After a successful season opener at the Redbird Invitational, the Bradley women’s golf team traveled to Springfield, Missouri and finished in a tie for eighth place at the Payne Stewart Memorial early this week.
Freshmen Maria Perakis and Kathryn McNease led the charge for the Braves, who flirted with a top-three finish in the 16-team contest.
“If you looked at the scoreboard, from third to 10th place, [it] was really, really, close,” head coach Halley Morell said. “This tournament showed the players the value of one shot; it was a five-shot difference, and if we would’ve been five shots better over the course of the tournament, we would’ve been in third place, not eighth.”
Oral Roberts (874) and California Baptist (882) were firmly entrenched in the top two slots. Bradley tied with eighth-place Wichita State with a 908 total for the tournament over three rounds.
The leaderboard was dense, as Drake and Murray State, who both shot 51 over par (903), shared third place. Tournament hosts Missouri State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi tied for fifth place (904) while Oklahoma City (906) followed closely behind and placed seventh. Austin Peay (909), UTEP (913), Missouri State’s B-team (920), Western Illinois (926), Tarleton State (947), Drury (978) and Eastern Illinois (1012) rounded out the leaderboard.
Over the 54-hole tournament, Perakis shot 224 (T15) and McNease was two strokes behind, posting a 226 (T20). The Payne Stewart Memorial marked Perakis’ second consecutive top-15 outing, while McNease found herself in the top 20 for the first time in her young collegiate career.
“Maria [Pekaris] and Kat [McNease] have been working really hard on their game throughout the summer and then coming in this season,” Morell said. “They’re both really coachable; they’ve been taking everything that we are working on and really taking it to heart, so I’m not surprised how they’re playing.”
Junior Mara Flaherty’s score of 228 helped her accompany the two freshmen in the top 25 (T23) and seniors Megan Welch (230) and Elyse Emerzian (248) placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in Bradley’s starting lineup.
Perakis attributed her successful performance to her long game.
“By keeping my backswing in check, I was hitting a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, so I kept myself out of trouble from getting any big numbers,” Perakis said.
Next up for the Braves is a return to the state of Missouri for the Johnie Imes Invitational in Columbia from Sept. 27-29. With a significant amount of time until the contest, Morell identified the team’s focus over the next week and a half.
“We have some weaknesses around the greens, some different chipping shots that we need to get better at, hitting our targets on chip shots and being able to manage the trajectory of those little trick shots,” Morell said. “If we can just clean up some of the chip shots around the green and some of the putting, I think we will make a lot of those things positive moving forward.”