The Clemson women’s golf team made its fourth NCAA appearance last year as they earned the No. 8 seed in the Tallahassee Regional and narrowly missing the NCAA Finals in a one-hole shot playoff against Wake Forest. The Tigers had a program high, third-place finish at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. Head coach Kelley Hester has three players who saw action in the 2017-18 season returning.
“I’m excited by the experience of our returnees as well as the impressive resumes of our newcomers,” said Hester. “As our only senior and top returner, we will look to Alice Hewson as a leader.”
Hewson finished with a 72.10 stroke average last year, setting an all-time Clemson record for a season. The United Kingdom native also led the squad in rounds in the 60s with seven, under-par rounds with 15, and in birdies with 102, giving her a career total of 301, a Clemson record, as she enters her senior season.
Hewson had five top 10 finishes, including winning the Clemson Invitational with a 206 score, 10-under-par. Hewson made birdie on each of her last two holes to win by a shot, giving her a total of 14 birdies for the tournament. The three-time first-team All-ACC honoree finished the 2017-18 season with a No. 41 national ranking by Golfstat and No. 45 by Golfweek.
“Alice has continued to prove herself as a world class player. She is coming off a semi-busy summer, where she represented England in the Curtis Cup and The European Team Championship, but also recuperated after a procedure on her Achilles in June.”
Clemson has two more returning starters in Ana Paula Valdes and Kennedy Swann.
“Kennedy is coming off a big win at the 103rd edition of Colorado Match Play Championship, winning the 36-hole championship match 5 and 3.”
Swann finished fourth on the team with a 74.42 stroke average in 2017-18. The Austin, Tex. native finished just behind Hewson in rounds in the 60s with five. She had her best performance at the Houston-Dickson where she finished a career best second place, helping Clemson to the team championship. Swann also finished in the top 10 at the ACC Tournament with a 218 after rounds of 72-71-75.
Valdes is a junior who has played in 23 tournaments in her first two seasons. Last season, she finished with a 73.63 stroke average, third on the team, and had six top 25 finishes. She shot a career low round 67 in the third round of the Schooner Classic, allowing her to finish with a career best 54 hole score of 207, leading to a fourth place finish. The Mexico native was named an All-American Scholar and to All-ACC Academic team for her second consecutive year.
Kennedy’s team does have three returning starters with at least two years of experience, but they will be supported by two other returning lettermen and four outstanding freshmen. “We have the most depth we have seen in the five years of this program,” said Hester.
Ashley Czarnecki saw a good bit of action last fall, starting the first four tournaments of the season as Sydney Legacy was recovering from a shoulder surgery. Callista Rice contributed some in the spring, making her debut at the Reynolds Plantation Individual Tournament and finished 49th.
“The void left by seniors Sydney Legacy and Marisa Messana will make space for the 4 freshmen as well as returners Callista and Ashley.”
Legacy had an outstanding senior year in the No. 2 slot for the 24th ranked Tigers. She earned All-ACC and All-Region according to the Golf Coaches Association, finishing the season with a 72.67 stroke average, third best in program history. Legacy finished 16th or better in each of her last six events, the only Tiger to accomplish that. Messana was the first four-year starter in Clemson women’s golf history, finishing her senior season with a 76.93 stroke average. She was also the most decorated student-athletes from an academic standpoint in Clemson history.
“I look for more competition within the squad and it should be more challenging to get in the lineup than in years past. Callista and Ashley will both look to earn a spot in the top five, but will need to compete with our four incoming freshmen to do so.”
This is the first full recruiting class that has committed to Hester and assistant coach Heather Bowie Young since taking over the program three years ago, and it is one of the most talented.
Gracyn Burgess is ranked as the No. 1 golfer in the state of South Carolina according to the South Carolina Junior Golf Association. She was also named the SCJGA Player of the Year and the CGA Player of the Year.
Lindsay May is the first women in the state of New York to win three straight state championships. Ivy Shepherd is the No. 1 player in the state of Georgia according to Junior Golf Scoreboard, and is ranked seventh for the class of 2018. Alexandra Swayne is the top player in Ohio by National Junior Scoreboard.
“Our incoming freshman class have very impressive resumes,” said Hester. “Ivy Shepherd and Lindsay May have both had impressive summers qualifying for the US Girls Junior as well as the US Amateur. Alexandra Swayne and Gracyn Burgess were both busy as well posting top finishes in multiple junior and amateur golf events as they transition into college.”