(Editor’s Note: This is a release from MSU Billings)
BILLINGS – Coming off its best team round of the 2016-17 season, the Montana State University Billings women’s golf team is set to take on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships presented by the Coeur d’Alene Resort on Monday and Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
The two-round women’s event will tee off Monday morning at 7:30 a.m., with 18 holes scheduled for both Monday and Tuesday on the par-71, 5,914-yard course layout. “We have a very balanced team, and they all have the ability to be the top scorer on a given day,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “If we play consistently, then it’s not out of the question that all five of them could turn in a sub-80 round. Knowing that four of them have played the course in years past is definitely to our advantage as well.”
Racking up four scorecards below the 80 mark in its most recent tournament, MSUB shot a season-best 303 in Round 1 of the Western New Mexico University Invitational last week in Arizona. The ‘Jackets enter the championship event No. 2 in the conference in scoring average at 316.4 strokes per round, less than half a stroke behind conference leader Western Washington (315.8). “We have had an awesome spring, and the past few tournaments we have been playing really consistently,” said junior Sammy Walter. “Our games are all really peaking right now at the right time, and we are all really excited for this tournament.”
Walter enters the tournament tied for the team lead in scoring average and ranked No. 7 in the GNAC at 78.9 strokes per round. The junior tied a school record earlier this year with a two-round total of 146 (72-74) on Oct. 11, when she finished tied for first place at the Western Washington Invitational. Walter finished in a tie for 21st place at last year’s GNAC Championships, carding a two-round score of 162 (79-83).
Fellow junior Bailee Dexter is tied with Walter at 78.9 strokes per round this spring, and is coming off her third-career 74 last week in the opening round of the Western New Mexico University Invite. The Yellowjackets will rely on Dexter’s strong history at the GNAC Championships, where she has finished as the team’s top golfer in sixth place in each of the last two seasons. As a freshman in 2015 Dexter shot a 157 (80-77), and a season ago she bettered the mark by one stroke at 156 (76-80) which was the best-ever performance by a Yellowjacket at the conference tournament.
Dexter joined GNAC Insider on Tuesday evening, to discuss the upcoming Championships.
Also with experience on the championship course are senior Haley Shackelford and sophomore Kortney McNeil. Shackelford will be playing the tournament for a third time like Walter and Dexter, with her best showing coming in 2015 when she shot a 160 (81-79) and finished in ninth place. On the year, the senior is averaging 83.3 strokes per round.
McNeil was MSUB’s second-highest finisher at the 2016 championships, tying for 18th place with a two-round total of 160 (82-78). The sophomore will enter the tournament in a groove, coming off back-to-back rounds of 75 to lead MSUB at the WNMU Invite last week. McNeil holds an 80.3 scoring average overall on the season.
Though sophomore Shealyn Hafer did not compete at last year’s championships, she has been one of the steadiest players for the ‘Jackets this spring with a team-third best average of 79.9. Hafer posted season bests of 75 in a single round to start the spring at the Beaver-‘Jacket Invite, and a 154 in two rounds at the Rocky Mountain College Invite in October.
The Yellowjackets enter with a chance to challenge first-place Western Washington, and four of the top-six teams are separated by less than three total strokes. Simon Fraser University is the reigning conference champion, after shooting a team score of 617 (308-309) at last year’s event.
GNAC Championships at the Coeur d’Alene Resort
36-Hole Total – 150, Sophie Elstrott, WWU, 75-75 (Apr. 18-19, 2011)
Single Round – 71, Jennifer Liedes, SMU (Apr. 19, 2016)
36-Hole Total, Team – 617, Simon Fraser, 308-309 (Apr. 18-19, 2016)
Single Round, Team – 304, Western Washington (Apr. 19, 2011)