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Mount Golf

(11/2010) The Mount St. Maryís menís and womenís golf teams entered the 2010 fall season with considerable aspirations. The menís side returned three of its top five players from last yearís team that finished fourth out of ten at NEC Championships, while the women returned a full roster with the exception of one graduate.

The menís team opened its fall season on Sunday, Sept. 12, as Missouri played host in the Turning Stone Invitational in Verona, N.Y. -- approximately 30 miles east of Syracuse. The Mount placed 14th through 36 holes, shooting a first-round team total of 328 and a second-round 313. Collegiate scoring is indicated by the lowest five individual scores on each team. The Mount was paced by Danny Michalek, who shot a two-round score of 152, putting him eight shots off the lead. Michalek ended the tournament with a third-and-final round 81 to place 32nd individually. The team garnered exceptional performances from freshmen tandem Kevin Ellison (57th) and Devin OíGrady (64th), who posted the Mountís second and third best scores. Senior Ray Hyre (65th), and sophomore Andrew Lawton (71st) also contributed to the Mountís three-round total of 956 Ė good for 13th out of 18 teams. Included among the pool of major Division I schools were top performers Purdue (897), Missouri (900), Bowling Green (903), and Connecticut (908).

"Kevin and Devin have become consistent top-five finishers for us throughout the fall season," Michalek said. "Itís good to see positive contributions top to bottom from every class."

"I came into the fall season with the goal of trying to play in every tournament on our schedule," Ellison added. "I felt I was ready and prepared for the fall season after playing well in most of my tournaments over the summer."

The womenís team opened its season a week later and also faced some formidable competition at the Towson Invitational. Graduate student Autumn Serruta opened her final season with a strong 19th place performance, shooting and 81 (7th through 18 holes) and 85. Junior Christina Hall and sophomores Sarah Roe and Abbey Fry also achieved top-40 finishes, leading the team to an 8th place finish.

The women returned the following weekend as hosts of the single-round Gettysburg Fall Invitational at their domicile Quail Valley Golf Course. The tournament was highlighted by Roeís dominating first-place performance after shooting a one-under 71, marking the second-best score in Mount history at Quail Valley. Roeís one-stroke victory was the first individual win by a Mountaineer since Christina Hallís outing at the 2008 Kutztown Spring Invitational. Similarly, the Gettysburg Invitational also marked the first team victory since 2008. Hall, Serruta, Fry, and sophomore Nikki Fazio contributed to the third-best single round in program history with a 328, 20 strokes better than the second place finisher. The Mount prevailed over McDaniel, Alvernia, Susquehanna, Franklin & Marshall, and Dickinson.

"I was hitting the ball decent and my putting was on. It was my first collegiate win and it definitely has given me confidence in my game," Roe said. "This year Iíve found that having confidence and playing smart are the two keys to success in this game."

Meanwhile, the menís team took part in the nine-team Longwood Manor Intercollegiate in Farmville, Va. Ellison finished sixth overall after 36 holes with a four-over 148, seven strokes off the lead. Michalek, Hyre, OíGrady, and senior Jake Wetzel followed rank to round out the top five en-route to a final team score of 934, good for 5th place behind host Longwood, High Point, Loyola, and Hampden-Sydney. Two weeks later, the menís team welcomed another top finisher as Hyre finished 13th at the Rehoboth Beach Invitational on Monday, Sept. 27. As weather worsened throughout, Hyreís performance improved. Shooting three over on the front nine, the fifth-year senior raised his level of play on the back with a one under 35, leaving him five shots off the lead. Play was indefinitely suspended after the first of two rounds due to rain, giving the Mount a fourth place finish with scoring contributions from Michalek, Ellison, OíGrady, and senior Sage Smith.

"It was soaking wet out there," Hyre said of the substandard playing conditions. "We played the casual water and embedded ball rule through the first round, which let the players take a free drop if a shot was buried or fell into standing water. Itís unfortunate we didnít finish the second round though, our team was off to a hot start."

The menís team carried that hot streak into the following week for what was arguably regarded as the most significant tournament of the fall season Ė the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships held in Egg Harbor, N.J. In fitting fashion, the men saved its best all-around performance for the two-day tournament held on Oct. 1 and 2, highlighted by the second-place individual performance by senior Sage Smith. After shooting an ordinary 77 in the first round, Smith returned the following day with a fury.

"The first day of the tournament had really rough conditions, and when that happened we as a team just had to eliminate any really big numbers to keep ourselves in contention," Smith said. "The conditions on the second day were much better and there was potential to go low if you were hitting fairways off the tee."

Smith and his teammates took full advantage of the favorable weather, which seemed a rarity as of recent. 1 under through seven holes, Smith birdied holes eight, nine, and ten, a series of strokes that proved to be the momentum changer.

"I was just hitting fairways and greens and did not get myself into any trouble," Smith said. "During the round i would see the other guys on our team and tried to get them fired up because I knew if they played well we could win."

Smith finished the round with a school and personal best round of 68 that included four birdies and one eagle at hole 17. His second-day score marked his fifth career round of par-or-better and was the Mountís first sub-70 stroke performance in two years.

"Thatís what is great about the guys on our team," Michalek said in regard to the tournament. "Every one of us has the potential to shoot a 68, Sage just happened to have the right stroke that day."

Smithís 1 over total score of 145 was not to overshadow an all-around collective effort. Michalek and OíGrady tied for 13th after 155 strokes while Hyre and Ellison also added top-30 scores. The team score was the Mountís best since 2007, earning them second place behind Boston College.

"Many people don't understand how golf could be a team sport, but itís all about picking each other up and putting four good scores on the board," Smith added. "Thatís what we did at ECAC's Ė we put up four good solid scores and it got us a second place finish."

The womenís team was plagued by, yet again, poor playing conditions during its ECAC tournament. The Twisted Dune Golf Club collaborated with ECAC officials and made the decision to suspend play after only 27 of 36 holes, leaving the womenís team with an 11th place finish. Competing for the Mount were Roe, Serruta, Hall, Corbett, and Fry.

Nonetheless, greater fortune awaited the women the following week at the Holiday Inn Colonial Classic. Hall shot rounds of 82 and 85 to finish third individually and also led the team to a third place finish. Her performance earned her NEC Womenís Golfer of the Week for the week of Oct. 6-12. The honor was Hallís first and the schoolís sixth in 13 years.

The men mirrored the womenís performance with a third-place finish at the same tournament. Michalek and Lawton finished fifth overall with scores of 152 while Wetzel followed with a 153. The men consider their late-season tournament successes to be an optimistic precursor for things to come, though the team will surely seek a measure of improvement.

"I really believe weíll be even better in the spring season," Michalek said. "The teamís bringing in an exchange student from Spain, and it will be interesting to see how the top 5 is affected. Our freshmen will have an entire season under their belt too, so we should look good at for our first spring tournament in Savannah, Ga."

"The team is just really excited for conference championships in the spring," Roe said in closing.

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