If the Bearkats keep playing like this, Sam Houston State could become the first Southland Conference women’s golf team to win the league championship on its home course.
Sparked by sophomore Kirsten Spittler’s 3-under-par round of 68 Tuesday, the Bearkats grabbed a 10-stroke lead over Central Arkansas with a two-day total of 578 for first place heading into today’s final round at Raven Nest Golf Club.
Spittler, who was playing in the third to last group which teed off on hole No. 1 Tuesday morning, got off to a furious start. She birdied the first three holes.
Things got a little rocky from there as Spittler bogeyed two of the next three holes before closing the front nine with a birdie on No. 8 and a par on No. 9. She also birdied No. 10, No. 13 and No. 16, then closed with two straight pars to finish at 3 under, which set an SLC tournament record for a single round.
“I did get off to a good start, but I did get shaky every once in a while,” said Spittler, who is second in the individual standings at 142, two stokes behind Central Arkansas’ Rebecca Sorensen. “I shot 2 under on the front nine and played even par on the back before I got a birdie on No. 16. It was a good round for me.”
Spittler might have had the best round of the day, but her Sam Houston State teammates were almost as solid. Freshman Shelby Hardy shaved two strokes off her opening round 73 to move into a tie for fourth with Valdis Jonsdottir of Texas State at 2 over 144.
Hardy opened with two straight pars, then knocked in a birdie putt on No. 3, which is a par-4, 380-yard hole. She followed with 14 consecutive pars before closing with a bogey on No. 18 after hitting her approach shot out of bounds.
“We just need to continue to play safe and make pars,” Hardy said. “There are some birdie holes out there, but there are holes you just want to get away with a par. The key out here is to mix in a couple of birdies with pars and that is what we have been trying to do.”
So far Sam Houston’s game plan has been working. The Bearkats shot a team total of 285 Tuesday, which was eight strokes better than their opening-round score.
Freshman Meghan Musk, who was tied for the lead heading into Tuesday, shot a 2-over 73 and is currently in third place at 143. She had three birdies, nine pars and five bogeys during the second round.
Junior Meghann Stevens had a better showing Tuesday. She was three strokes better with a 73, which has her tied for ninth at 149 with Shannon Jungman of UTSA and Krista Puisite of Texas State.
The biggest jump for the Bearkats was by senior Landa Stewart. She opened the tournament with a disappointing 7-over 78 Monday. She bounced back with a 2-over 73 Tuesday to move into 15th place.
“When your high score of the day is a 73, you have to feel happy about that,” SHSU head coach Tommy Chain said. “When you are coaching out there and you know you are counting only four scores and a couple of girls are going south, you can get nervous. But I knew that we have five girls that can post good scores out here, so I knew we would have a good score at the finish.
“Kirsten stepping up with a 3 under was big. Shelby has played big for us all year. We just had great scores from all the girls and I’m ecstatic at how we are playing so far.”
Texas State is in third (593) after the Bobcats shaved a stroke off their opening round 297. UTSA is fourth (596) followed by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (613), McNeese State (614), Lamar (625) and Stephen F. Austin.
The tournament concludes today with 18 holes. The Bearkats will be paired with UCA and the two teams will begin teeing off from hole No. 1 at 8:10 a.m.
“I told the girls that to have a 10-shot lead heading into the final round is nice, but they have to stay level-headed,” Chain added. “We have one more day and two-thirds doesn’t do the deal. “I told them to be happy, enjoy tonight and be ready tomorrow.”
SLC tournament notes
Had a bad day — Former Huntsville High School standout Lacy McKinley ran into trouble during the second round of the Southland Conference Women’s Golf Championship at Raven Nest Golf Club on Tuesday.
The McNeese State senior shot a 10-over-par, 81 to fall from a tie for fourth to a tie for 18th place heading into today’s final round. McKinley shot a 72 Monday and is sitting at 153 for the tournament.
Under par — Only two golfers managed to shoot under par on the opening day of the Southland Conference Women’s Golf Championship on Monday. Sam Houston State’s Meghan Musk and Central Arkansas’ Rebecca Sorensen each carded a 1-under 70.
Things were a little better Tuesday. Sorensen matched her opening round 70 to remain in first place in the individual standings and SHSU’s Kirsten Spittler set an SLC tournament record for a single round with a 3-under 68.
Texas State’s Caitlin Bliss, who is in sixth place, and UTSA’s Paola Valerio, who is tied for seventh, each posted a 1-under 70 Tuesday.
Sam Houston’s Shelby Hardy just missed out joining the under-par party with an even 71 in the second round.