By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations
CHANDLER, Ariz. – Senior Bethany Leclair spent the fall semester away from the golf course doing her student teaching in Phoenix. The time away from the golf clubs rejuvenated her game and gave her a confident direction in her postgraduate career.
Leclair, who is a Scottsdale Pinnacle High School product, spent eight weeks in the classrooms of Desert Trails Elementary and Palomino Primary working with first grade and preschool classes. The student teaching is a requirement for her degree in elementary education.
“I loved it,” said Leclair. “It was fun knowing you are an authority figure. The kids loved you. It was a great experience I know it is exactly what I want to do after I graduate. It was fun to go everyday and it was a lot of hard work. It was really worth it.”
While Leclair was in the classroom, she put the clubs away for a while.
“I did not do any golf to be honest and did not play much last summer,” said Leclair. “I needed a break. I did not compete at all in the fall. I just involved myself in my teaching.”
Leclair has been in the lineup since her arrival on campus in 2006. She was a nominee for athletic department’s rookie of the year award, seeing action in nine events and posting a 78.2 stroke average as a freshman. She had a breakout tournament at the Big Sky Championships, finishing six-over par to tie for second overall and tops among freshmen in the field.
After missing her sophomore year due to elbow surgery, Leclair returned to help the team to a Big Sky Conference Championship and NCAA Regional berth in 2009. She earned All-Big Sky second team honors, a feat she has accomplished now three times after garnering selection again this year.
The break provided by the semester student teaching has proved to be beneficial. After starting back practicing in October, Leclair has returned this spring for her final semester with a fresh attitude and healthier swing after battling back problems.
She has seen action in five tournaments, improving her overall placing in each of the first four tournaments while getting back into the swing, literally. She tied for first at the Lumberjack Shootout at Wigwam to win her first career tournament. The back-to-back rounds of 71 in the second and third rounds were her best single rounds since posting a career-best 69 at the 2009 Cowgirl Classic played at Ocotillo during her sophomore season.
“It was a lot of fun especially since it is my senior year to go out and do well to win an event like that,” said Leclair, who was named the Black Clover Big Sky Player of the Week (March 19, 2011) for her efforts. “It went above and beyond my expectations. We all played really well. It was an incredible feeling. I did not know I had won it until I got off the 18th green. I did not know I still had that in me.”
She does still have it, posting a career-best 76.6 scoring average in her senior season.
Leclair’s play has solidified a lineup that will be among the favorites to contend at the Big Sky Championships that start Monday at Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler.
“We are really close so it makes going out and shooting the scores fun,” said Leclair. “We have the same attitude towards each other. Being able to put these rounds together gives us a lot of confidence going into conference.”
NAU has won four tournaments this season: the Circling Raven Collegiate Invitational, the Cal Poly Lamkin Grip Women’s Invitational, the Red Rocks Invitational and the Lumberjack Shootout at Wigwam. The four tournament titles ties the school record for wins in a season set in 2009-10.
Bedortha says Leclair gives confidence to her teammates with her strong play. Five Lumberjacks have combined to win the Big Sky Player of the Week nine times this season. Stephanie Kim and Alexa Kim have each garnered the honors three times each while Kaitlen Parsons, Dakin Whitmer and Leclair have won the honor once.
“We know she is going to go out and shoot a good score for us,” said Head Coach Brad Bedortha, whose Lumberjacks are also on pace to set the school scoring record. “She has played solid the last two tournaments and really competed for us.”
In addition to winning the Lumberjack Shootout, Leclair posted a top-10 finish at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic, the site of the Big Sky Championships. She also has experience playing in the championship atmosphere as one of six players in the field making their fourth championship appearance, joining Eastern Washington’s Kelli Holmstedt, Idaho State’s Kylie Smith, Montana’s Carissa Simmons, Sacramento State’s Samantha Saffold and Portland State’s Alexia Brown.
While Leclair is looking forward to taking her place in front of the class soon, she hopes to be the class of the field next week at the Big Sky Championships in Phoenix.