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SMC Golf: Belles look to claim tournament lead

Jack Hefferon | Friday, April 29, 2011

After beginning their title defense in the first round of the MIAA NCAA qualifier, the Belles look to rally from behind and finish strong in the final two rounds this weekend.

Two weeks ago, the Belles took to the course at The Medalist Golf Club in Marshall, Mich., for the opening round of the qualifier. The team collectively finished in second place with a score of 333, which put them 12 shots behind the leader, No. 18 Olivet.

The Comets took full advantage of playing on their home course, with all four of their scorers shooting under 83. Now the Belles return to their home course, Blackthorn Golf Club, looking to regain control of the tournament.

“Playing at home is great,” Belles senior captain Mary Kate Boyce said. “Everything is familiar, so there are fewer adjustments that need to be made. Additionally, not having to stay in a hotel is nice because you get a better sleep and are more relaxed for the round. We really hope to use this to our advantage.”

In addition to the many benefits of playing on a familiar course, Saint Mary’s also has the experience of playing from behind before. At last year’s qualifier the Belles shot the same opening round score of 333, which left them several strokes behind Olivet. Upon returning home for the final two rounds, the Belles rallied together and ended up winning the tournament by 12 strokes.

Boyce believes last year’s come-from-behind victory taught the team an important lesson that should help them succeed now.

“Everyone wants to go out there and win,” she said. “We want it very bad, but we’ve kept in mind that we need to enjoy our time on the course as well. That will ultimately help us win.”

The Belles also have the benefit of an extra two weeks of preparation and practice. The squad has also been able to practice shots from the tee to the green, despite the bad weather.

Belles coach Mark Hamilton, who has also helped the team prepare mentally as well.

“He has been working to help us sharpen our skills and keep us positive,” Boyce said. “It’s easy to get frustrated with the weather or poor performance, but he has kept us focused on improvement and enjoying our time.”

The Belles look to rally behind their game-changers to eat into Olivet’s lead. Boyce looks to lead the charge, the reigning MIAA MVP. Other sparks for the team could come from junior Natalie Matuszak and senior captain Rosie O’Connor, Saint Mary’s lowest scorers in the first round.

Boyce said in the end concentration and composure will be the difference between disappointment and a third-straight NCAA appearance.

“A win will come to the team who can focus on each shot,” Boyce said. “While it’s difficult to do, we need to take it one shot at a time. If we do that, we’ve done our best and that’s all we can do. We don’t want to leave anything to chance.”

The second round of the MIAA NCAA qualifier will begin Saturday, and the tournament will continue into the final round Sunday. The Belles tee-off at 1 p.m.