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SMC Golf: Belles take second

Joesph Monardo | Monday, October 3, 2011

The Belles turned in their best round of golf in conference play this season Saturday at the MIAA Jamboree at Kalamazoo College, but fell short of the top prize by one stroke to conference leader Hope College.

Saint Mary’s final score of 340 moved the Belles 11 strokes ahead of leader Olivet, putting them in a strong position to win the tournament. But Hope pushed its lead over the Belles to 23 strokes for a score of 339 in the season’s third conference match.

“I think overall we were happy with how we did,” senior co-captain Christine Brown said. “A lot of us felt like we left some strokes out on the course.”

As the conference season nears its completion, Belles coach Mark Hamilton said his team is moving in the right direction, but time is running out.

“I think [we played] a lot better than we have been,” Hamilton said. “We are really only the happiest when we win at this point, but I was pleased. I won’t say I was happy, but I was pleased.”

Senior co-captain Natalie Matuszak led the Belles in scoring for the match, riding an event-low 39 on the back nine to finish with a score of 82. Brown, junior Jessica Kinnick and freshman Janice Heffernan all tied for 11th overall in the individual standings with scores of 86 for Saint Mary’s.

The Belles now face uncertainty, as it is still undecided whether the MIAA round that was interrupted by rain on Sept. 29 at Albion will be replayed. If the event is not rescheduled this week, Saint Mary’s will carry their 23-stroke deficit into the two-round Conference Championship event Saturday.

“It kind of puts more pressure on us to play well because having that rained out match, there is less opportunity for us to make up the ground that we already have in front of us,” Brown said.

Despite the Belles’ large deficit, Hamilton said his team’s hopes of capturing the conference title for the third straight year remain very much alive at this point.

“I think we saw yesterday that we can have an OK day and still be tied basically with the best score,” Hamilton said. “So if we can have a good day, we can easily win by 10 shots. If we can do that three times, that’s all we need.”

If they are to gain ground on Hope, the Belles will have to eliminate their mistakes.

“We are doing a better job of focusing 90 percent of the time, but that 10 percent is still getting us into a little trouble,” Hamilton said. “We need to concentrate for 18 holes and play our best and see what happens.”

The Belles will compete in the MIAA Championships at Calvin College for the top honor in the conference beginning Friday. Tournament play will continue into Saturday where the overall winner will receive the conference title.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu