April 8, 2010

By Michael Rosengart

MIDSEASON RANKINGS UPDATE: With one month down and one month to go in the Division III women's golf season, Golf World and the National Golf Coaches Association released the third coaches' poll of the season, and, to little surprise, 12-time defending champion Methodist University was unanimously voted the best team in Div. III.

Behind Methodist, No. 2 Gustavus Adolphus College leapfrogged No. 3 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire although neither has participated in a tournament yet this spring. Both, however, have already qualified for the NCAA Championship in May by winning their conference championships.

Coming off an impressive fifth place finish at the Northern Kentucky Spring Fling, Illinois Wesleyan University jumped four spots to No. 4 to replace Saint Mary's College-now ranked fifth. Depauw University and Amherst College claimed sixth and seventh respectively.

No. 8 Southwestern University also jumped four spots on the back of two victories in three events this spring. The Pirates other appearance was a sixth place finish at the stacked Jekyll Island Invitational. Olivet College followed in the ninth slot.

In a tie with Williams College for No. 10, George Fox University reached the top-10 for the first time in the program's three-year history. The Bruins have won seven of their last eight tournaments dating back to their first event of the season.

Allegheny College fell from 10th to 12th just ahead of No. 13 Washington University in St. Louis. After rounding out the top-5 in the previous polls, Wash. U. skid of eight spots constituted the largest drop in these polls.

No. 17 Centre College and No. 18 Birmingham Southern College both made considerable moves up in the rankings after being tied for 21st last time around.

No. 22 SUNY Cortland and No. 25 Piedmont College were the only two teams to enter the top-25. The ranking was Piedmont's first ever since the team was started in 2005.

A PIRATE'S LIFE: No. 5 Saint Mary's College was just three strokes behind host No. 8 Southwestern University following a 339 on the first 18 holes of the tournament, but the Belles posted a 354 the second time around Berry Creek Golf Club to finish with a 693 as the Pirates hung on for the victory. Saint Mary's also got passed by University of Texas at Tyler (345-344, 689) and would up in third place.

SU as a team also fared worse on Day Two with a 341, but all four of their scorers managed to finish in the top-10 at their home track. Although she started with an 85 which left her in sixth place after Day One, senior Kristen Davenport lit it up for a 79 on Day Two to claim her their victory in the past five tournaments.

The Pirates' other three scorers were freshman Kelsey Coburn (78-90, 168) who finished fourth despite leading after the First Round; senior Cody Wallace (87-83, 170) in seventh; and freshman Erin Perry (86-89, 175) in a tie for 10th. The win was the second in three appearances for the Bucs this spring.

UT-Tyler also packed three of their four scorers into the top-10. Like Davenport, sophomore Jennifer King had a difficult start with an 88, but put up a 79 as well on Day Two to clinch third place and earn recognition as American Southwest Conference Female Golfer of the Week. Sophomore Callie Rice (87-84, 171) and junior Katie Harris (84-89, 173) finished in eight and ninth respectively. It was the Patriots' second time finishing second this spring.

For Saint Mary's, on the other hand, the spring struggles continued. After succeeding in not posting a single round over 330 in this fall, the Belles have averaged 346 strokes per four-player round in the spring. Sophomore Natalie Matuszak and junior Mary Kate Boyce played to an 80 and an 82 on Day One respectively, but, in a trend that was matched by the team's back half, couldn't improve their scores on Day Two. Both did manage to finish with All-Tournament honors however as Matuszak took second with a 166, just two strokes behind Davenport, and Boyce tied for fourth.

University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (346-357, 703) claimed fourth at the Southwestern Invitational ahead of LeTourneau University (376-353, 729), Trinity University (368-370, 738) and Concordia University Texas (436-415, 851).

OLIVET DEFENDS ITS TURF: No. 9 Olivet College (331) defeated No. 16 Hope College (342) and Albion College (396) at the Olivet Triangular and made a big statement in the process as they push toward qualifying for the NCAA Championship.

The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, in which all three teams compete, has a unique way of determining its automatic bid for the NCAA Championship next month in Florida. The "tournament" consists of three 18-hole legs on three different courses over two weeks. The first of the three legs, to be played on Apr. 14, is to be held at none other than Medalist Golf Club where the Triangular took place. So not only did the Comets beat two of their conference foes while favorite Saint Mary's labored elsewhere, but they gained confidence by playing well at a course of great significance. It should be not, however, that both of the latter two legs, at Blackthorne Golf Club and Warren Golf Club, are within five minutes of Saint Mary's South Bend, IN campus.

Sophomore Lauren Campbell carded an 80 to medal for the Comets with senior Megan Rimmel right behind her at 81. Junior Amber Conrad (83) took fourth and Abby Wheeler fired an 87 to round out the scoring for Olivet in sixth place.

For the Flying Dutch, sophomore Megan Scholten tied Rimmel for second while freshman Charlotte Park (85) claimed fifth. Senior Cassie Sneller and sophomore Lauren Zendstra tied for seventh with 88s.

Olivet will have one more tune-up before the MIAA playoffs begin when they take on Depauw University this weekend. Hope will take the week off and begin preparing for their return to Medalist.

GREAT DAY TO BE A PANTHER: Junior Ashley Lovell fired a 77 to lead No. 18 Birmingham Southern College (318) in all-around great showing from the team and an easy victory over the University of Montevallo (361).

The teams had the privilege to compete at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club at Oxmoor Valley. The course is part of the RTJ Golf Trail-11 elite courses designed by the Robert Trent Jones, Sr in Alabama. In spite of the course being one of the most difficult in AL, the Panthers posted what was easily their best four-player score since September.

Behind Lovell, who won for the second time this year, freshman Michelle Morris shot 78, sophomore Jennifer Commander posted a 79, and redshirt freshman Marissa Gacek turned in an 89.

BSC will close out their regular season on Apr. 12 at the Hawk Invitational hosted by Huntingdon College.

CHIP SHOTS: Newly ranked Piedmont College proved they were worthy of the distinction as they beat Division II North Georgia College & State University by nearly the century mark, 348-444. Freshman Maria Carter medaled for the Lady Lions with a 78 . . . Rhodes College (333-329, 662) had an impressive outing at the William Woods Invitational despite tremendously poor conditions at Tanglewood Golf Club in Fulton, MO. The Lynx recorded their best 36 hole score in four years as they took second of nine. Junior Stephanie Mingos fired a 76 and a 77 to claim medalist honors and Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Female Golfer of the Week honors for the second time this season . . .Junior Mandy Cameron of No. 10 George Fox University also captured weekly conference honors from the Northwest Conference. Cameron medaled with a 161 at last week's Pacific Lutheran University Invitational. . .Methodist University is in fourth as the only Division III representative in the seven team Tina Barrett Longwood Invitational with a 643 with one more round to go. Junior Paige Caldwell carded a 158 to lead the Monarchs and stands in a tie for 15th.