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SMC Golf: MIAA champion Belles snubbed from NCAAs

Chris Khorey | Friday, May 19, 2006

By the standards of almost any other program, it was a successful season.

But despite five tournament victories during the regular season and an MIAA championship, the Belles were not selected for the NCAA Tournament, a snub head coach Mark Hamilton said was a major disappointment.

“We played the second toughest schedule in Division III golf and we had the third most tournament wins,” Hamilton said. “We traveled all over and played. We played who we had to play and beat who we had to beat, but unfortunately we didn’t get selected.”

Two teams from each of five regions are selected by a committee to compete in the Division III championships each year. The Belles lost the Division III bid to DePauw and Southwestern.

The Belles faced the Tigers head-to-head once this season, in the Illinois-Wesleyan Spring Fling. DePauw won the tournament, finishing 27 strokes ahead of third-place Saint Mary’s.

The Belles and Pirates did not face each other in the regular season.

Belles senior Megan Mattia qualified for the national tournament as an individual, finishing her Saint Mary’s career with a three-round score of 328 and a No. 18 finish.

Saint Mary’s won the MIAA Championship Oct. 8 at Thornapple Pointe Golf Club in Grand Rapids, Mich., beating second place Olivet by 36 strokes and reaching a goal set early in the season by Hamilton.

“Our goal for the fall is always to win the MIAA and begin to put ourselves in position to qualify for the NCAAs,” Hamilton said.

Saint Mary’s faced stiff competition throughout their season, facing mostly Division I teams in the Notre Dame Invitational at Warren Golf Course Sept. 10-11 and the Shamrock Invitational in Tega City, S.C. over spring break March 18-19.

“It was a great honor to be invited to the Notre Dame tournament, so we had to play in that,” Hamilton said of the decision to play in tournaments with larger schools, “As for [the Shamrock], over spring break you need to find the right tournament in the right location at the right time.”

Hamilton said he liked the challenge of playing such tough opponents.

“You get better by playing with better players,” Hamilton said. “You don’t get better playing lesser opponents. Our attitude is that we’ll go anywhere and play anyone.”

Besides the sheer difficulty, there was another downside to the schedule. Hamilton said he was told that playing so many non-Division III opponents hurt the Belles when the NCAA selection committee met.

“I think it actually hurt us a little in our selection process,” Hamilton said. “I’m not really sure why, but that was the word on the street.”