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Gotcher set to make debut at U.S. Open Thursday

SLOW AND STEADY RECOVERY PROCESS FUELS COMEBACK

June 18, 2014 · @MTAthletics

Unexpected.

That would be an appropriate word to describe Middle Tennessee's Samantha Gotcher's journey to the 2014 U.S. Women's Golf Championships set to tee off this Thursday at the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in the Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Gotcher, who just completed her freshman season with the Blue Raiders, will represent MT after qualifying for her first-ever major golf tournament with an outstanding outing at the Lake Forest Golf and Country Club in St. Louis last month.

The Clarksville native's performance in St. Louis came fresh off of recovering from a back injury that slowed her for much of her rookie campaign.

"It was so unexpected because I missed all of the spring season so I was just trying to get back out there and get some tournament play under my belt in order to get ready for the upcoming summer season," said Gotcher. "But when I checked the leader board and it said I was going to Pinehurst I instantly started crying. I'm extremely happy and thankful for this opportunity."

It was a long road back for Gotcher, who credits patience as the key to a successful recovery.

"I had to gage myself every single day during the recovery process," Gotcher said. "Being patient with the process was important in order to make sure I was adequately pushing myself but as the same time making sure I wasn't doing too much and causing further damage to my back."

MT head coach Chris Adams reiterates Gotcher's strong display of patience as being important in her recovery efforts.

"Her therapist was telling her to be patient with the process so she put in a lot of hours in order to come back very slowly, which is crucial for this type of injury," Adams said. "She didn't try to rush back and then reinjure herself in the process."
Adams also credits Gotcher's high competitiveness level and strong work ethic as key to her successful comeback.

"There's never been a doubt that she'll work harder than just about anyone," Adams said. "If I had to pick any competitive team, she would be one of my first choices. She is as competitive as they come and will never give up. Even if she's knee deep in the rough, she still believes she'll make par."

Although Pinehurst will mark Gotcher's first major golf tournament of her career, the rookie is looking forward to the challenge and credits a familiarity to the course as something she'll use to her advantage.

"Preparing for a tournament like the U.S. Open is a pretty daunting task. I actually played at Pinehurst a couple years ago so it's really beneficial that I have tournament experience at the exact same golf course," Gotcher said. "Hopefully that'll help me as I continue to prepare."

Adams believes a key to Gotcher's success in the coming days will be focusing on her short game.

"She has been practicing on local golf courses around here and also at her home course in order to get used to the length," Adams said. "She has watched a lot of the TV coverage and took notes on how the greens have been played. A big emphasis in preparation has been on her short game, from 50 yards in, because it's crucial to get up and down in order to score there. "

Although the freshman has been busy preparing, the opportunity to represent Middle Tennessee on a national level has not escaped her.

"It feels awesome to be able to represent Middle Tennessee this month. Whenever someone asks where I'm from they are always expecting to hear an SEC school so it's a great feeling to be able to go toe-to-toe with golfers from those schools and be able beat them."

In addition to the U.S. Open, Gotcher has also qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship for the fourth consecutive year after shooting a 1-under-71 at the Greystone Golf Club in Dickson, Tennessee. The tournament is slated to be held from July 14-19 in Dupont, Washington.

Gotcher is slated to tee off the four-day, 72-hole tournament at 5:45 a.m. CT. Thursday on the back nine.

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