Kevin McPherson stood on the practice range Monday afternoon as Christine Duschek-Hansen hit balls toward him.
The Augusta State women's golf coach measured her distances and later gave her the results. Distance control is the name of the game, and McPherson is hopeful his players can use this data to make up one shot a round.
"Stats don't lie," the third-year Lady Jaguars coach said. "We're only 3 1/2 shots higher than being one of the elite teams in the country."
Augusta State will try to prove itself as one of the nation's better teams when it opens play today in the NCAA East Regional at the LPGA International Legends Course in Daytona Beach, Fla. The 54-hole event runs through Saturday.
The top eight of 24 teams in the field advance to the NCAA Championships in two weeks. The Lady Jaguars are seeded 18th in the regional, but McPherson firmly believes his players have a chance to make history and become the first Augusta State women's squad to advance to the finals.
"If we play well, we won't just be in the top eight, we'll be in contention," said McPherson, whose sister, LPGA player Kristy McPherson, will serve as volunteer assistant this week.
Augusta State is returning to postseason play for the first time since 2006, when Trelle McCombs led the Lady Jaguars to their first-ever regional. That year, the team missed the NCAA Championships by four shots.
Now, the team is brimming with optimism.
"Our ultimate goal at the beginning of the year was to make postseason play," McPherson said. "Now that we're in, we're probably one of those teams that's a little dangerous."
"I'm kind of nervous," sophomore Marit Bjerke said. "I feel like we have a good team and can do well."
This season, Augusta State recorded five top-five finishes in 10 events, including two runner-up showings. Casey Kennedy leads the team with a 74.6 stroke average and five top-20 finishes. She won the Kinderlou Forest Challenge and the Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate this spring.
Natalie Wille, who's second with a 75.33 average, posted all three of her top-three finishes in the fall. Wille struggled in the spring, but in the past month she's worked on simplifying her swing.
"Natalie's stepped up her game," McPherson said. "I think she's back."
Bjerke (76.22) has had a strong spring, with three top-20 finishes. Kirsty Rands (77.20) also owns three top-20 finishes, while Duschek-Hansen (77.83) has one