A-Sun win imperative for Stetson's season
When the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship rolls around, Stetson always seems to have its “A” game. The Hatters won their third consecutive conference championship April 13 at Victoria Hills Golf Club at home in DeLand, Fla., earning an automatic qualifying spot into regional play.
For Stetson, a conference win was imperative if the team wanted a shot at the postseason. Ranked No. 91 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, it’s unlikely the Hatters would have qualified any other way. They knew it going in, but it didn’t make any difference.
“Maybe that put more pressure on us, maybe it didn’t, but we had no chance if we didn’t win,” said head coach Floyd Kerr.
Campbell and East Tennessee State, other favorites for the Atlantic Sun automatic qualifying spot, were in the same boat as Stetson at the beginning of the week. Ranked No. 82 and 84, respectively, those teams are now unlikely to make it to postseason, though all three advanced to regionals last year.
For the second year in a row, Stetson entered the final round with shots to make up. Last year, Stetson was down 12, but overcame the deficit to win by four. This year, the Hatters only trailed by three, and after a 3-over 291 in the final round, finished at 30-over 294, 12 shots ahead of second-place Campbell.
So how does Stetson turn on its jets when they’re most needed? This time around, Kerr made sure his players kept their minds on their own games, and after a rough start – the team went 4 over in the first two holes – he watched his players rally to stay in the tournament.
“We could have gone either way and we just decided that we were going to tighten it up and play good,” Kerr said. “I think we shot 1 under on the back.”
The Atlantic Sun win was the second victory for Stetson since last year’s conference championship. They team also won the Holiday Inn Express Hatter Classic, played at Victoria Hills in November.
Stetson is slated to host the East Regional at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., next month. While the team doesn’t frequent the course, there still will be enough familiarity to give the Hatters a leg-up once again.
“We’re playing close to home where you’re familiar with the fairway grass and the grass on the greens a little more than maybe some of the other schools coming down here,” Kerr said.
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Short shots: Pepperdine will look to win the West Coast Conference Championship for the 10th consecutive time starting Monday. The West Coast champion does not earn an automatic qualifier into postseason play since the league only has five participating schools. Seattle has been added has an affiliate member this year, and BYU joins the league next year to give the league an AQ next spring. . . . Coastal Carolina won the Big South Conference Championship and joins Stetson as the first teams to earn a spot in regional play.
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Keep track of conference results through Golfweek.com’s complete coverage page.
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Five questions with Stetson sophomore Alexandria Buelow, who won the individual title at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship.
1.) You had 15 pars in a final-round 71 at the A-Sun Championship. That’s a very consistent round.
I made birdie on my first hole, it’s a par 4 and made probably about a 4- or 5-foot putt and then a bunch of pars and hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. Kind of just two-putting. My eighth hole, I had a tricky putt and I ended up leaving it like 4 feet short and missing that 4-footer for my only bogey of the day. I think I missed like two or three greens in between holes 9 and 18, got up and down, and all my other holes just hit the green and two-putted. I was probably hitting inside 30 feet most of the day, just couldn’t get anything to fall. The pin positions were pretty tough, just had to leave yourself on the right side of the hole, that’s for sure.
2.) You finished five shots ahead of second place. Did you know where you stood coming up Nos. 16, 17, 18?
My coaches told me that if I wanted to know anything throughout the round, as far as where our team stood or where I stood individually, just to ask them. I didn’t end up asking until after I hit my drive on 18. Eighteen is a par 5 so I didn’t know if I needed to make birdie for the team or individual-wise and then I asked and they said that I had a four-stroke lead on 18 and that the team had an eight-stroke lead on and ended up winning by 12 and then by 5 – I birdied my last hole.
3.) How is this year’s team different than last year’s team (which also won the A-Sun Championship)?
We lost two seniors that were on the conference championship team last year. Last we came back from quite a bit, we were 12 shots behind going into the last round last year and we ended up making up 16 shots and winning by four. I think last year we threw out 75 and we went out early last year on the last day and just played really consistent and I know one of our teammates had shot 3 under and it just really helped going out early and getting off before the wind and stuff like that picked up. It was definitely a lot different. This year we were within reaching distance of Campbell, who was three shots ahead of us. From what I hear now, we picked up those three shots within the first four holes on the last day. We kind of had the mindset where we could definitely win this tournament whereas last year we were just kind of going to go out and have fun, see if we could play consistent and see what happens.
4.) What is your goal for postseason? Do you have a score in mind to advance out of regionals?
We’ve played this golf course in a tournament in the fall and I’ve played it twice because I’ve been here for two years. I think basically we’re going to need to play pretty much how we played the first day of conference and the last day of conference, the best that we can. The East Region is so competitive so I really don’t have a set score because the Legends can be kind of tricky. ... I think if we don’t shoot any scores over probably 77, 78 we’ll have a good chance as a team.
5.) What does your summer tournament schedule look like?
I went to qualifying school for the Futures Tour as an amateur this past November and I got status out on the Futures Tour so most of my summer will be Futures events, traveling for that. I’m going to probably play 10 events out there and then the big amateur stuff. I’m going to try to qualify for the U.S. Am, try to qualify for the Women’s Public Links and also try to qualify for the U.S. Open.