By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It’s been a rebuilding season for Sonoma State women’s golf. But the Seawolves have played well enough to reach regionals and look to continue to improve after an up-and-down campaign.

Sonoma State secured the ninth and final spot in the West Super Regional of the NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Championships. The top three teams and three individuals from other squads earn berths in the national tournament.

Sonoma State is familiar with the Tiara Rado Golf Course, having played a preview tournament at the course in Grand Junction, Colo. With better practice rounds in recent weeks, Sonoma State wants to put together three good days of golf.

“The girls are excited. It’s just a matter of getting our minds clear and focusing on the task at hand,” said coach Val Verhunce.

The primary goal at regionals, where a top-three finish will be difficult, is getting all five players scoring in the 70s. To accomplish that, Sonoma State must limit double bogeys that put players in deep holes. Erasing a double bogey on one hole often demands birdies on two holes.

Steady play eases mental highs and lows, particularly important in a tournament featuring some of the nation’s top teams.

“The physical games are there. The girls need to minimize mental and emotional mistakes,” Verhunce said.

Playing their best at regionals would be a strong finish to a challenging season. This season, Sonoma State brought in a handful of new players. Developing depth and putting together a solid scoring five, the Seawolves had several good results, but also finished well down the leader board in other tournaments.

Anchoring the Seawolves is three-time All-American Spencer Heller. The senior from Turlock has a first-, second-, and third-place finish in regional appearances and a pair of top-10 finishes in three trips to nationals.

Adding to a sharp all-around game this season has been Heller’s commitment to being a leader who offers tips and keeps teammates positive.

“She’s learned to have more fun when she plays,” Verhunce said. “Then she makes better decisions and shoots lower scores. She becomes a better teammate that way.”

The West Super Regional opens play today and continues through Tuesday.

The Sonoma State women are making their fifth appearance at regionals in the program’s six-year history. The best finishes are third at regionals and fifth at nationals.