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SMC GOLF: Freshmen provide spark

Anna Fricano | Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Amidst the pressures of adjusting to dorm life and homework, five Saint Mary’s freshmen have taken on the responsibility of being part of one of the most prominent athletic programs that the College has to offer – the Saint Mary’s golf team.

The freshman class is walking into a program that has seen three conference titles and three national championship appearances in three years.

And the newcomers may just well be a crucial part of keeping the success going for a fourth year.

Head coach Mark Hamilton has called the team’s new golfers the best freshmen class he’s seen.

For the Belles, who lost three highly effective players after last spring, that is a good thing.

Seniors Nicole Bellino and Megan Mattia have experience working on their side, and have started to earn conference recognition on an individual basis.

But simply in terms of numbers, the Saint Mary’s team is counting on the freshman class to provide some much-needed depth.

The five newcomers double the size of the squad, which is made up of four seniors and one sophomore.

This year’s freshmen are Meredith Fantom, Meaghan Fontein, Molly Goldsmith, Katie McInerney and Alex Sei.

On a team where talent and work ethic have been the two major components of recent success, these women seem to be fitting right in.

The personalities so far have meshed well with the team, and the girls have proven themselves to have the work ethic that Hamilton strives to procure from all of his golfers.

Recruiting doesn’t generally have a major impact on colleges offering Division-III sports, and this year was no exception.

But the Belles still certainly seem to have attracted an array of golfers to the team. Sei comes to the Belles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Fontein hails from Andover, Mass.

The good fortune that Saint Mary’s has seen in gaining so many good, young players is in part due to a change in the world of women’s golf.

“The overall quality of women’s golf is getting better,” Hamilton said. “It’s a natural evolution that these players are better.”

And Hamilton works hard to promote the opportunity that attending a smaller school can provide to young athletes.

“We talked about how athletics is an important part of college life, and I wanted them to give golf a shot,” he said.

Some prospective recruits may have actually been lost to other schools in the last year, but with the class that they gained, the Belles are not feeling the loss.

Two of this year’s freshmen will travel with Saint Mary’s to their first competition, which takes place this weekend at Ferris State University. Sei and McInerney will join the Belles for what will be their first collegiate competition, not including qualifying matches.

The question remains whether inexperience will become a problem for this young team.

It can only be expected that anyone in the position of Sei and McInerney would experience some jitters in their position.

“It’s all about learning what the nerves do to your body, and how to counteract it,” Hamilton said.

The freshmen will be at a slight disadvantage compared to the rest of the team this weekend, as no one on the Belles has ever played the course, and they will not have a practice round.

And yes, Hamilton said, the freshmen will most likely be nervous.

But so will the seniors – it just goes with the territory. What remains to be seen is whether this bright, young crowd can maintain their composure and fulfill the expectations that lay ahead of them.

And for a team consisting of no members of the junior class and only one sophomore, this year’s freshman class will no doubt continue to play a crucial role in the roster in the years to come.