(photo courtesy of MercerBears.com) MU's Kimberly Graff had a solid tournament for the Bears, helping them score low in a top-10 finish in Crystal River, FL.

The headline might not be gaudy, but after an eighth place finish in the 23-team field at the University of Cincinnati Spring Invitational, Mercer’s women’s golf program is primed for perhaps their best run into the Atlantic Sun tournament in recent history. The Bears’ final round total of 307 on Sunday cemented their finish behind tournament champion North Texas and A-Sun rivals Campbell (907) and Stetson (908) as they would finish with a tournament score of 918.

“The Cincinnati tournament was a big step for our program,” said head coach Gary Guyer. “It was a large field against some tough teams, especially with our conference foes in the mix. Our teams destination has always been to win the A-Sun Conference Championship and by going head-to-head with the past conference champions, we proved to ourselves that we can beat these guys,” he added.

Individually, Mercer would put solid scores on the board courtesy of Kimberly Graff (T-12th, 76-75-73) and Mary Alice Murphy (T-18th, 73-74-80). Murphy started the final round in 8th place with a shot at a top-ten finish, but a tough final round put her in the tie for 18th with Stetson’s Ryan Ashburn.

The Bears’ rounded out their scorecard with Lacey Fears (T-66th, 77-85-76), Aurelie Wiriath (T-71st, 85-76-78) and Kaitlin Marrin (T-76th, 81-79-80) to give Mercer a solid position in the tournament that featured 121 individual players.

Graff’s clean scorecard on the final day helped propel the Bears to the top-10 finish as a team, taking two bogeys on the third and fourth holes while making up ground with a birdie on the seventh.
“Kimmy Graff had three good rounds and Mary Alice had two solid rounds (73, 74) and was in position to contend for the tournament championship,” said Guyer analyzing the team’s results after the tournament.  “Her final day was a learning experience and she will finish stronger at conference. Lacey had two good rounds and has the talent to score much lower. Aurelie started slow on Day 1, but her swing coach was at the tournament and was able to adjust her swing so she finished strong the last two rounds. Kaitlin had four birdies in all three rounds at the tournament. Once she eliminates the mistakes she will be shooting in the mid 70’s. We need her to do that,” Guyer added.

Paired with A-Sun rivals each of the three days, Mercer took a long hard look at their competition for the upcoming Atlantic Sun Championship April 11-13 at the Victoria Hills Golf Club in DeLand, Florida. With only a one more tournament remaining, the Gardner-Webb Dual Match at the Patriot Club in Ninety-Six, North Carolina on April 2, the orange and black looks to upset the conference field in less than three weeks. Last year’s five would record three consecutive 305’s at the A-Sun tournament to finish on a strong note. Guyer feels like this team could do even better in three weeks.

Currently, Mercer is ranked #158 wand sits behind A-Sun competitors Kennesaw State (#75), Campbell (#78), ETSU (#86), Stetson (#94), and FGCU (#133).