Challenging schedule ahead for women's golf team

Wenny Chang

Lamar University women’s golf coach Jessica Steward announced the team’s 2016-17 schedule. It’s a slate that will definitely challenge the four-time defending Southland Conference champion Cardinals.

The Cards will play four events in the fall and four in the spring prior to the Southland Conference championship in April. LU will compete at some of the best courses in the country, including the PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, the site of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2022 PGA Championship.

“Playing some tough courses will only help us to get better,” Steward said. “When you compete at the NCAA Regionals, you’re going to play a tough course. We have to get used to that.”

LU opens the fall season at the Golfweek Program Challenge that runs from Sept. 11-13 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s an event that combines the scores from a school’s men’s and women’s teams to determine a champion. The LU men will be competing on a nearby course.

“That should be a fun event,” Steward said of the opener. “Golfweek always runs great tournaments, and there will be several top teams there. I can’t wait to get the season started.”

The LU women close out the fall season at the Seton Hall Pirate Invitational, set for Oct. 28-29 at Trump National.

“To be able to play where the U.S. Women’s Open will be held is something special,” Steward said. “That’s going to be a tough test for all teams.”

The Cardinals open the spring campaign by competing in two events during a one-week stretch in Florida. LU is at the Ball State Invitational at PGA Village on Feb. 10-11 before competing in the Women’s Mid-American Match Play Challenge from Feb. 13-14 in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

“The trip to Florida will be unique because it’s similar to the way the NCAA Championships are held,” Steward said. “Three rounds of team play followed by match play. It will be a good experience for us.”

The highlight of the spring schedule is the Cardinal Challenge, set for March 17-19 at the Beaumont Country Club. It is the first multiple-day tournament hosted by LU since the Lady Cardinal Challenge in 2005.

“I think our players are looking forward to play competitively at the Beaumont Country Club,” Steward said. “It should be fun to be able to have a home tournament.”

The Southland Conference Championship is set for April 17-19 at the Woodcrest Golf Club in Montgomery, about 55 miles north of Houston.

The Cardinals, who return four players from last season’s team, including two-time SLC Player of the Year Wenny Chang, will be seeking their fifth straight Southland Conference title and their eighth SLC title overall. Last year’s tournament was held in McKinney, Texas.

“I have heard great things about the course,” Steward said of the Woodcrest Golf Club. “It will be nice to have it a little bit closer to home.”

Russell finishes third at CWS home run derby

Lamar University junior Reid Russell blasted 30 home runs to finish third in the TD Ameritrade Home Run Derby on July 2. The event, televised on ESPN2, featured eight of college baseball’s elite power hitters. The derby included Greg Deichmann (LSU), Gary Russo (Ohio), Dylan Busby (Florida State), Brent Rooker (Mississippi State), Hagen Owenby (East Tennessee State), Joe Davis (Houston), Colby Bortles (Mississippi) and Russell.

Each player was given four minutes to hit as many home runs as they could, and each had one 30 second timeout they could use at any point during the at-bat. Russell was the seventh player to dig in during the opening round, and was immediately in a tough position. He needed 14 home runs to have a shot at the semifinal round. After hitting only one home run in the first 1:18 of his at-bat, Russell closed with a surge, drilling 12 in the final two minutes to finish tied for third with 15 and secure a spot in the semifinals.

Russell joined Owenby (23 home runs), Rooker (16) and Davis (15) in the round of four. Russell was the final batter in the second round and he blasted another 15 homers but came up just one short of advancing to the finals.

Russell helped make history at the TD Ameritrade Home Run Derby. Following his opening round, the first seven players had recorded 103 home runs to set a new opening-round record. The number was bumped to 113 after Bortles’ closed the opening round with 10.

His appearance in the home run derby capped a standout season for the former junior college transfer. He was named the Southland Conference Hitter of the Year after tying the LU single-season home run record with 18. It marked the fifth time in program history that a Cardinal had been named conference hitter of the year.

The Longview, Texas native led the Southland in home runs and total bases, and was second in RBIs and slugging percentage and fourth in hitting. He also hit .379 in conference play with 12 homers and 43 RBIs. Russell garnered Louisville Slugger National Player and SLC Hitter of the Week honors following a stretch where he hit five home runs in five games.

Football

After he was named Preseason All-American by Athlon Sports, Lamar University senior running back Kade Harrington was tabbed as the top returning FCS running back in the country, the publication announced. The list of 10 tailbacks features seven of the nation’s top 10 finishers in rushing yards from 2016.

Athlon named Harrington as a preseason All-American in early June, all after a tremendous season that saw him earn consensus All-America honors from leading the nation in rushing, and being selected as a finalist for the 2015 STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Year Award – FCS football’s version of the Heisman Trophy.

He was one of two Southland Conference backs to be added to the list. Corey Avery of Sam Houston State was picked 10th in the group. Also on the list, ranked fourth, is De’Angelo Henderson of Coastal Carolina.

In 2016, Harrington led the nation rushing yards, yards per game, all-purpose yards and rushing touchdowns, and finished third in yards per carry and second nationally in scoring. He finished the season with 2,092 yards, but went over the 2,000-yard plateau in the 10th game of the season. He became just the seventh player in the history of NCAA Division I football to reach 2,000 yards in just 10 games, joining a list that includes Barry Sanders and Marcus Allen.

The Kingwood native set a school record by rushing for at least 100 yards in eight consecutive games on his way to setting the school and Southland single-season rushing records. A three-time conference player of the week, and a two-time national offensive player of the week, Harrington was a threat to score every time he touched the ball. He finished the season with 63 carries of at least 10 yards, eight runs of 50 yards or more and three of 70, including an 80-yard touchdown run.

Already the school’s all-time leading rusher, Harrington enters his final season on pace to become just the fifth back in league history to rush for 4,000 yards in a career. He also ranks among the league’s all-time top-10 in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and is on pace to move into the SLC’s all-time top-10 in scoring and all-purpose yards early in 2016.

Harrington became the first player in program history to be named SLC Player of the Year in 2015, and enters 2016 looking to become just the fourth player in league history to repeat as the league’s MVP (Timothy Flanders, Jeremy Moses and Claude Mathis).

Fans will get their first look at the 2016 version of the LU football team Saturday, Sept. 3, when it kicks off the season at home against Henderson and Coastal Carolina, who as a team is ranked in Athlon’s preseason Top 10. The game is slated to kick off at 7 p.m.

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