The University of Miami last won a national championship in women’s golf in 1984. This year’s team could change that.
The ‘Canes opened the season with a third place finish at the Cougar Classic, while junior Tina Miller won the event overall. This solid finish helped the Hurricanes debut at No. 7 on the Golfweek.com Women’s Team Rankings. The squad currently sits at No. 19 in the rankings after another tournament was added that they did not participate in.
“We are off to a great start this season,” Head Coach Lela Cannon said. “I am really pleased with how this team is playing.”
The team will look to defending Big East Champion Miller to lead the way. Miller debuted on the Golfweek.com Player Rankings as the No. 4 player in the nation, and currently sits at No. 14. She won her only event this season, the Cougar Classic, finishing at two under par for the tournament.
“I told everyone at the beginning of the semester that in order for the whole team to do good, you have to try to win individually,” Miller said. “If everyone wants to win individually, and we all shoot the scores to win individually, then we should win the tournament as a team.”
This year, the team seems to know that they have a chance to compete with anyone. They’ve refocused and practiced hard, trying to get ready for the moments they hope are on the way.
“This year we are really close as a team,” Miller said. “We know what we have to do, and we are practicing really hard and implementing different things so that we can feel pressure type situations at practice, so that when we get out there, we will be ready.”
The success of the team will start with Miller, who, as the captain, will be looked to for leadership. Miller’s victory at the Cougar Classic marked her third collegiate victory, and gives the ‘Canes reason to believe that they have one of the nation’s best players.
“Tina is devoted, dedicated, and motivated,” Cannon said. “She’s a great leader, the captain of the team, and the players all have a great deal of respect for her.”
Along with Miller, Camilla Hilland returns for her senior season. As a sophomore, Hilland became the first player since Tracy Kerdyk in 1988 to win the Ryder/Florida Women’s Collegiate Golf Championship. Last season, Hilland had five top ten finishes, including a victory at the John Kirk/Lady Panther Intercollegiate.
If Hilland can get back to her sophomore form, the ‘Canes will have a very powerful combination to lead this team.
“The team is much improved. My freshman year, Camilla did really well,” Miller said. “Last year, her and I did well, and now we have five players all out there playing well, which is great.”
Freshman Tiffany Prats impressed Coach Cannon with a strong showing in her first collegiate tournament, tying for 21st in the Cougar Classic with three consecutive rounds of 76. Prats earned a Florida All-State first team selection at Williston High School last year and was the All-Area Player of the Year. She tied for fourth at the high school state championships last season.
“Tiffany can use Tina as a role model,” Cannon said. “She can look at her work ethic and patience, and see that if she can do that, good things will come.”
With Miller, Hilland, and Prats, this team has plenty of depth. If this team can play up to its potential, it could be competing for the NCAA Championship later this year.
“This team definitely has a chance to make a huge impact this year,” Miller said.