Despite having two golfers, Shelby Hardy and Kirsten Spittler, tie for runner-up in the individual medalist competition, Sam Houston could not hold off a charge by Texas State as the Bearkats finished as team runners-up in the 2010 Southland Conference women’s golf championship Wednesday. The Bearkats were seeking to become the first host team to win a Southland women’s golf title as the tournament was played on Sam Houston’s home, the par 71, 6,081 course at Raven Nest Golf Club. Texas State set a Southland Conference record with its team score of 297-296-292-885, jumping from 15 strokes behind Sam Houston after Tuesday’s second round to win the title by two strokes. Sam Houston’s 54-hole team score was 292-285-309-887. Central Arkansas, in its final year becoming eligible for post-season tournament honors, also fired an 887 team total. The Bearkats’ one-over par 285 round Tuesday set a Southland Conference single round tournament team record.
Rebecca Sorensen of Central Arkansas won the individual medalist with a final tally of 70-70-73-213, also a Southland women’s championship record. Sam Houston’s Shelby Hardy (73-71-75-219) and Kirsten Spittler (74-68-77-219) tied for medalist runner-up with Krista Puisite (74-75-70-219) and Valdis Jonsdottier (71-73-75-219) of Texas State. The Bearkats completed play Tuesday with a 10 stroke lead over Central Arkansas and a 15-stroke lead over Texas State, through the second round. But a streak of bad luck quickly changed the tide in the final round Wednesday. The Bearkats couldn’t rekindle the magic of the first two rounds and shot a team-total 309 Wednesday as Texas State rallied for a two-stroke victory with a 292 to capture the SLC title and automatic berth to the NCAA Division I regional tournament. The Bobcats finished with a three-day total of 885. Sam Houston, which earned the runner-up trophy, and Central Arkansas both shot 887 followed by UTSA (889), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (920), McNeese State (931), Lamar (935) and Stephen F. Austin (979).
"Division I college sports are a very high level of competition. You have to have full focus and concentration at that level," SHSU head coach Tommy Chain said. "The girls did a great job of that the first two days. For some reason they didn’t do that today. We let a golden opportunity to win a conference championship and advance to regionals slip away." Sam Houston was rolling through the first two rounds. The Bearkats shot 293 Monday and followed that up with a blistering 285 Tuesday, which was the low round of the tournament. But midway through the final round Wednesday, the Bobcats went on a run. Texas State passed the Bearkats and took a four-stroke lead into the clubhouse. Sam Houston didn’t go down without a fight.
Freshman Shelby Hardy birdied No. 17 and 18 and freshman Meghan Musk closed with a birdie to make things interesting. Sophomore Kirsten Spittler, who shot a tournament record 3-under 68 Tuesday, was the final Bearkat on the course. She bogeyed the par-3, 17th hole, but had a shot at an eagle on No. 18, which is a par 5. Spittler’s second shot landed just off the right of the green. She made a great run at the eagle, but had to settle for a tap-in birdie.
"I think we played a little too safe today," said Spittler, who finished in a four-way tie with Hardy and Texas State’s Valdis Jonsdottir and Krista Puisite for second in the individual medalist standings. "We should have stuck with our game plan the past two days." It was that kind of day for the Bearkats. With the exception of Landa Stewart, Spittler, Hardy, Musk and Meghann Stevens shot their worst rounds of the tournament on Wednesday. Spittler had a stretch where she made five straight bogeys to finish with a 77. She shot 74 in the first round to place second with a 219. Hardy struggled on the front nine with two bogeys and a double bogey. She got things turned around at the turn and shot one under on the back with four birdies and three bogeys to card a 75. She also shot 219 for the tournament with a 73 Monday and a 71 Tuesday. "I think our plan was to play like we were behind and I don’t think we stuck with that plan," Hardy said. "I think we played too conservative. Instead of playing like we were 10 strokes behind, we played like we were 10 strokes ahead. We should have been more aggressive.
"Musk had been solid through the first two rounds with a 70 and 73, which was good enough for third place heading into Wednesday. She had three double bogeys on the front nine and that was costly. She did come up big with the birdie on No. 18 to finish with an 80, which earned her 11th place at 223 for the tournament. Stewart bounced back from her opening-round 78 with a 73 Tuesday. But two double bogeys in the final round led to a 77. She did have two birdies and finished tied for 15th at 228. Stevens never got going Wednesday and carded an 85. She shot 73 Tuesday and 76 Monday to tie for 24th place at 234. The loss is going to sting the Bearkats for a while, but Sam Houston has a young squad with a bright future ahead. "I want to congratulate Kirsten and Shelby for a great tournament," Chain said. "The positive note is that we are not losing any seniors. They have gained a lot of experience from this tournament."
Central Arkansas senior Rebecca Sorensen owned Raven Nest Golf Club this week. Sorensen was the top individual medalist with solid rounds of 70, 70 and 73 for a total of 213, which is a new tournament record. This was Hardy’s fourth top 5 performance, and she also had two other top 10 finishes in her freshman season. Hardy led the Lady Bearkats’ squad with a 77.25 tournament stroke average for the 2009-2010 season and will be picking up her first varsity letter at SHSU. Her best single round outing this season was a one under 71 at the Islander Classic hosted by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Texas State won the Southland Conference Women’s Golf Championship with an 885, which broke the previous record by 22 strokes. In fact, Sam Houston State (887), Central Arkansas (887) and UTSA (889) this week, all bested the previous record of 907 . The winner of the Southland Conference women’s golf championship earned an automatic berth into the 2010 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Regionals to be held on May 5-6 in Indiana. In the 10 tournaments this season, Sam Houston finished 2nd in 3 tournaments and 3rd in two of them.