Making history: all-freshman women's golf team opens NCAA play today

Tigers seeded fifth in NCAA West Regional at Cle Elum, Washington

Women's Golf - Jessica Hoang

Photo by Mark Crammer

Women's Golf - Jessica Hoang

When J.T. Horton began putting together the pieces for Clemson's first women's golf team, he was looking for young women driven by a pioneering spirit and willing to share in a vision.

"To get the players we wanted to represent Clemson and make us a national championship caliber team, I had a sell a vision and a passion," Horton explained earlier this season. "That was sort of what I was able to do as a coach. I shared the vision of what I expected and the type of players I needed to be here.

"The thing I told these players is that they can come here and set records and let somebody else chase you, or you can go somewhere else and chase somebody else's records. At the end of the day, if you want to help set the bar for this program for years and years to come, you'll have that opportunity - every standard and every record."

All-in-all, it's been an extraordinarily successful first-run for the Clemson women's golf team.

In their first season, they've contended, and won, cracked the top 10, and have established themselves, from the get-go, as one of the nation's premier teams.

At this point, however, the plot thickens.

The 12th-ranked Tigers go into their Thursday morning tee-off time in the NCAA West Regional in bounce-back mode after a disappointing ninth-place finish in their inaugural ACC tournament.

The ACC is one of the nation's premier women's golf conferences; nevertheless, the Tigers figure they're considerable better than the ninth-best team in a power league.

They'll get a chance to show it beginning Thursday, when they open play against a field that includes defending national champion Southern Cal.

The Tigers will tee off at 8:36 local time - 11:36 a.m. Eastern time - matched with host school Washington and ACC rival Wake Forest.

Sloan Shanahan, who hit the first shot in Clemson history back in September, will have the honor of hitting the first NCAA Tournament shot in the program's history.

Clemson's tee times will continue through 12:20 p.m.

The tournament's subplot includes the final collegiate competition for freshman sensation Ashlan Ramsey, who - as the world's top-ranked amateur - will turn pro after representing the Tigers in Curtis Cup competition in June.

Horton will build his second Clemson team around a core of sophomores, including All-ACC performer Sloan Shanahan, McKensie Talbert, Lauren Salazar, Jessica Huong, and Taylor Ramsey - Ashlan's older sister. Joining the crew will be signees Riley Lovorn of Anderson, S.C. and Marisa Messana of Plantation, Fla.

But first, this year's Tigers have new ground yet to break when they compete, beginning this morning, at Tumble Creek at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, Wash., gunning for a top-eight finish that would earn them a spot in the NCAA National Championships May 20-23 at Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.

Live results will be available daily at

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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