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SMC Golf: Belles host O’Brien National Invitational

Casey Karnes | Friday, September 13, 2013

Saint Mary’s will return to the course Sunday for its second tournament of the season, the highly-contested two-day O’Brien National Invitational at Warren Golf Course.

The Belles are coming off a successful season debut at the Olivet Labor Day Tee-Off in Marshall, Mich., where they finished third in a field of eight teams with a two-day score of 672. Washington University in St. Louis won the event with a score of 628. 

The tournament was Belles first-year head coach Kim Moore’s initial look at her young team, and she came away pleased with its performance.

“[The invitational] was a good start,” Moore said. Some of your players think they could’ve done better, which I’m sure they could’ve, but that’s golf. I was really pleased with the results.”

Freshman Ali Mahoney was stellar in her college debut, finishing 21st overall for the weekend with an overall score of 171. Mahoney also shot an 81 on Saturday to tie for the Belles’ best individual score on the first day. Senior captain Paige Pollak also notched an 81 on Saturday and followed that with a career-best 75 on Sunday. 

Moore lauded Pollak’s calming influence on the rest of the team.

“Just [Pollak] being out there is helpful for the entire team,” Moore said. “She’s very consistent with her ball striking, and it shows at practice. If [her teammates] are having a bad hole, it really gives them confidence to know that there’s someone like her out there to help the team.”

Even after a strong debut, the Belles will look to improve in their second tournament of the season. The O’Brien National Invitational boasts a daunting roster of opponents, as six of the nine teams in the tournament are ranked in the top 20. Included among those teams are No. 3 Washington and No. 17 Olivet, which both finished above Saint Mary’s last weekend.

Rather than be intimidated by the high level of competition, the team sees the tournament as an opportunity to improve, Moore said.

“I think going into this tournament … we’re prepared,” Moore said. “I think the competition this tournament is going to be a bit stiffer. It’s going to be a challenge for us. Hopefully, the way practice has been going will transfer to the golf course.”

All nine members of the Belles team will compete in this weekend’s tournament, giving freshmen Courtney Carlson and Emmie Schultz their first exposure to the college game. After a strong week of practice, Moore is sure her team won’t repeat the mistakes from its last tournament.

“Short game is always our biggest concern,” Moore said. “Players can see that when their putting is down, their scores begin to drop. We’ve been really been working on minimizing strokes around the green; that’s our point of emphasis for the tournament.”

The Belles face their toughest challenge yet at the O’Brien National Invitational at Warren Golf Course, which starts Sunday at 11 a.m. and continues Monday at 8:30 a.m.

Contact Casey Karnes at [email protected]