May 11, 2010

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By Carl Kotala
Special to NCAA.com

HOWIE-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. - In some ways, the Gustavus Adolphus College women's golf team accomplished what it wanted to on the first day of the NCAA Division III championships.

The Gusties are still within striking distance of heavily favored Methodist University.

However, they're not as close as they were midway through the opening round at the Mission Inn Resort. And when a 3-4 stroke differential balloons to a 14-shot deficit by the end of the day ... that leaves a lot of catching up to do.

"The good thing is ... you try to keep yourself in there after Day One and not get too far behind - and I think we did that," Gusties coach Scott Moe said. "We're certainly not pleased with our result. We certainly know we can play better. Not to overlook anybody else, but Methodist is pretty tough."

Actually, the Monarchs (Fayetteville, N.C.) have been downright dominating. They've won 12 consecutive NCAA Division III women's golf championships and 22 of the 24 that have been contested. To beat them, it's going to take some kind of effort.

Methodist's top four golfers shot a 25-over, 317 on Tuesday. Paige Caldwell led the way with a 3-over-par 76, tying her for first place in the individual competition with Natalie Matuszak of St. Mary's College (Ind.).

Gustavus Adolphus and Wisconsin Eau Claire finished the day tied for second after shooting a total score of 331 (+39) on the day.

Katie Schenfeld led the way for the Gusties with a five-over 78 that included a one-stroke penalty she called on herself on the 8th hole (her second-to-last) when the ball moved. Asked about her round, she used the word "frustrated."

"I didn't shoot bad, but I felt like I hit a lot of good shots that should have turned out better," Schenfeld said. "I didn't drop any putts today."

She wasn't the only one who felt a little perturbed Tuesday as the final nine holes weren't kind to the Gusties as they tried to stick with Methodist.

"Some holes jumped up and bit us that were unexpected," Moe said. "We know there are some very tough holes out here and we gave up some strokes on some, I don't want to say easier holes, but some holes that you just don't expect to be as tough. But we continued to battle. The good thing is it's a four-day event.

".. We're there, which is good. I give them credit for hanging in there on a tough day. When it's not going well, this course just kills you."

With four players who played in the event last year and another, Ann Jackson, who went along to soak up the atmosphere of a national tournament, the Gusties believe they have the experience to be a threat over the final three days of the tournament.

"We feel pretty good about where our games are at," Schenfeld said. "A little tweak here or there, but overall ... we're the best that we've ever been. We've just got to keep grinding it out."

They'll have to, because Methodist isn't in the habit of giving tournaments away, and the Monarchs already have a significant lead over fourth place St. Mary's (19 shots back) and fifth place Olivet College (21 shots back).

While it can be hard to avoid having a defeatist attitude when facing a program as dominant as Methodist has been, they insist they're simply trying to focus on what they're doing on the course and not get caught up in how the Monarchs are shooting.

Schenfeld would like to get better results from her putter in Wednesday's second round. But that's just part of what she thinks she and her teammates need to improve on.

"I think mentally is where we need to stay tough," she said. "We need to realize that we're not out of it. We haven't fallen far enough back to count ourselves out. We're not going to try to make things happen that aren't going to happen. Hopefully we'll play better and make up a few strokes."