Interview with Furman Golf Coach Jeff Hull
Interview with 5-time SoCon champion Jacqueline Bendict
Lady Paladins win 5th Straight SoCon championship
Furman continued its domination of the Southern Conference with a convincing victory in the conference championship tournament.
The Lady Paladins finished with a 14 stroke advantage over East Tennessee State and Mercer in the championship played at Moss Creek Plantation near Hilton Head.
The title was the 18th in the history of the program and secures the automatic SoCon bid to the NCAA Regionals.
“It was very competitive,” said Furman coach Jeff Hull. “I told the team coming in that Mercer, ETSU and Chattanooga were all capable of playing well and we had to play well,” he said.
In recent conference championships the Lady Paladins would jump out to a solid lead in the first round and build on it through the next 36 holes.
This year Furman had just a two stroke lead after the first round and only three shots after the second 18 holes.
Windy conditions and slick greens helped keep the field bunched through the first two rounds. At times the wind was strong enough to bend the flag sticks.
“It was tough conditions the first two days and I’m just thankful we were able to pull it off,” said the coach.
In the final round the Lady Paladins posted the best team round of the tournament. Furman carded a 5-over par 293 to secure the title.
The top two Furman golfers, Haylee Harford and Natalie Srinivasan recently competed play in the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Hull believed it took the two team leaders a couple of rounds to get things going in the conference tournament.
“I don’t think they had a let down, but it was hard to turn around that quick. They got it going towards the end,” said the coach.
Srinivasan, who won the 2017 individual championship, trailed Chattanooga’s Monica San Juan by six shots going into the final round. Harford had a share of the first round lead and stayed within striking distance of the championship in the final two rounds.
San Juan shot a final round 2-over par 74, but was able to hold off the challenge from the two Furman golfers.
Harford finished with a 1-under par 71 to move into a tie for second place. Srinivasan was 1-over par in the final round and ended up fourth in the individual standings.
All five Furman golfers finished in the top-20.
The two newest members of the Furman lineup finished in a tie for tenth place. Sophomore Madison Moosa and freshman Sarah-Eve Rheaume had their scores count in each round.
“Madison and Sarah both contributed, in fact Sarah played really, really, really well on the back nine and that helped us a lot,” said Hull.
The Furman coach had some special praise for the teams two seniors who have played a major roll in the five year winning streak.
“With Jacqueline and Haylee being seniors it was great to see them finish it off with championships. Haley has meant so much to our program and helped us get this program turned around. Jacqueline came here as a walk-on and all she has done has been great,” said Hull.
Harford, who finished seventh in last weeks Women’s Amateur at Augusta, won a tournament this year and has been named to the Palmer Cup team and All-American honors.
The Furman senior has been part of four straight conference championships while her fellow senior Bendrick may have set a new record by being on five conference championship teams.
“It has been quite an experience. I didn’t play in all of them because of being a red shirt,” she said. “I think I am the first one in Furman history to have five championship rings,” said Bendrick.
The Lady Paladins now will wait for their regional assignment. Furman is ranked in the top-25 and will not likely be seeded.
“The closest Regional is in Auburn, but we usually don’t get sent to the closest one. We may end up in Washington, but that doesn’t matter where ever we go is fine, ” said Hull.
The Lady Paladin coach expects to have the same lineup that won the conference title be the same five golfers who will play in the regional.
“They haver contributed all year. I am pretty satisfied with the line up we have right now when we go to regionals,” concluded Hull.
Complete scoring is available at http://www.golfstat,com