Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A-Sun Championship Great Mixture of Experience and Youth

For Stetson University, it would appear that the come-from-behind win is so much sweeter than any other. For the last three years the Hatters have trailed after two rounds, only to come back in the final round to claim the championship.

Head Coach Floyd Kerr says it remains a mystery why his teams play so well in the closing round.

“If I knew the answer to that I probably could make a lot of money,” he chuckles.

In the last three A-Sun Championships his teams have shot a cumulative score of one over par in the final round.

“I trust these people to get the job done. They have confidence in themselves to get the job done and they play with a lot of charcter and with a lot of heart,” Kerr said.

It might seem that the Hatters’ victories were due to a single strong individual performance, but not so with Stetson. Kerr’s defending champions have placed three players in the top 10 of the last two A-Sun Championships.

Also in 2009 and 2011, Stetson was the home of the individual champion, as Danielle Jackson won in 2009 and Alex Buelow claimed the 2011 crown.

Kerr emphasizes that he doesn’t put in any extra preparation time for the championship.

“We don’t over-strategize. We don’t over-coach. I don’t put extra pressure on them to get the job done. They know what’s out there,” Kerr said.

“Our approach in any tournament, whether it is last round or first round, is to go out and play ‘just another round of golf.’ If you can keep that mindset it sometimes gives you and advantage because during the last round or any round if you put too much pressure on yourself, sometimes it can work against you. Basically we try to keep a normal tournament setting where no one round is more important than the other round. Of course you can say that, but can you do that?”

If the Hatters can win in 2012, they will again do so from behind. Stetson trails by 12 strokes, the identical total they overcame two years ago on this very Venetian Bay course. It seems like déjà vu for this Stetson Hatter team who returns two players from that championship team.

“Two years ago here at Venetian Bay we were down quite a bit. Going into the last day we came back and played absolutely out of our minds—threw the kitchen sink at the competition. Somehow, which I still have yet to figure it out, we managed the win,” said senior Lauren Cate, who was on all three of Stetson’s conference championship teams.

A win will also place the Hatters in elite company, becoming just the second team in A-Sun history to win the conference championship four consecutive years. Florida International is the only team to record such an achievement, making the run from 1991-94.

Kerr said he feels the level of play in the conference championship has gone up over the last few years.

“I think our conference overall is stronger than it has been.”

Waiting in the wings, however, is a young Kennesaw State team ready to show that it is their turn to raise that championship banner.

"I really want to go to regionals, and I think it’s the same for all of my team so we are really motivated about that,” said Ines Lescudier, who shot at 68 to tie the best second-round total in the A-Sun championship history. “Tomorrow is a new run and so I think we are just going to do the best. I am feeling really good right now about my team.”

The Owls have shot even par over the last two rounds and will head into the final round with a six-shot lead on second place ETSU. Third-place Mercer trails the Owls by 11.

The Owls’ quintet boasts three freshmen, giving them the youngest team in the field this year. Those freshmen, along with one sophomore, are all among the top 10 in the individual rankings. Sophomore Ket Preamchuen is tied for fourth, followed by freshman teammate Lea Charpier in a tie for sixth with Ket's freshman sister Keaw. Freshman Ines Lescudier rounds out the top 10.

“I have three freshmen out here that play like seniors, and that is just a great feeling as a coach, said KSU Head Coach Rhyll Brinsmead. I am really proud of the and it (first) is a great position to be in heading into the final round.”

With six strokes separating first and second place, Wednesday’s final round could be interesting. Is there one more magical round in the bag for the experienced Hatters, or is it time for a youth movement in A-Sun women’s golf?

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