By Christian Malone
VALDOSTA -- Dori Carter's driver usually takes her about 230 yards. Her golf game will take her all the way to Oxford, Miss.
Carter, a three-year standout at Valdosta High, signed with the University of Mississippi Friday afternoon, and she can't wait to play for the Lady Rebels next fall.
"I'm so excited to be going to Ole Miss," Carter said. "I'm very lucky to have this opportunity."
This summer, Rob Williams, the head pro at Valdosta Country Club, said that Carter was good enough to play at an SEC or ACC school. It turns out Ole Miss coach Meghan Bolger agreed ater seeing her play.
"Rob called just about every Division I school he could think of and mentioned my name. He was worried I wasn't getting enough exposure, and that got them interested," Carter said. "I started seeing coaches at tournaments. Then Coach Bolger started calling, and I fell in love with the school the first time I saw it. I knew that was where I wanted to go.
"It's incredibly exciting (to sign with Ole Miss). It's a Division I school. To have the opportunity to sign with a SEC school is amazing, unbelievable. It was beyond my expectations, totally."
Carter started getting attention from colleges after an outstanding summer of golf. She won Southeastern Junior Golf Tour (SJGT) events in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (The TPC Classic, played at The TPC at Sawgrass, site of a PGA Tour event) and Milton, Fla. (The Moors Classic). She led the American Junior Golf Association's (AJGA) Golf Pride Junior Classic in Cornelius, N.C., after one round and wound up finishing second. She also took 11th at the AJGA's Dunlop Carolina Junior Championship in Greenville, S.C.
"I played well this summer," Carter said. "I won two Southeastern Junior Golf Tour events, and finished second (in Cornelius). I think it definitely got me noticed. And Rob called a bunch of college coaches, and got Ole Miss interested."
The SEC rivals the Pac-10 as the toughest conference in women's golf. Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Vanderbilt and LSU are perennial powers, and Carter says the Lady Rebels are ranked in the middle of the conference this year. Ole Miss made it to the NCAA's East Regional this spring.
Playing for Valdosta, Carter won the Region 1-AAAAA golf tournament as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and will be heavily favored to win it again this spring. Last year, she shot a 70 at Valdosta Country Club to win the region by an amazing 21 strokes.
She then shot a 72 at the state tournament on Jekyll Island, which gave her third. The two golfers that finished ahead of her, Garrett Phillips of Glynn Academy and Margaret Shirley of Lassiter, now play for Augusta State and Auburn, respectively.
"I'm hoping to win state this year. That'll be my big goal," Carter said. "Georgia has a bunch of great girls who are going off to Division I schools. (Phillips and Shirley) both graduated, so now hopefully I'll be able to win state. I also want to win a fourth region title."
Signing with Ole Miss is a reward for a lot of hard work for Carter. All those days spent playing 18 holes at Valdosta Country Club, often with her father Len, or taking a lesson from Williams or working with her trainer, Eric Sutherland, have paid off.
"It's been a lot of work, but it's golf, and I love playing golf," Carter said. "I appreciate everyone who's helped me get here. Rob and Eric and my parents and the coaches here at Valdosta (Jerry Don Baker and Keith Middleton)."
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