MISHAWAKA—Since starting the women’s golf program in 2002, the team has made 21 national championship appearances between both NAIA and NCCAA. Over the past several seasons, the team has been on the cusp of winning a national title and placed in the top five in the NCCAA National Tournament in four of the last five years.
“Early on in the fall this was our goal from the get-go,” Women’s Golf Coach Chris Hess said. “We wanted to improve every day, and we worked hard to do that. We knew that our ultimate goal was to be at nationals, and obviously win it. It was just exciting to see them prepare, and [to see] how they played.”
The Pilots had previously placed first or second in their last four tournaments. This year, the NCCAA National Championship Tournament was held in Palm Coast, Fla. from Oct. 18-20. Exiting the first round of play, the Pilots led the tournament by nine shots over the inner-conference rival, Grace College. They had four golfers inside the top ten, with Jessica Shurety tied for second with her score of 78.
“We did some things that people don’t really think about,” Hess said. “We really prepared for the golf course, and we had a mindset that we were going to go in and focus on what we can do, and not what anyone else can do. We did some things with coaching where we had some coaches stay with specific players. We also built gameplans for each hole and eliminated big scores that can kill us. You can always have a plan, and prepare, but if you don’t execute it doesn’t matter. These ladies went out and executed.”
On the second day of play, the Pilots saw their lead increase by two strokes to an eleven-shot advantage heading into the final round of play. Shuerty played her best round of the tournament, shooting a score of 73.
“Jess has been phenomenal since she got here last year,” Hess said. “I think this is her seventh tournament win, but to win medalist at a national tournament, and win by nine shots, and at one point she led by eleven—she has really set herself apart from most of the players she plays with in tournaments. She has separated herself from the conference and has proven herself as one of the best players in the nation.”
On the final day, the Pilots entered up eleven shots and took over even more in the final round. As a team, Bethel shot a 314 on the day, whereas Grace shot a 347. The Pilots won the program’s first-ever national title, beating the field by 44 strokes. Jessica Shuerty won the tournament with a score of 225. She beat the rest of the field by nine strokes.
“It’s been great, there’s been a lot of people reaching out,” said Coach Hess. “Women’s Golf has been a very successful program since we started . . . we’ve been ranked highly for many years, we’ve made it to national tournaments, but we had never won a national title. So, a lot of people were excited about that. Again, it’s fun to put up another banner for another team because there wasn’t one for golf.”
For more information about the Women’s Golf team visit www.bupilots.com.