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SMC Golf: Young squad hangs with best

Peter Steiner | Monday, September 17, 2012

With the first day of the O’Brien National Invitational at the Warren Golf Course in the books, the No. 15 Belles stand in the middle of the pack that includes the 10 of the best Division III programs in the country.

The young Saint Mary’s squad turned in a team score of 332, good for sixth place after the first day of the two-day tournament.

“We struggled a little bit in some spots with our pretty consistent players,” Belles coach Mark Hamilton said. “We had some putting issues today. I felt like we played with the No. 1 team in the country [Methodist University], and we held our own for quite a few holes. We leaked a little oil on the last four or five holes, but overall, we had a pretty good day.”

Despite being under-the-weather, Belles junior Justine Bresnahan carded the top score for Saint Mary’s with an 80. Junior Paige Pollak and freshman Amanda Graham shot 82 and 83, respectively, to round out the Belles’ top-three.

“[Bresnahan] wasn’t feeling too well and had been suffering from a pretty bad cold,” Hamilton said. “She really gutted it out and played a good round today. I was proud of her.”

The 15-time defending national champions No. 1 Methodist University leads the tournament with a score of 318, closely followed by No. 5 Washington University at 321. The O’Brien National Invitational consists annually of the best teams in the nation. The strong field can only help the inexperienced Belles squad improve, Hamilton said.

“Because we are a young squad, I think it’s a great learning experience to see the best team in the country,” Hamilton said. “It gives you a real measuring stick on what you do well and what you need to do better. It’s been a great experience for them.”

Heading into the final day of the tournament, the Belles trail the leaders by only 14 strokes. According to Hamilton, the Belles need to improve their short game and capitalize on scoring chances.

“We have to putt a little bit better and stay away from the larger scores of double bogey and more,” he said. “We are looking for a score under 320 tomorrow.”

The Belles will tee off at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow for the final round of the O’Brien National Invitational.

Contact Peter Steiner at psteiner@nd.edu