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SMC Golf: Belles hope for strong qualifier

Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Following last Saturday’s snow out at the Dutch Spring Invitational at the Ravines Golf Club in Saugatuck, Mich., the Belles will end their 10-day break with the first of three MIAA NCAA Qualifiers at South Bend’s Blackthorn Golf Club.

After last spring’s first-place finish and MIAA automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, Saint Mary’s will enter the qualifier with high expectations. Despite last year’s success and a home advantage in the first qualifier, the Belles will face stiff competition from Olivet, Calvin and Hope, who wrapped up the fall conference tournament in first, third and fourth place, respectively. Additionally, all three schools had two golfers named to the fall’s all-MIAA first team, which featured no Saint Mary’s golfers. Instead, four Belles and two more Olivet golfers composed the fall’s second team.

Entering the qualifier, Olivet’s junior all-MIAA first-teamers Theresa Damico and Adrienne Plourde have continued their dominance from the fall, with stroke averages of 80.7 and 83.4, respectively, after their first three tournaments. In contrast, the Belles’ two lowest stroke averages through the season’s first four rounds are junior Paige Pollak’s 82.3 and sophomore Janice Heffernan’s 83.3. Heffernan led Saint Mary’s with a two-day score of 164 at the Washington University Spring Invitational in St. Louis on April 6-7 to finish 24th in a crowded field of 112 golfers.

Joining Pollak and Heffernan are junior Alexi Bown and freshman Claire Boyle, who is looking to build on her great weekend in St. Louis. Tying Pollak, Boyle was able to shoot a two-day score of 169, which was good for 41st individually. After shooting a 175 in St. Louis, Bown will try to come out with a strong performance in front of today’s home crowd in South Bend.

Similarly to the fall, the Belles will not rely on one single star to carry the team to its second consecutive NCAA tournament berth, but will instead count on the consistently strong performance of the entire team. Although Pollak and Heffernan have led the way so far this season, anyone could step up for the Belles today in their quest for back-to-back conference championships.

The Belles will head out to Blackthorn Golf Club at 1 p.m. today for the spring’s first MIAA NCAA Qualifier.

Contact Cole Schietinger at cschieti@nd.edu.