Golf teams prepare for spring

The MU golf teams are in the midst of a winter of reflection — reviewing their fall-season achievements and contemplating their spring-season goals.

At the end of the rainbow for these squads is a trip to the NCAA regionals. It has become a routine accomplishment for the men's squad — 12 of MU's past 13 seasons have resulted in an invitation to the semi-Big Dance.

But for the women, it would be a first.

For the past three years, Coach Mary Scott's women's team has been on the brink of making the field only to be cut by the selection committee. After a solid fall season, Scott said it looks as if a regional bid could be close again.

"We'd be right on the bubble," Scott said. "It would be a close call at this point. We are going to be facing these teams [in our region on] a number of occasions. I like our chances."

Her freshman players have kept Scott's hopes high. Freshmen Letitia Moses [recently selected in South Africa as the best junior athlete, in all sports] and Stefanie Mitchell have made major contributions this fall.

"It's exciting to see these freshmen come in and make this college transition," Scott said. "Often, it affects their golf swing, but these freshmen have hit the ground running."

This certainly was true in Moses' case. During her first collegiate tournament, she earned medalist honors and spearheaded an MU victory at Illinois State.

The women had another fall highlight during play at Indiana, where senior Kristen Samp, the Tigers' senior leader, set a course record by carding a first-round, 5-under-par 68.

In her best performance of an excellent fall season, Samp took second place at Indiana after losing in a playoff.

One of the things with which Scott was most pleased was her squad's consistency — they recorded first, fourth, sixth and two third-place finishes.

"We've proven to ourselves we can play with anybody," Scott said. "No matter how many times I might say it, they have to experience it and have the confidence to do it. That kind of confidence will really pay dividends in the spring. They won't be afraid to butt heads with anybody."

While Scott termed her squad's fall season as "fantastic," Missouri men's coach Richard Poe wasn't quite as enthused when describing his team's play.

"I didn't feel we played as well as we could have," Poe said. "We didn't play up to our potential. I would say I am satisfied but not pleased."

There were reasons for the men's autumn struggles, including sickness, which exposed the team's lack of depth. Poe was able to play his top five golfers in only one tournament.

On the positive side, the experience gained by MU's various younger golfers should help down the road.

"We got to play seven or eight guys," Poe said. "In the long run, it should help the team, but it kept us from having the fall season we would have liked."

Missouri finished in a tie for fifth at Kansas, ninth in its own tournament, last at Tulsa, sixth at Louisiana Tech and 10th at Stanford. Still, MU is in good position to make yet another trip to the regionals.

"We're in good shape to go to the NCAA regionals," Poe said. "If the selection was today, we'd go. Hopefully, we'll improve our position in the spring."

In order to accomplish this goal, Poe believes he will need five of his top six golfers — Jason Schultz, Matt Roney, Justin Stroud, Ethan Rost, Kris Casburn and Doyle Moffit — set to tee off at every tournament.

Leading the Tigers in the fall was senior Schultz, who twice placed in the top 10.

Poe's squad will begin the spring season during the second week of February in Monterrey, Mexico.

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