CHARLESTON, S.C. – For seniors Bella Johnson-Schmitz, Shelby Thompson and Hannah Barger, this week is hopefully the first of many still to come as the Buccaneers compete in the Big South Women's Golf Championship at The Patriot at Grand Harbor in Ninety-Six, S.C. The trio opens the conference tournament Monday with the goal to become conference champions and advance to the NCAA Regionals.
Johnson-Schmitz sat down with her senior teammates to reflect on their time with the Buccaneers and the experiences they will always remember.
Playing in the Samford Invitational in the spring of 2016 will always be one of Johnson-Schmitz's favorite memories as the matchup allowed her to play against her older sister. Johnson-Schmitz finished the weekend with the best performance of her collegiate career, placing second with an even-par final tally (73-72-71).
"My grandparents flew in from Texas and we both wondered who was going to be watching who since my sister played in the No. 1 position on her team while I bounced around in the lineup," Johnson-Schmitz reflected. "The night before, at dinner, my coach told me that we were going to be playing in the same group for the first two rounds. I immediately teared up because getting to play with my sister in the same group with our grandparents here to watch was a dream come true."
"I never thought that was ever going to happen since we had, up until that point, played in the same tournament," Johnson-Schmitz continued. "I embraced the opportunity and it allowed me to play my best in college to that point. That will always be the best and my favorite memory from my college golf career at CSU."
Barger knew from the start that she wanted to play at CSU and her strong play toward the end of this season earned her a spot in the postseason lineup for head coach Matt Cram-Smith.
"I knew that Charleston Southern was where I was supposed to go to college," the Elberton, Ga. native commented. "I wanted to be at a small Christian college with a good golf program and I've learned a number of things along the way, including that being early is a very important value for life."
Among her favorite memories include the Bucs' trip to Las Vegas for last year's Bucknell Spring Break Series held at Boulder Creek Golf Club. Barger flew on an airplane for the first time.
Barger enters this week with confidence and looks forward to the Bucs' opportunity over the next three days.
"I have definitely gained confidence leading up to this week," she said. "I feel good about my game and I hope this isn't the last tournament for us."
Thompson also experienced a series of firsts both on and off the golf course during her time at CSU. The Uhrichsville, Ohio, native experienced her first plane ride, recorded her first collegiate win, as a sophomore at the CSU Wendy's Invitational, broke her personal scoring record at the East Carolina Invitational this fall, and then broke the school's single-round record with a 66 on the final day of the Pinehurst Challenge Invitational two weeks later.
Thompson has been a consistent entry in the CSU lineup since her freshman season and hopes to continue her dream of playing on the LPGA tour and turning professional after her collegiate career comes to a close.
"I'm very unsure of what has led me here, but I am thankful for all of the people who I have met, and who have helped me along the way," Thompson said. "I can't even begin to thank Coach (Cram-Smith) enough for being patient and working with me throughout the years."