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SMC Golf: Defending conference champs tee off season season

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Saint Mary’s golf team shot a final round 339 to finish 13th this past weekend at the Shamrock Invitational hosted by Winthrop University.

The tourney, which took place at the Par 72, 5842 yard Tega Cay Country Club in South Carolina, was the first of six spring events for the Belles, who won the 2005 MIAA championship during the fall season with an average of 342.6 and placed sixth in last year’s NCAA Championships.

Elon’s Samantha Widmer shot an individual best 228 (+12) in the 72-player field, leading Elon to the overall team victory with a combined score of 934 (+70).

The Belles’ Megan Mattia shot a team best 243 with rounds of 82, 87 and a low round of two-over par 74 to finish tied for 20th in the three-round event.

“[Mattia’s performance was] the finest round I have ever seen a Saint Mary’s player have when considering the conditions and time of year,” coach Mark Hamilton said.

Mattia was named MVP of the entire MIAA League in the fall for her third all-conference appointment.

Nicole Bellino, Kirsten Fantom and Katie O’Brien were named to the all-MIAA second team as well.

Despite a below average result for the team based on past performances, Hamilton acknowledged the strength of the rest of the field.

“The competition level was high,” Hamilton said, noting that quite a few of the teams were in Division I. “The golf course was very penal. Once we got comfortable and figured out how to attack the course we played much better.”

One individual who displayed marked improvement over the course of the tournament was Bellino, whose 81 on the third day earned her 50th place – the second highest finish for the Belles.

The Belles’ next contest is a dual meet versus Northern Kentucky this weekend at NKU’s home track Perry Park Golf Course, a long par 72.

Hamilton stressed the need for the team to work on its short game, especially greenside play. This is one aspect of their game that the Belles have not been able to work on thus far due to the recent cold weather.

Mattia, one of four graduating seniors joined by Bellino, Fantom and McQueen, emphasized the need for the team to have the “confidence to go out and perform the way we know that we can.”

The seniors hope that confidence helps them perform well enough to earn the Belles’ fourth consecutive berth to the May NCAA Championships in Orlando.