Hanna Alberto returns to competition with win at Horseshoe Bay

Sam Houston State golfer Hanna Alberto takes a swing during the 2019 Southland Conference Championship at High Meadow Ranch Golf Club in Magnolia.

In her first tournament since the COVID-19 outbreak put the sports world on hold, one of the top college golfers in the country showed no signs of rust.

Sam Houston State senior Hanna Alberto raced away from the competition at this week’s Horseshoe Bay Collegiate Showcase, shooting 6-under-par to win the tournament by nine shots.

The Bearkats were also represented at the Horseshoe Bay Collegiate Showcase by Leah Alberto and Madison Freeman, who finished tied for sixth.

“I was more excited, so I think I performed better than I thought I was going to,” Hanna said. “I birdied the first four holes on the first day, so I was like, 'I can't mess it up.' I felt a little more pressure the next day because it was the last day of the tournament. You don't want to mess anything up while you're in the lead, so I just tried to pretend it was the first day again and tried my best.”

“Hanna has a pretty big summer, and this is a good start … she just played lights out and did what she does,” added Sam Houston State golf coach Brandt Kieschnick. “I'm really proud of Leah and Madison. Madison redshirted this year, so it was her first tournament in a while. She performed very well, and Leah just continues to be a great player for us. She's a young player that has been really improving, and she showed that.”

Hanna will look to build off this momentum as she begins what could be a pivotal summer for her, starting with the Texas Women's Amateur next month. She has also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, based on the exemption list, and is currently awaiting an official invitation.

While this was her first tournament since the sports shutdown in March, Hanna has stayed sharp mentally by continuing to compete against talented golfers.

“I compete with my sister a lot. Whether we play nine or 18, we're just trying to win,” she said. “We also play with (University of Houston golfer) Ariana Saenz and her sister. We play 18 holes once a week, so it's kind of like a mini tournament. We play with Madison Freeman too, whenever we can drive down to where she is.

“We just keep playing ... and that's something I noticed coming from high school to college golf. I noticed we play a lot more than just practicing, and I think it keeps your game sharp.”

For Kieschnick, who has been staying in touch with his team through Zoom calls the past few months, this week’s strong showing from the Alberto sisters and Freeman spurs optimism moving forward.

“We're really encouraged by the work they're putting in,” he said. “Golf is very safe, so it's kind of been their outlet to get back on the course. I think they have a little renewed energy to play as good as they can, because they're thankful they can play.

“This is huge for us to see — that after not competing for probably three months, they've still got it.”