Lady'Back Linksters travel to the Mercedes-Benz

FAYETTEVILLE — The 24th-ranked University of Arkansas women’s golf team returns to action this week at the Mercedes-Benz Women’s Collegiate Championship hosted by Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., Friday-Sunday. Arkansas has a pair of fall events in the books with fifth-placing finishes at both. Redshirt freshman Stacy Lewis has been the early season leader finishing fourth at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational to open the season. She posted a third-place finish at the Jeannine McHaney Invitational in the team’s last outing. "This field is traditionally strong," said head coach Kelley Hester. "Seven of the teams we face this weekend are in our region and there are several SEC teams as well. We’re excited to go back to this event. Courtney (Mahon) lost in a playoff here last year and even though we are playing at a different golf course we have good feelings about playing in Knoxville." The 17-team field tees it up at the Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville. The par-71 course plays 5,932 yards this weekend. Some of the top teams in the field include No. 8 Ohio State, No. 11 Purdue, No. 15 Tulane, No. 18 Michigan State, No. 20 Louisiana State and No. 21 Tennessee. Arkansas is next in the Golfweek rankings at 24th, followed by No. 25 Tulsa, No. 29 Northwestern, No. 32 Virginia, No. 35 Kent State, No. 52 Alabama, No. 55 UNC-Wilmington, No. 56 James Madison, No. 83 Penn State and No. 98 Kentucky. The Swedish Junior National Team rounds out the list of competitors. Lewis finds herself ranked fourth in the Southeastern Conference with a 72.0 stroke average after the first two events. Although she appears to have come out of nowhere this year, her solid play has not been a surprise to Hester. "She’s much stronger this year then before her surgery," said Hester. "She really allowed her time away from golf to benefit her. She was only able to chip and putt for six months and her short game is very strong. She really could have let the time off get her down but she worked very hard and that’s paying off for her right now." Lewis is a bit more surprised then Hester about her play. "If you would have told me last year that I would have two top five finishes at this point, I wouldn’t have believed you," Lewis said. "I’ve lost a little flexibility and, initially, it was really hard to just let it (my swing) go. But I feel much more confident and comfortable with my swing now." A senior and three juniors round out the traveling team. Senior Gena Johnson of Hot Springs, Ark., qualified for her first action of the fall. She is joined by juniors Courtney Mahon, Sarah Trew and El Dorado, Ark., native Amanda McCurdy. Freshman Ashley Medders is also making the trip to compete as an individual. Arkansas returns home for a short turn around before they host the lone home event of the year. The Lady Razorback Invitational is set for Sunday-Tuesday, Oct. 17-19, at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark. Admission is free. For more information about Arkansas golf log on to