Women's Golf
    No. 3 USC Opens Season At Cougar Classic
    Junior Sophia Popov
    Junior Sophia Popov

    The USC women's golf team, ranked No. 3 in preseason polls and whose active streak of seven consecutive NCAA top 5 finishes leads the country, begins the 2012-2013 season at the College of Charleston "Cougar Classic" at the Yeamans Hall Club in Charleston, S.C., Sunday through Tuesday (Sept. 9-11).

    In addition to host Charleston and USC, the 24-team tournament includes defending NCAA champion Alabama, Auburn, Charleston Southern, Duke, Florida, Furman, Georgia, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Mississippi, North Carolina, N.C. State, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCF, UNCG, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wisconsin. Almost half the field (11 teams) finished in the top 19 at last year's NCAA Championships.

    Action begins at 7:50 a.m. ET on Sunday and Monday and at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Results will be available at Golfstat.com.

    The Trojans, winners of the 2003 and 2008 NCAA titles, finished second by one stroke to the Crimson Tide last season, the second time in three seasons the Trojans finished second by a lone shot. USC not only has seven straight top 5 NCAA finishes, but has eight in the past 10 years.

    USC won two tournaments last season, claiming the Battle at Rancho Bernardo and the 2012 NCAA Central Regional. The latter title was Troy's NCAA-best eighth regional crown. Troy also had four second-place finishes, including at the NCAA and Pac-12 Championships.

    The Trojans, under 17th-year NGCA Hall of Fame coach Andrea Gaston, are led by junior Sophia Popov and sophomore Doris Chen. Popov was a 2011 All-American first teamer and earned All-American honorable mention honors in 2012. Chen was an All-American first teamer in 2012. Each won conference titles as freshmen, Popov in 2011, Chen in 2012. Popov was named to Golf World's 2012 "Top 10" Female Players to Watch list while Chen was on its "Top 50" list.

     

     

    Also back is junior Rachel Morris, a 2011 NCAA All-Region performer who had a pair of top 20 finishes as a 2012 sophomore.

    Joining the squad are highly rated freshmen Kyung Kim of Chandler, Ariz., and Kim Santiago from Lynwood, Wash. Kim is a four-time Rolex Junior All-American, twice as a first teamer, and the 2010 Arizona High School Player of the Year. She was also on Golf World's 2012 "Top 50" Female Players to Watch list. Santiago is a two-time AJGA Scholastic All-American.