Clemson heads into the 2023 spring schedule with the goal of making an NCAA Regional for the seventh straight year the tournament has been held and the NCAA National Tournament for the second time in school history. Kelley Hester’s team had a solid fall with a 43-25 record against the field in five fall events and a #35 national ranking, according to Golfstat.
The Tigers finished a strong second place to 2021 NCAA champion Mississippi at the Cougar Classic to start the season thanks to a 12-under-par score of 840. The team ended the fall strong with consecutive under-par rounds at the Battle at the Beach in Mexico to finish fifth out of 17 teams in the strong field.
Overall, Clemson faced 12 different top-25 teams and defeated six of them, including ninth-ranked Florida State and 11th-ranked Baylor, at least once.
“We had some outstanding team rounds in the fall, we just need to be more consistent,” said Hester, who is in her seventh season leading the program. “We were a team that made a lot of birdies in the fall, and we are capable of going low.” Clemson scored under par as a team in six of the 15 fall rounds.
“We showed what we were capable of in the first tournament when we finished second at the Cougar Classic and lost by just one shot to Mississippi. We beat them each of the last two rounds with team scores in the 270s.”
Hester feels her team is perhaps the deepest squad she has had at Clemson. “I really feel we have seven young ladies capable of winning a golf tournament. Five of the seven shot in the 60s this fall, and we had three record a top-10 finish.
“We have a strong team with women who can drive the ball a long way, which means they are capable of making a lot of birdies.” The seven golfers who competed in the fall combined to make 211 birdies in 76 individual rounds, an average of 2.78 birdies per round and up from 2.38 a year ago. They combined for 15 rounds in the 60s, 20 under-par rounds and 28 at par or better.
Hester also is encouraged by the depth of the team this past fall when three different women led the team in tournaments. “We had three different players record a top 10, and four recorded a top 13. Three different women had four rounds in the 60s, so it is good to see we aren’t depending on one player. I would just like to see more of them play consistently over the 54 holes of the tournament.”
Savannah Grewal led the team in stroke average in the fall with a 72.29 figure, as she had a team-best seven under-par rounds. The senior from Canada finished a team best fourth place at the Ivy Intercollegiate in October with an even-par score, and she finished in the top 25 in three other events.
Grewal is a two-time WGCA Academic Scholar and earned Academic All-ACC honors last year. She has finished second on the team in stroke average each of the last two seasons. This past summer, she reached the final 32 of the United States Amateur and finished second at the Sprint International while playing for the Canadian team.
Melana Barrientos is the top returning player from last year, based on stroke average (73.70). She finished in the top 10 in each of her first two tournaments as a freshman, just the fourth player in Clemson history to do it. She became the first Clemson women’s golfer to shoot under par in each of her first five rounds. She had a top 10 at the ACC Tournament as well and was Clemson’s best player in 13 rounds. Ranked #106 in the nation in the final Gulfweed rankings, Barrientos led the team in birdies with 76.
This past fall, the native of Plano, Texas, had a 72.64 stroke average with four rounds in the 60s and six rounds at par or better. She was Clemson’s best golfer in the season opener at the Cougar Classic, where she finished fourth with a seven-under-par score of 206. She shot in the 60s in all three rounds.
Chloe Holder is a transfer from Augusta University in her second year of Division I college golf. The native of nearby Anderson, S.C., was second on the Clemson team in stroke average this past fall with a 72.50 average. Holder was Clemson’s top performer in three tournaments in the fall, including a fifth-place finish at The Blessings in Arkansas.
Holder had three top-five finishes as a freshman at Augusta, including medalist honors at the Mercedes Benz Invitational in Knoxville, Tenn., at her first college event. She also finished third at the Southland Conference Tournament. Her career low in high school was a 61
Annabelle Pancake is another veteran on the Clemson team who is coming off a great summer. She reached the final 16 of the US Amateur, the furthest a Clemson golfer has advanced in that famed national event.
The native of Indiana is in her third year in the Clemson lineup and is a veteran of 20 tournaments entering the spring semester of 2023. She had four rounds in the 60s this past fall on the way to a 73.64 stroke average for 15 rounds. She was a big contributor to Clemson’s second-place finish in the season opener at the Cougar Classic, where she finished 13th thanks to a 210 total.
Pancake entered the year eighth in Clemson history in career stroke average and fifth in percentage of counting scores (37 of 42), .881. She has 160 career birdies entering this spring, ninth in Clemson history.
Katherine Schuster is a third sophomore who should contribute to the Clemson lineup this year. The native of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., started six of nine tournaments as a freshman. She was a major reason Clemson won the Clover Cup in Arizona, as she finished sixth individually with a 211 score, the best among Clemson golfers. Her 16 birdies were the most by a Clemson golfer at a 54-hole event in three years.
Two freshmen from the state of South Carolina look to make big contributions this year. Isabella Rawl is a freshman from Lexington who won the state 5A Championship in 2018 and 2021. She also won the Beth Daniels Invitational in 2020 and finished in the top five in 2021. As a senior in high school, she had a 70.8 stroke average and won 11 tournaments in her high school career.
Sydney Roberts comes to Clemson from Chesnee High School, where she was the 2A Player of the Year. She helped her team to the state title as a senior by winning seven medalist honors, seven of the 17 she won in her four-year career as an all-state player.