Lady'Back Linksters return to the course in Florida this week
FAYETTEVILLE — The 22nd-ranked University of Arkansas women’s golf team returns to the links after the winter break taking part in the Central District Invitational Monday and Tuesday. The 15 team field plays the par 72, 6,099-yard River Wilderness course in Parrish, Fla., in this annual event hosted by Michigan State as a kind of "frost buster" for cold weather teams. "It’s a good thing we’re going to Florida," joked head coach Kelley Hester. "This is the toughest winter in my five years at Arkansas. We just have not had much of a break to be able to get out on the course but that’s kind of what this event is about. None of the teams have been outside much at this point." Host Michigan State is the highest ranked team checking in at No. 19 for this competition. In addition to No. 22 Arkansas, the field includes No. 24 Ohio State, No. 26 Texas A&M, No. 27 LSU, No. 28 Northwestern, No. 35 Southern Methodist, No. 38 Texas Christian, No. 39 Nebraska, No. 41 Michigan, No. 48 Baylor, No. 51 Missouri, No. 70 Notre Dame, No. 90 Tulsa and No. 107 Texas. The Lady’Backs send a talented but young lineup to Florida for the first of two consecutive trips to the Sunshine State. Headlining the lineup for the Lady’Backs is junior Stacy Lewis, the top-ranked amateur in the country. "Stacy certainly had a good fall," said Hester. "She’s coming off an injury but should be able to play well and I’m sure she’ll just get better as the season goes on." Lewis suffered three broken fingers on her left hand over the holiday break. In addition to Lewis, the Lady’Backs travel sophomore Lucy Nunn, junior Ashley Medders, and freshmen Alex Schulte and Tanica van As. Oddly enough, it’s Hester, the head coach, who will not make the trip as she and husband, Trey, are expecting their first child in mid-March. Assistant coach Shauna Estes will make the trip and lead the team in competition for much of the spring. "We’ve prepared as best we can here at home and once the team gets to the course, there really isn’t much we can do for them," said Hester. "Shauna has coached the team before and I’m confident she’ll do a good job." The Central District Invitational is the first of six regular season events for the Lady’Backs leading up to the SEC Championship. The Lady’Backs return to Florida March 5-6, for the UCF Invitational followed by trips to Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma before the SEC Championship in West Point, Miss. For more information about Arkansas golf, please log on to LADYBACKS.COM.