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Women’s Golf Preview: Lumberjacks Host Red Rocks Invite

First Round Pairings (PDF)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Defending Big Sky Conference women’s golf champion Northern Arizona is the coaches’ top pick in the 2010 preseason poll. They start preparation for their defense of the conference title this weekend, hosting the Red Rocks Invitational at Oak Creek Country Club in Sedona.

“The expectations are definitely higher,” said Head Coach Brad Bedortha. “I don’t think they hope to win a conference championship. They expect to win a conference championship”
Northern Arizona captured its sixth Big Sky championship with a six-shot victory over Sacramento State last April in Chandler, Ariz. The Lumberjacks enjoyed a solid 2009 spring campaign, winning three of five tournaments, and finishing second at another.
The Lumberjacks continued to post strong play this fall, winning three consecutive tournaments to start the season. NAU averaged 301.7 strokes per round during the fall.

“We have two things playing on our side,” said Bedortha. “One, we have a ton of experience. With the exception of Ali Carter, who graduated, we have four of the five players from the conference championship last year. They got a lot of experience in the fall and will get more this spring. And we also have depth. We also have eight players that are very solid that are pushing one another for starting positions.”

The loss of Carter will be felt. She was a four-time All-Big Sky Conference selection, including first team honors in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and posted a 77.1 stroke average over 92 rounds in 36 events, the second-best scoring average in school history. Overall, she recorded 15 top-20 and nine top-10 finishes in her career.

Junior Alexa Kim, who tied the school single-round school record with a 69 at the Grand Canyon Fall Invitational this fall, led the Lumberjacks at the 2009 Big Sky Championships with her second-place finish. She has posted a team-best 75.1 stroke average this fall.

Seniors Megan Buck and Meghan Bremer have also been among the team leaders. Bremer posted two top-10 finishes this fall, recording her top two collegiate rounds in the process. Buck, who also carded a collegiate-best at the Grand Canyon Invitational, has played in 33 career tournaments over the last four seasons. Senior Lauren Halstead looks to cap her career with a strong final spring season.

Juniors Dakin Banta, who is coming off shoulder surgery, and Bethany Leclair will contend for a playing spot in the spring, adding more experience to the lineup. Both have been All-Big Sky performers in the past.

Freshmen Stephanie Kim and Aleah Kim have both shown the ability to have an impact in their first collegiate semester. Stephanie Kim was the top finisher on the team two times and won the Grand Canyon Invitational in her third collegiate start.

“Our goal is to play well every tournament,” said Bedortha. “We have some tournaments spread out over the course of the spring. The biggest thing is having them playing and competing as much as we can.”

NAU will open the spring by hosting the Red Rocks Invitational in Sedona, Ariz.

“We will see a lot of good teams,” said Bedortha. “I think we will be battle-tested by the time the conference tournament comes around.”

Based on the fall results that produced five of the top 15 team rounds in school history, the coaches pick looks like a strong favorite.

“We have proved at times we can be very good but I am cautiously optimistic,” said Bedortha. “When you look at our roster from top to bottom there have been a lot of good scores. It is going to be interesting to see who is going to step up and take over. We are going to see who wants to play Lumberjack golf.”

Saturday will be a shot gun start at 1 p.m., while Sunday will start at 8 a.m. with a shot gun start with 18 holes played each day. The field for the 2010 Red Rocks Invitational will include 18 teams – host Northern Arizona, Cal Poly, CS-Bakersfield, Eastern Michigan, Grand Canyon, Louisiana Monroe, Montana, Montana State, Northern Colorado, North Dakota State, Portland, South Carolina Upstate, Southern Utah, UC-Riverside, Utah Valley, Western Michigan, Western New Mexico and Xavier.

Four teams return for a fifth consecutive season to the event, including Montana, Montana State, Northern Arizona and Western Michigan.

Last year junior Megan Buck finished tied for second with a seven-over par 151 as the top finisher for the Northern Arizona. Buck carded a three-over par 75 in the final round to finish in a three-way tie with a pair of Michigan teammates, Ashley Bauer and Lydia Benitez. Montana State’s Kelly Gillum won the individual title with a four-over par 148 helped by a one-over par 73 in the final round. NAU finished fourth overall at 629, three strokes behind third-place finisher Winthrop. Oral Roberts was second at 622. Michigan won the team title with a 33-over par 609. The Lumberjacks were led by sophomore Alexa Kim, who finished sixth overall at 153 after a seven-over par 79 in the final round. Senior Ali Carter posted the low round for the Lumberjacks in the playing lineup with a 77 to finish in a tie for 13th.

DID YOU KNOW…The Lumberjacks had 11 of the 15 intercollegiate teams record a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher led by women’s soccer at 3.42. Women’s basketball was close behind at 3.39, followed by women’s cross country (3.35), women’s golf (3.29), swimming and diving (3.25) volleyball (3.22) and men’s cross country (3.19).