March 26, 2017

Women’s golf looks to claim the ‘Big Sky’

Sophomore Katie Dunaway prepares for a putt during an afternoon practice on Monday, April 11. 

The Sacramento State women’s golf team concluded its regular season on April 5 and is currently preparing for the Big Sky Conference Championship, a tournament which the Hornets have come up just short of in the last two seasons.

This season has been pretty consistent for the Hornets, with an average three-round score of 304.35, indicating the steady performance that the team has displayed all year. Sac State finished the regular season with a somewhat disappointing seventh-place finish in the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic, but this season yielded some of the best rounds in school history, including a school-record-setting 286 in the Fresno State Invitational on March 8.

Head coach David Sutherland said he was pleased with the depth and solid play that the team has shown this year.

“All year long, we’ve had really good consistency from all of our top five players,” Sutherland said. “Our strength is that any one of them can be our best player in a given week.”

That has been proven by the fact that four different golfers have led the Hornets in seven tournaments this season.

Although Sac State has been strong all year, the Big Sky Conference is going to be a tough one to win for the Hornets as the University of Idaho Vandals have been the best team all season long, with multiple first place tournament finishes. Northern Arizona will be tough as well as it looks to defend its title from 2015.

“It appears that it will be Idaho, Northern Arizona or us,” Sutherland said. “Those are the teams that finished first, second and third last year. Idaho is the top-ranked team in our conference, but we did beat them at Long Beach State, and that was a big confidence boost for our gals.”

With the conference championship starting Monday, Sutherland has handled the last week of practice just like a normal week in order to keep the team in the right state of mind.

“It’s mental preparation at this point,” Sutherland said. “You’re trying to, as a coach, make sure that your kids will have really good mental energy as we get ready for the event. You have a routine that you feel prepares you best for events. There is no doubt that conference is a different tournament, and certainly it’s an event where you maybe put an extra hour or two in [at practice], but certainly as a coach, you don’t require that.”

The Hornets have been led by sophomore Astha Madan, who leads the team with an average single-round score of 76.05 and has had the goal of winning the conference tournament since her freshman season when she shared Big Sky Freshman of the Year honors with Portland State’s Hansol Koo.

“We’ve been up there and had a few chances [to win], just haven’t been able to capitalize,” Madan said. I feel that as long as we keep that good energy, we’ll have a good shot at winning.”

The Hornets have finished second in the conference championship each of the last two years, and it is going to be tough to improve on that position this season with Idaho playing as well as they have.

The team is still confident heading into the tournament.

“We’d like to win,” Sutherland said. “That’s our expectation … Golf isn’t a sport where we play defense. There’s no way to control it, but you don’t want to expect to lose.”

Madan shared a similar mindset.

“There is a greater weight to it because it is the conference championship,” Madan said. “But I feel for all of us, we’re going into this tournament just as any tournament.”

Sophomore Katie Dunaway, who led the Hornets with an impressive scoring average of 75.83 in the fall, is confident that the team will perform well under the pressure of a conference championship tournament.

If the Hornets are to win the tournament, it will likely be a result of strong performances in the second round, which has far and away been Sac State’s best round, with a season average of 300, more than six strokes better than the first and third rounds.

“The fact that you’ve played the course two times before [the second round],” Madan said, “you have a better knowledge of how to attack, but that’s a key that we have to keep when we go in for our practice round. We have to keep focused and take some good notes and be very prepared for the first round.”

The Hornets will put their preparation to the test as they look to get over the second-place hump that has plagued them over the course of the last two years, starting on Monday, April 18 at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada.

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