Defending champions

After a strong third-round victory in the Texas State Bobcat Invitational last Tuesday, the Sam Houston State women’s golf team is running full steam ahead. The Bearkats won the tournament title on the Victoria Golf Course with an 11-stroke lead, defeating conference opponents Lamar, Texas State and Central Arkansas in a powerful precursor to the Southland Conference tournament next week.

“The girls are just playing super,” SHSU women’s coach Tommy Chain said. “They’ve been striking the ball well, scoring well and their attitudes are very positive. We couldn’t be in a better situation going into the conference tournament winning against three of the best teams in the SLC other than ourselves.”

The SLC tournament, which is being held on Lamar’s home field at the Beaumont Country Club, begins this Monday and continues through Wednesday. Last season, Sam Houston State won the conference championship by 13 strokes over then two-time defending SLC champion Lamar Cardinals with Stefanie Page picking up the individual title.

This season the Bearkats are led by senior Jenny Heinz , who claimed the individual tournament title at the Bobcat Invitational. Heinz was one of three Bearkats in the top ten in the conference tournament last season with an eighth place finish.

“Jenny has been our number one player,” Chain said. “She has been very dominant for the team and I’ve always been a strong believer that you have to have a player step up and lead the team. Jenny has been that team leader for us this season. I’m expecting more of Jenny at the conference meet this season. I’m really excited about her being a conference medalist this year. We had Stefanie Page win the title last season; it would be nice to have a repeat.”

Besides picking up momentum going into the tournament, the Sam Houston State team also has the advantage of a new state-of-the art golf training facility, the first of its kind in the SLC. Constructed by the university on the Raven’s Nest Golf Course and opened this spring, the facility provides both the men’s and women’s golf teams with camera equipment and technology to help analyze and improve the mechanics of their game.

“The first benefit is that when it’s been raining or cold, we’ve been able to open those doors and use it,” Chain said. “It’s a huge advantage to be able to practice on days we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. The second advantage is that we have the camera that captures three different angles. That’s a tremendous help and every player on the men’s and women’s teams has said ‘wow, what a huge advantage’. It’s just invaluable.”

The clear-cut frontrunners appear to be Sam Houston State with Lamar a close second. After downing the Cardinals last week in the Bobcat Invitational and halting their two-year conference win streak last season, the Bearkats will face a strong Lamar team with a list of grievances to avenge.

“Lamar has proven to be the strongest team in the conference this semester and we’re playing on their home course,” Chain said. “My concern is that it’s going to take an effort like we had at Victoria to win the conference. The girls proved that they are capable. I’m hoping we can stay in after two rounds because we are strongest on the last day. I want to say that I am proud of my girls because on the last day they are right there.”

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