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SMC Golf: Belles grab first-round edge

Nathaniel Lee | Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No. 21 Saint Mary’s cashed in on its home-course advantage in the first round of the MIAA’s national championship qualifier, finishing first with a 325, 13 strokes ahead of second-place Olivet.

Three rounds total will determine the league’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Div. III Championships, and the Belles earned the right to host the first of three rounds by finishing the fall season in second place. No. 11 Olivet earned top honors in the fall, so it will host the final two rounds later this month.

“There is an advantage in being at home, and we made sure that we capitalized on that opportunity,” Belles coach Mark Hamilton said. “We will be mindful of that heading to Olivet’s home course, but we beat them there last time, so we are looking forward to it.”

Playing in top form, the five scoring girls from Saint Mary’s all finished in the top eight on the day to top Olivet at Blackthorn Golf Club. The Belles and the field were led by sophomore Emily Gore’s 4-under-par 77, highlighted by an eagle on the sixth hole. Fellow sophomore Mary Kate Boyce turned in a 7-over 80 to earn a tie for second place.

“Emily Gore had an outstanding game,” Hamilton said. “She had been out for a while and hadn’t played much lately, so for her to return in such good form, shooting an all-time low after all her hard work, was great.”

Sophomore Rosie O’Connor shot an 83 and snagged fourth place. Two strokes behind her was freshman Natalie Matuszak, who tied for sixth with an 85. In the final scoring position for the Belles was senior captain Meredith Fantom, whose 86 earned her a tie for the eighth.

“We know we left a few strokes on the course still,” Hamilton said. “There are a few things we can shore up before the next round, understanding places where you just can’t miss a shot, especially at Olivet’s course which has a lot of hazards. We need to be mentally tough.”

At the end of all three rounds – the final two of which will be played April 24-25 in Marshall, Mich. – the team with the lowest combined score will go on to represent the MIAA with the conference’s automatic qualifier at the NCAA Div. III Championships in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on May 13-16.