team by unanimous consent and took second at the GAC Championships. Gloria Choi, a fellow freshman last year, also landed on the All-GAC First Team. SWOSU also features Emily Folsom, an All-GAC Second Team pick, and Chloe Thackeray an Honorable Mention All-GAC selection.
Southern Nazarene grabbed the fourth position, just ahead of Southern Arkansas and Arkansas-Monticello. The Crimson Storm must replace Marion Broedys, a Second-Team All-GAC performer, following her graduation. The Muleriders and Blossoms both return individuals that made history as their respective programs by becoming the first golfers to advance to an NCAA Regional. At SAU, Helle Leed finished 30th at the Regionals, the best showing amongst the individual qualifiers. UAM joined Florida Southern and Metro State as the only programs in the country to send a pair of golfers to regional competition as Frida Rydberg took 44th and Lauren Johnson placed 56th
Harding placed seventh while Northwestern Oklahoma State finished in eighth. The GAC coaches did not include Oklahoma Baptist in the preseason poll as the Bison complete their transition from the NAIA to the NCAA.
Six schools open its fall campaigns at the Central Region Fall Preview, set to begin on Tuesday, September 6. Arkansas Tech, UAM, Harding, Henderson State, Southern Nazarene and SWOSU will tee it up at Prairie Highlands Golf Club in Olathe, Kansas. SAU, Oklahoma Baptist and Northwestern Oklahoma State begin fall play the following week. Hot Springs Country Club again serves as the GAC Championship venue, with the 2017 Championships set for April 23-25.