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SMC Golf: Belles earn fifth NCAA appearance

Allan Joseph and Luke Mansour | Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Saint Mary’s used an all-around performance Friday at Blackthorn Golf Club and did just enough Saturday at Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course to claim the top overall spot in the MIAA qualifying rounds, earning its fifth trip to the national championships.
The Belles took third to Olivet and Hope this weekend with their score of 348, but a shot total of 992 in the three MIAA contests this spring gives them the bid over Olivet’s total of 1,000.
“Those two days couldn’t have been any more diametrically opposed,” Belles coach Mark Hamilton said. “It’s always tough to back up one of your best rounds with another the next day.”
Junior Mary Kate Boyce led the Belles Friday, carding a 74 to set an MIAA course record and earn medalist honors in the process. Sophomore Natalie Matuszak finished second overall with a 76 and junior Rosie O’Connor rounded out the top three golfers with a 77. The 1-2-3 finish powered the Belles from a five-stroke deficit entering the day to a 28-stroke lead over second-place Olivet heading into the final round. With the Saturday total of 311, Saint Mary’s set a new school and course record for the low score in an MIAA competition.
“It was a great round,” Hamilton said. “[Boyce] had it going. She had a great day.”
The final round of the MIAA qualifier Saturday tested the Belles. Olivet fired a low score of 328, while Saint Mary’s limped to a 348, which was good enough to earn an overall eight-stroke victory.
Matuszak again played well, turning in a round of 81 for the second-best score of the day. O’Connor came in second for Saint Mary’s with an 85 to tie for ninth overall.
“She had a really good round at Blackthorn, and kept it together on Saturday,” Hamilton said. “Consistency-wise she did a great job. She kept us in the game on Saturday.”
Despite the Belles’ struggles Saturday, Hamilton said he was happy with his team’s ability to do what was necessary to pull out the victory.
“We did what we had to do, and whether we win by one stroke or 30 strokes, we got it done,” he said.
Now that Saint Mary’s has earned a berth in the NCAA championships, they turn their focus to the national competition just after finals.
“It’s tough to stay sharp with finals. I would really like to finish in the top four and bring hardware home,” Hamilton said. “We’ll have to play our best for four days and it’s tough to do, but it’s totally doable.”
Even though the team’s season is not over, Hamilton said he already considers his team’s spring campaign a positive one, especially considering the team’s losses of Martyna Mierzwa and Emily Gore.
“I’d say this year’s definitely been a success,” he said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that could lose two top players and qualify for the national championship.”
With the NCAA championships looming, Hamilton and the Belles are optimistic about their chances.
“This team is peaking at the right time,” Hamilton said. “We’re looking now for some hardware.”