OCALA, Fla. – The Stetson Hatters went into the MSU Ocala Spring Invitational as the defending tournament champions, and play in the first round on Sunday indicates they aren’t going to relinquish the title without a fight.
The Hatters posted their first round of under 300 for the year on Sunday and stand just four shots behind Mercer after the first day of play.
“We shot 297, which is the first time we broke 300 this year,” Hatter coach Floyd Kerr said. “I didn’t know if I’d live long enough to see that again.”
Led by juniors Ryan Ashburn and Sammi Smith, both of who have won A-Sun Player of the Week this year, the Hatters have three players in the top 10 after the opening round of play. Both Ashburn and Smith are tied for eighth after shooting one-over par scores of 73. Jenna Hoecker is tied for 10 after a two-over par 74.
“It is good to see Ryan continue to play well,” Kerr said. “She has played four solid rounds in a row, and that is encouraging. We are showing signs of coming together. It is pretty exciting to see what this group is doing. Hopefully the entire team will keep playing well.”
The Hatters also got an opening round score of 77 from Mallory Viera, good for a tied for 32nd. Claudia Redinger was the only Stetson player to struggle in the opening round, finishing with an 82.
“Claudia has struggled a little bit, but she will come around,” Kerr said. “We gave away a couple of shots at the end, but 17 and 18 are both pretty hard holes.”
Mercer leads the overall team race after posting an opening 293. Toledo is third, one shot behind Stetson with a 298. None of the other 11 teams in the field cracked the 300 barrier.
Kara Brinkman of Ohio University has the individual lead after shooting a three-under par round of 69 on Sunday. She was one of five players to break par in the first round.
The Hatters will continue in tournament play with another single round on Monday. The final round of competition is scheduled for Tuesday at the Juliette Falls Golf Resort.