Kristen Gillman helps lead Alabama to SEC Championship

Kristen Gillman helps lead Alabama to SEC Championship
Kent Gidley / UA Athletics

09-09-16 WGO Practice Action Kristen Gillman Photo by Kent Gidley

Alabama women’s golf head coach Mic Potter has touted freshman Kristen Gillman as one of the top recruits in the history of the program, so he knew it was only a matter of time before she would win her first college tournament.

Gillman posted a tournament record, 208 (71-71-66), to win the Bryan National Collegiate held March 31 to Apr. 2, in Browns Summit, N.C.

Gillman kept herself alive the first couple of rounds, but a career low 6-under par 66 on the final day boasted her to an 8-under par finish to the weekend for the victory.

“I was quite a bit behind and I knew Lauren [Stephenson] was playing well,” Gillman said. “I just went out there and tried to get as many birdies as I can. I didn’t think it was really that possible I could win, but I wanted to get as many birdies as I could for the team, but also for myself to see where that would lead me.”

Getting that first win was a major victory for Gillman, as she believes it will help her the rest of the season, including during the SEC tournament this weekend in Birmingham, Ala.

“I think getting your first college win is definitely nerve racking,” Gillman said. “I think getting that over with it allows me to play more relaxed at tournaments, knowing I already have a win. So, you don’t have to get as nervous when you’re on the top of the tour leaderboard from now on.”

Alabama, the No. 1 ranked women’s golf team in the nation, will enter the 2017 SEC Women's Golf Championship seeking to defend its conference championship from 2016.

Gillman was ranked as the fifth best women golfer in the nation by Golfweek rankings released April 18. Her teammate Cheyenne Knight was ranked third.

Despite strong performances in her last two tournaments, Gillman will not put too much pressure on herself for the SEC tournament.

“Whenever I go out to play, I don’t like to put expectations on things,” Gillman said. “I just try to go out there and have fun. I know whatever game I have, I’ll have. Hopefully it’s good enough to get us a team win. I just want to go out there and have fun though.”

Potter was not surprised by the performance Gillman posted in the Bryan National Collegiate because of her resume and success she had before coming to Alabama.

“I think it was great for her,” Potter said. “One of her goals was to win a college tournament in her first year and she accomplished that. But it’s not a big surprise to us. She won the junior PGA, by I think 16 shots, between her junior and senior years in high school. She’s a former US amateur champion. There is no bigger amateur tournament than that. She’s been there, she knows what it takes. It’s good to take that pressure off her shoulders. I just see her getting better and better.”

Potter believes the Crimson Tide is good enough to defend its SEC championship if it goes out and play their game and execute well.

“We’re ranked high, as we usually are,” Potter said. “We always have a competitive team, it’s just a matter of going there and understanding we need to play our best. Nothing is given. If we want a chance of winning, we need to be focused on every shot.”

Potter will also be watching the tournament to see what girls can improve on as they prepare for the NCAA’s Women’s Golf Regional Championships to be held May 8 to 10.

“Me and my assistant coaches observe everything we can,” Potter said. “Our job is to, when we finish this tournament, sit down with each girl and talk to them about what they need to do better. And then execute that plan.”

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