After almost a month away from tournament competition, the Stetson University women’s golf team will return to action to complete fall tournament play in the Holiday Inn Express/Hatter Classic.
The event will get started on Monday morning at 7:15 am when the nine-team, 45-player field opens a 36-hole day of competition. The Hatters, who have won their home event each of the last five years, will play the first two rounds on Monday with Daytona State College and Florida Atlantic.
“It has been a while since we have played, but our practices have been pretty good,” Hatters coach Floyd Kerr said. “We have been able to work on a lot of things and we’ll see how they pan out in the tournament. I think the girls are learning and we have some girls who are hitting the ball pretty well.”
With five juniors on the Stetson squad, they don’t have to be reminded of the success the Hatters have had in this event, as well as on their home course at Victoria Hills in recent years.
“I try not to put too much pressure on that fact, but I have mentioned that,” Kerr said. “We have won two conference titles here on this course and we have won this event the last five years and I think, if we play well, we’ll have a chance again.”
The advantage the Hatters have over other teams in the tournament is they know the course at Victoria Hills inside and out.
“All courses have something of a home course advantage and this one may have a little bit more than others,” Kerr said. “This is not a flat course and there are a lot of big bunkers on this course. The more you play it, the more you learn to stay away from those.”
Kerr said the course itself is in as good a condition as he has seen it in years.
“This is the most playable this course has been in terms of overall condition in the last five years,” Kerr said. “The fairways have really firmed up and the greens have firmed up. The fact that the greens have changed so much in the last week, due to the cooler temperatures, really doesn’t give us much of an advantage.”
The Hatters have won the tournament the last five years by posting team scores from as low as 893 (2010) to as high as 904 (2009). Stetson won last fall with a score of 897, 27 shots better than Daytona State in second place. The record individual low score for the tournament was set by Mitsuki Katahira of Daytona State with a 207 in 2010.
With no Alexandria Buelow, a two-time winner of this event, on the team, Kerr said any of his five players could step up to lead the team.
“With this group, you never know who is going to play the best on any given day,” Kerr said. “Sammi Smith (Louisville, Ky.) has improved her game a lot. Her ball striking and putting have both improved. I think that Claudia Redinger (Durban, South Africa) is playing pretty good and has started to have a little confidence in herself. I think that she will really play well if she gets that confidence that she needs.
“Ryan Ashburn (Largo, Fla.) and Jenna Hoecker (Rochester, NY) are both also hitting the ball pretty well.”
Mallory Viera (Howie-in-the-Hills, Fla.), who is third on the team in stroke average this fall, will be the fifth member of the Stetson team.
The race for top team honors in the tournament could be wide open. Kerr said he has seen several teams with a chance to win the event.
“McNeese State played really well over at the LPGA when we were paired with them the last day,” Kerr said. “Bethune-Cookman has some international players in this year and they are pretty good. North Florida has beaten us a couple of times this year, but I think they have some injuries they are dealing with.”
The other teams in the field for the women’s tournament, which will be played simultaneously with the men’s Stetson/CFSC Invitational, are Lipscomb, Florida Atlantic Webber International and USC Upstate. The women’s teams will open play on the back nine and the men will begin play on the front nine on both days of play.
Players will continue play from the first round in the morning right into the second round for the afternoon. The third, and final round will be played on Tuesday morning with play starting at 7:15 a.m.