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SMC GOLF: Hamilton working to keep Belles at top

Anna Fricano | Friday, August 26, 2005

Ask any current member of the Saint Mary’s golf program to recap her experiences with the team, and it is most likely that there would be very little disappointment of which to speak.For three consecutive years – since coach Mark Hamilton has taken over the program – the Belles have not only captured the MIAA conference title every fall, but have also gone on to put themselves among the elite of college golf by capturing a bid to attend the Division-III NCAA Golf Championships in the spring. It could easily be said that it has been sheer talent that has made Saint Mary’s golf so successful in the past few years. Former members have taken home conference titles and been named all-conference players, and some have gone on to gain national recognition on both the team and individual level in the NCAA.Hamilton, beginning his fourth season with the Belles, gives a lot of credit to the ability of his players for the success that he has seen as a coach.”We’ve kind of had the players to make the score,” Hamilton said.After graduating three of the most successful golfers in the program last spring, it may be a bit of a challenge to maintain the same level of excellence that the program has seen in recent years. But the opportunity is still there for the members of the Saint Mary’s team. Seniors Nicole Bellino and Megan Mattia are both MIAA honorable mention players. Kirsten Fantom began to come on especially strong last spring, and Erin McQueen seems ready to step-up to the challenge. Katie O’Brien, the only sophomore on the team, had a couple of opportunities to travel with the team last year and will have some experience to bring into the season. Part of Hamilton’s effectiveness as a coach comes from the dedication that he makes to provide an opportunity for the women to improve their skills. A good practice facility, combined with other approaches such as video equipment, allow the girls to use a variety of resources in order to improve their game. Hamilton is especially pleased with the potential of this year’s freshmen class, one he called the best since taking over three years ago. If any new member of the team is unsure of the caliber of previous years’ teams, they will soon learn based on the expectations placed on them. “The bar has been set,” Hamilton said. “I think the expectations are high, and the girls will do what it takes. The freshmen will need to step-up. That will be the factor.” While the team may not be at championship level yet, the golf season is long and no one is thinking about nationals just yet. The Belles will concentrate on winning the conference, making adjustments and getting better, and they have until May to get it right. Hamilton is confident that the talent and work ethic are there, and the Saint Mary’s golf team will be able to maintain its position as one of the leaders in Division III Golf.