JMU Golfers Await NCAA Tourney
HARRISONBURG — Shabril Brewer won her first career tournament to help James Madison capture its first Colonial Athletic Association golf title since 2005 last weekend in Southport, N.C.
How did the Dukes celebrate?
“We got on the bus and we were so exhausted that — we called our family and friends and they congratulated us — we passed out within 30 minutes,” Brewer said. “That’s how bad the wind was that we were so tired from it.”
Brewer and the Dukes grabbed the lead with a sterling second round in the three-day tournament and then held on as wind whipped their shots around the course and as North Carolina-Wilmington — the team that came from behind to beat JMU in last year’s conference tourney — tried to mount another comeback. The Dukes prevailed this year, winning by a total of eight strokes.
Brewer said Thursday “I cherish sleep” when explaining why she hopes the Dukes will be placed in the East Region of the NCAA tournament (Auburn, Ala.) when destinations are announced Monday. She was a true sleeper pick to accomplish what she did last weekend.
The sophomore from Herndon was the third- or fourth-best golfer all season for JMU, which was the fourth seed in the nine-team tournament. She shot a 76 (4-over par) on the first day to put her in third place, and then ripped off a course-record 4-under 68 on Day 2, when she birdied seven holes at the Reserve Club at St. James Plantation
“When I shot the 68, it was my putting and my approach shots that really synched together,” Brewer said of Saturday, which was the fairest in terms of weather. “It was a great day; I was really happy.”
She finished the tournament with a score of 225 (9-over par), which was five strokes better than second-place Lori Beth Adams of UNCW.
Brewer credits 14th-year JMU coach Paul Gooden for helping her understand her own game. Gooden was obviously thrilled to see Brewer reach her apex last weekend.
“I knew she was talented, she was just inconsistent,” Gooden said. “Just kind of lose focus a little bit. But I’ve always known she’s very, very talented.”
While Brewer is from just outside JMU’s back yard, the Dukes’ eight-member roster draws golfers from across the world.
Ginger Mak, a junior who is the team’s lone upperclassman, shot a 241, tying her for ninth in the 45-player field. Mak is from Hong Kong and was JMU’s most consistent performer this season.
Sophomore Maria Andrea Legaspi, who’s from the Philippines, also shot a 241 in the tournament.
“It was a great experience sharing that experience with the team,” Legaspi said. “Especially for us international kids, they’re basically our family here.”
Freshman Karishma Thiagaraj of Haymarket shot a 244 and sophomore Nikola Wessels of Germany rounded out the Dukes with a 250.
“I’d like to be able to get the best girls from the United States,” Gooden said. “But most of them — they’re going to go to Southern Cal, or they’re going to go to Duke. And they commit nowadays. A lot of them commit super early.”
Wessels said she chose JMU because it was on the East Coast, and thus somewhat close to home.
Legaspi, whose home is close to the West Coast, felt a connection with Gooden through phone calls during the recruiting process. She said that Gooden consistently stresses to her to have fun and stop worrying so much about the results. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a healthy level of constructive criticism.
“He pinpoints exactly what we need to work on,” Legaspi said. “He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He will come up to you and tell you what’s wrong with you.”
Plenty could have gone wrong on the weather-influenced final day, when the average round for the entire field was 85.80.
“On that day, it’s like Shabril said after the tournament, a bogey was a good score on a lot of holes,” Wessels said.
The Dukes, playing with a lead, took what the course allowed and made up for last year’s runner-up finish.
“All the pressure got relieved from us after we won, because last year we got so close,” Wessels said. “We were in first place after the first day and then we kind of messed up. This year, after the second day, we were leading and we brought it home.”