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A look into JMU golf and their new Sun Belt opponents | Sports

With the move to the Sun Belt, JMU men’s and women’s golf will play a whole new set of opponents come April in the Sun Belt Championships. Golf is unique, though, in that players have the ability to play a wide variety of out of conference opponents, unlike other JMU sports programs. Many of JMU’s new Sun Belt opponents are coming off exceptional seasons, and while JMU golf was unable to compete as a team in the CAA championships, it put together a solid season in both programs.

JMU men’s golf had a strong showing in the 2021-22 season, finishing top 10 in seven of nine tournaments, including three top-five finishes. The women’s team had a stellar year, finishing top 10 in all but one event across the fall and spring seasons, with six top-five finishes and two first-place finishes.

Men’s golf preview

Ignacio Montero and Neal Shipley, who both played their last rounds as Dukes last spring, highlighted last year’s team. Montero shot even par over 33 rounds, including a 9-under-par 63 in a fourth-place finish at the Dorado Beach Collegiate from Feb. 27-March 1. Shipley also shined with an average score of 1-over across 27 rounds with a best of 6-under at the Southern Intercollegiate on March 14-15.

Two of the five starters from last year are returning for the men in 2022-23. Sophomore Daniel Cheng will be back, along with Nick Schlickenrieder, who’ll be in his fifth year as a Duke in 2022-23.

Cheng had a strong freshman year. He played 24 rounds and finished with an average score of 1-over and finished as high as seventh place among 45 golfers at the CAA Men’s Championships on April 24-26.

Schlickenrieder has been a factor for the Dukes in every season he’s played, except when he missed all of 2020-21. He bounced back in 2021-22, playing 27 rounds with an average score of 1-over and finishing 17th at the CAA Men’s Championships.

Womens’ golf preview

Rising redshirt junior Kendall Turner and rising junior Amelia Williams led JMU’s women’s golf program. Over 33 rounds, Turner averaged a score of 1-over, and has many top-10 finishes to her name. Williams averaged 2-over in her 33 rounds and finished in the top 10 three times in 11 tournaments, along with a first-place finish at the River Landing Classic on March 7-8 and a sixth-place finish at the CAA Women’s Championship on April 15-17.

The team’s other three starters are returning for the 2022-23 season. Senior Ana Tsiros averaged three strokes over par in her junior season and placed top 20 in two of four fall season tournaments.

Sophomore Tatum Walsh averaged a score of 3-over in eight events as a freshman and finished in the top half of golfers in five tournaments across both the fall and spring seasons.

Kate Owens is coming back for her fifth year in the JMU golf program. She finished in the top half of golfers in eight of 11 tournaments. In her last outing last spring, she finished 17th at the CAA Women’s Championship.

The schedule for the women’s program has been released; it’s playing in three of the same tournaments it did last year and has all but one contributor returning.

The Dukes return to the Lady Paladin Invitational at Furman Golf Club, at which JMU placed fifth; the River Landing Classic at River Landing Golf Club in Wallace, North Carolina, where, one season ago, the Dukes took first behind strong performances from Williams and Turner. The final repeat event for this season is the Ironwood Invitational at Ironwood Golf Club in Greenville, North Carolina, where the Dukes finished third.

Men’s Sun Belt preview

JMU will face strong competition next spring in the Sun Belt. While two of the top three finishers in the Sun Belt Conference tournament for men’s golf — UT Arlington and Little Rock — have left the conference, Georgia Southern remains.

The Eagles finished second in the Sun Belt a year ago and are returning all five starters. They also qualified for the NCAA national championships and finished 25th.

Georgia Southern fifth-year golfer Ben Carr finished as the second-ranked individual in the Sun Belt, playing 36 rounds with an average 0.36 strokes under par. Carr finished the season with an average round score of 70.8 — 1.2-under on a par-72 course — with five top-five finishes, including a first-place finish at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate on Oct. 10-12.

Georgia State and Coastal Carolina finished fourth and fifth in the Sun Belt in 2022, respectively, and have multiple starters coming back. Georgia State placed in the top five in two of 11 tournaments last season, and Coastal Carolina placed in the top five once in 10 tournaments.

Georgia State sophomore Jacob Kephart ranked 41st out of 70 individuals in the conference as a freshman, finishing on average 2.27 over par. For Coastal Carolina, senior Seth Taylor, the 32nd-ranked individual a season ago, might be poised to break out. Taylor played 30 rounds finishing 1.9 strokes over par on average.

Women’s Sun Belt preview

Georgia Southern was successful in women’s golf as well. It placed top five in six tournaments last season, including two first-place finishes. The Eagles won the Sun Belt and will be returning all but one of their starters from the final round of the championships, so the team looks to be formidable yet again.

A potential x-factor for the Eagles is sophomore Sarunchana Rattansin. She had a strong showing in the final round for the Eagles, shooting an average of 73.3 in three rounds at the Sun Belt Championships.

Coastal Carolina took second place in the Sun Belt last year. The Chanticleers had six top five results, with two of those being first place results. With multiple starters returning for this upcoming season, they should be able to pick up where they left off.

Sophia Carleson is a potential standout player for Coastal Carolina. In her junior season, Carleson averaged a score of 3-over over 32 rounds. She was Second Team All-Sun Belt for the regular season and was a member of the all-tournament team at the Sun Belt Championships.

Third and fourth in the conference went to Arkansas State and Texas State, respectively. Both teams have all five starters from the Sun Belt Championships returning to the program next season. Arkansas state had seven top-five finishes last year, including two first-place results. The Bobcats had three top-five finishes, with their best result being second place at the Bama Beach Bash.

Many of JMU’s new opponents show strong potential, especially at the top of the conference. But with JMU’s men’s and women’s programs returning starters for this upcoming season, the Dukes are relatively well-equipped to take on the challenge.

Contact Will Moran at moranwp@dukes.jmu.edu. For more golf coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

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