NCAA golf notebook: UGA’s Burger wraps up career among program’s elite

Emilie Burger’s Georgia career came to an end about a chip shot away from her home locker room for the last four years.

NCAA golf notebook: UGA's Burger wraps up career among program's elite
Roger Clarkson

The senior from Hoschton finished the final round of the NCAA Women’s Golf National Championships on Friday at the UGA Golf Course, signing off with a disappointing week but as one of the top performers in Bulldogs’ history.

Burger shot a 3-over 75 in Friday’s final round which gave her a four-round total of 14-over 302 in her final week as a competitor for Georgia. Burger moved up from 72nd to a tie for 58th on the final day.

“I was a little nervous on the first tee,” Burger said. “Well, maybe it was nerves. I’m not really sure. But I was just happy to be out here. I finally got settled into my round. I didn’t really think about it until we were sitting on the last hole and I kind of looked over at [Georgia coach Josh Brewer] and said, ‘Man, I wish I had three more years with you.’ That’s when I kind of lost it on the green. It’s been fun. It wasn’t one of my best weeks, but that’s how it goes. But I’m just happy to be here and happy to be part of Georgia.”

“It’s sad that we were only together one year,” first-year Georgia coach Brewer said. “But we were kidding that we might be better friends for a long time just because we had one year together. I’m going to go caddie for her and root like heck for her. Now hopefully I can find some more Emilie Burgers in the state of Georgia.”

Putting problems plagued Burger the entire tournament and that continued on Friday. She shot birdie on two holes, bogey on three more and double bogey on No. 1.

“It’s been awesome to be able to end my career here at this course,” Burger said. “I’ve been around a great group of people and had a huge crowd to follow me. I’m blessed to have so much support not only from the university but from my friends and family. It’s awesome, it’s a dream come true.”

Burger made All-SEC and All-American all four years at Georgia. She won three tournaments, finished in the top 10 at tournaments 14 times and had 28 top-20 finishes. She plans to turn pro and go to a U.S. Open qualifier in two weeks. She will attend LPGA qualifying school in the fall.

“It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed every minute and I wouldn’t change anything,” Burger said. “This is such a thrill to be able to end my career on my home course. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Tigers make biggest move

Auburn finished the first round in last place. On Friday not only did the Tigers jump all the way to sixth, but they also finished one spot ahead of their biggest rival, Alabama.

“That does feel pretty good because they’re obviously our biggest rival,” Auburn sophomore Victoria Trapani said. “SEC, outside of SEC, the world, whatever it is we have to beat Alabama. That wasn’t our goal this week but it kind of turned into one. It’s kind of hard because we’re also really good friends with their team. But at the end of the day we really want to be the top dogs and not them.”

Auburn rebounded from a 17-over first round that landed them in last place to finish in sixth place at 13 over. Alabama dropped from second place on Wednesday to seventh place on Friday at 37 over.

“This just feels like night and day,” Trapani said. “The feelings that we’re going to feel once we finish is going to be something to remember after the semester we’ve had.”

Longtime Auburn coach Kim Evans found out she had advanced ovarian cancer just after the Southeastern Conference tournament in April. Earlier in the spring Trapani found out her mother had stage four breast cancer that has spread to her lungs. Auburn also lost assistant coach Margaret Shirley, who had to resign after suffering seizures.

“Where we finished, it’s unbelievable,” Auburn junior Marta Sanz said. “It’s unbelievable for the season and everything that has happened to us. This is just unbelievable.”

Trojans want ring for Brewer

Brewer left an assistant’s job after four years at Southern Cal in 2012 for the head coaching job at Georgia. The Trojans would like to give him one of their championship rings even though he didn’t wear the same colors this year.

“Josh even told us that this course suited our players,” Southern Cal coach Andrea Gaston said. “We’re so proud of him, coming here to be a head coach. Hopefully our senior athletic administrator can get him a ring, if it’s allowed. He deserves it just as much because he played a big part of this.”

Brewer recruited and coached the Trojans’ veterans and was with the team when it saw the big lead slip away in 2012.

“He shot us a text this morning,” Southern Cal junior Sophia Popov said. “It was from him and his wife and he wished us all good luck and I thought that was just great. It was amazing. They didn’t make it to nationals as a team on your own course. So I think we were kind of a second team for him.”

Brewer hopes to use his experience at Southern Cal as a model for building the program at Georgia.

“I’m excited for them,” Brewer said. “I’ve been saying all week that I thought they were the best team. Coach [Andrea] Gaston is a wonderful person. What she’s done at Southern Cal, I’m just trying to copy the blueprint so we can have something like that at Athens one day.”

SEC has big presence

The Southeastern Conference sent fully half of its membership to the NCAA nationals with seven teams representing the conference which took place at an SEC school’s facility.

Auburn had the highest finish for the SEC at No. 6. Alabama was seventh, Arkansas tied for 13th, Florida was 17th, Vanderbilt was 18th, South Carolina was 20th and Mississippi State was 24th.

Although Georgia did not have a team in the field, Burger competed as an individual. Mississippi State made some school history just by being there because this is the first season it has ever qualified for women’s golf nationals as a team.

“In my opinion, the SEC is the best conference in golf,” Mississippi State sophomore Ally McDonald said. “To be one of those seven teams and to represent the SEC is amazing. I’m disappointed in how I played. But one round out of the whole year, I can’t let that dictate next year and everything after that. Days like this happen.”

McDonald was one of three SEC players to finish in the top 10 individuals. Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow finished tied for sixth at 1 over for the tournament. McDonald and Auburn’s Marta Sanz were tied for 10th.

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