Every winning program has a start – a place where the roots that take hold lead to even greater things in an unseen future. The Saint Mary’s golf team has this 2002-2003 team to thank for forging the way into becoming the most decorated of any program in the department’s history to-date.
Leading up to the 2002-2003 year, the Saint Mary’s golf team had just one conference win in four years as new members of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Belles began the year in a tournament of mostly Division I teams at Ferris State before placing second at the opening MIAA Jamboree in early September. Two weeks later, the team captured first place at an MIAA 18-hole round hosted by Calvin. Seven days later, the team accomplished something never achieved before for the program as the Belles took their second win in as many rounds.
Two wins turned into five consecutive victories as Saint Mary’s captured their first MIAA Golf Championship in October. Not only was that string of success capped off with a title, but the Belles set a new school record of a 318, marking the first time the program turned in a score below 320. Along with the team accolades, this group of Belles had four of their team members earn All-MIAA honors for the first time as Stefanie Simmerman and Megan Mattia were both First Team honorees while Liz Hanlon and Chrissy Dunham garnered Second Team distinctions.
When the spring season came around, the Belles took team titles at both the Manchester Invitational and the Hope Invitational as they awaited the decision by the NCAA to see if they made the cut for the national tournament. In the past, the NCAA had not once granted a team bid to an MIAA member as several individuals had competed on the sport’s highest collegiate stage. History was again made, however, as the Belles became the first team to get the call to compete in the National Championship Tournament. The team made the most of that inaugural opportunity as the Belles did not merely just participate – they competed. Saint Mary’s finished fourth overall in the 2003 NCAA Championship as Stefanie Simmerman won the individual title. Additionally, four of the team’s five players finished in the top 50 in the field.
That 2002-2003 season was just the beginning of a myriad of success forged by the Saint Mary’s golf team. The Belles went on to win the next three MIAA Championships and the program currently has eight conference titles. Saint Mary’s has made nine NCAA Tournament appearances – the most of any school in the MIAA. All of those have been made possible through this 2002-2003 team’s accomplishments as you cannot have a repeat anything until you have the first-time-ever achievement.