After a successful campaign during the 2013 fall season, the Belmont men’s and women’s golf teams are ready to return to the course to compete for an Ohio Valley Conference title this spring.
In the preseason poll released last month, the men were selected to finish second behind defending champion Austin Peay and the women were picked to place fifth in the conference.
Both teams will compete in a number of tournaments across the South leading up to the OVC conference tournament, which will be held in late April in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
In the fall, the men’s team claimed its first tournament title in five years with a win in the APSU Intercollegiate in October. Belmont coach Scott Flynn believes the success for his team can be traced back to last spring.
“The guys had steady improvement all last year and it carried over into a consistent, strong fall season,” Flynn said. “We just continue to work on the same thing and get better.”
The Bruins are led by Ashton Van Horne who posted four top-10 finishes including his first individual title at the APSU Intercollegiate. The sophomore also had a conference-best 71.0 stroke average.
“He’s got great power and length distance coming in,” Flynn said. “But now he has really refined his short game.”
Also returning to the course for the Bruins is senior captain Ben Simpson, who earned a career-best second place finish at the Murray State Invitational.
“All the work over four years, it’s paying off for him now. He has made steady improvement each year,” Flynn said.
While the Bruins finished seventh in the conference tournament last year, Flynn said the competitive play from teams like Austin Peay and others shows the strength of the OVC.
“It will be a battle. No question about that. If we can just continue to build on momentum, we’re ready to compete and play as well as we can,” Flynn said.
The team is in the midst of opening the season at the Pinehurst Intercollegiate tournament where they currently lead the field at +15.
As the women’s team looks to continue improving off its fall performance, the harsh weather conditions have made the transition into the spring difficult for the Bruins.
“The bad winter has kept us from getting out,” said Belmont coach Lissa Bradford. “It’s just normal Nashville weather. We get one or two decent days but the courses have been shut down.”
Belmont will look to rely on a mix of strong play and leadership from juniors Evin Edens and Sydney Hudson in addition to freshmen duo Abbie Gregory and Megan Heath.
“We have four new freshmen which is different from last year,” Edens said. “But the team chemistry is great and balances well. It has benefitted us.”
Edens also said she is interested to see how the scores end up for the team as it works toward its goal of winning a tournament.
“We have a competitive attitude all the time,” Edens said. “Our main goal is to win the conference but to win a tournament would be a huge boost, too.”
Not only will the Bruins have their chance in several tournaments this spring, but Belmont will also take part in one day matches including a dual match against rival Lipscomb on Apr. 9. Bradford believes that participating in the one day matches keeps the team fresh on the course.
“We’ve got a good schedule going into the tournament,” Bradford said. “We start off early and it gives us time to work and improve.”
The team will begin its spring season Mar. 10-11 when it travels to Jacksonville, Fla., to compete in the UNF Invitational.