April 13, 2011

Eagles Return to Ocotillo for 2011 Big Sky Conference Championship

Eastern hopes familiarity of course leads to low scores in final event of season

The most anticipated event of the 2010-11 season has arrived for the Eastern Washington University women's golf team. For the second time in two weeks and the fourth time in two years, the Eagles will head south to the Ocotillo Golf Resort in Chandler, Ariz., for the 2011 Big Sky Conference Championship, presented by Black Clover. The three-day, 54-hole event will begin Monday, April 18 and run through Wednesday, April 20.

Eastern played 54 holes at Ocotillo just two weeks ago in the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic. The Eags carded a total team score of 977 (333-322-322) to finish 21st out of 23 teams. Ocotillo was also home to the 2010 Big Sky Championships, so the team is quite familiar with this course in Chandler.

"The team is really starting to feel comfortable on this course," said EWU head golf coach Brenda Howe. "We were pleased to have a couple of decent team scores two weeks ago at the Cowgirl Classic. We will use those numbers as a foundation, and look to improve from there at conference."

Eastern did get a little preview of its upcoming competition at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic, as all nine teams in the Big Sky were on hand. Among the league schools, EWU finished eighth, which happens to be the exact place it finished at the 2010 conference championship. Howe is confident, though in her team's ability to climb a few rungs on that ladder.

"When watching our scores throughout the Cowgirl Classic, we were pretty back-and-forth with Weber State, and we have already beat Northern Colorado and Weber State this season, so we know we have the potential. It will all depend on who shows up to play. In golf, all it really takes is two good scores to have a competitive team score. But on the flip side, if two girls play really poor, you have to take one of those scores, so it's all about who will step up each day to give the team the best shot."

The five individuals competing for Eastern in this year's conference championship will be senior Kellie Holmstedt, sophomores Jayme Carbon, Morgan Lee and Dana Stapleton, and freshman Sara Callagy.

These five players are the same five that competed last weekend at the casual Gonzaga Spring Individual at the Liberty Lake Golf Course. Although team scores were not officially recorded at the event, Eastern's cumulative effort in the second round at Liberty Lake would have been the lowest team score recorded thus far in the spring season. Counting the top four individual scores, EWU shot a 317.

For the season, the Eagles are averaging a score of 325.2 per round. Two of its three rounds at the Cowgirl Classic at Ocotillo two weeks ago were lower than that average.

A major factor in all of Eastern's low scores this season is Holmstedt, who has led the team in eight of nine events of the 2010-11 campaign. A native of North Bend, Ore., Holmstedt averages 79.2 strokes per round. In her career, Holmstedt has posted five top-10 finishes and seven in the top 20, which includes a share of seventh at the 2008 Big Sky Championships and 15th in 2009. Although Holmstedt had a less than favorable finish last year at the league tourney (T-42nd), the senior is hoping to reclaim her status as one of the top golfers in the Big Sky. And this weekend in Arizona, she will have a valuable comrade in her corner.

"Kellie has a lot of experience on this course," said Howe. "She is our senior captain, and I know she wants to perform well in her final tournament with the Eagles. Marc Hughes [EWU associate athletic director and former Eagle golf coach] will be going down with us, and will walk with Kellie during the competition. He brought her in as a freshman, so I think having him there to support will help Kellie feel even more comfortable and confident on the course."

Live scoring of the 2011 Big Sky Conference Championship will be available via Golfstat at http://www.golfstatresults.com/public/index.cfm?tournament_id=2213.

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