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Clara Leathers voted team MVP

Senior honored after career season

May 5, 2010 · Athletic Communications
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - After notching a string of impressive finishes and becoming only the third golfer in school history to earn Sun Belt Golfer of the Month, Clara Leathers took home the team's most valuable player honors as voted on by her teammates.

"It's definitely an honor to be thought of in that manner by my teammates," said Leathers.

Playing in her last season, the senior earned Sun Belt Golfer of the Month honors after a spectacular week that saw her set a new career-best at the UALR Women's Golf Classic only to break it a few days later at the Ole Miss Rebel Intercollegiate. The Aylesbury, England, native carded a seven-over 223 to finish tied for ninth at UALR, and beat the score by four strokes on the following weekend with a three-over 219 at Ole Miss.

The award officially closes the book on the 2010 women's golf season for the Blue Raiders. The spring campaign amounted to one of the best seasons in school history.

After the dust settled on the 2010 spring season, Middle Tennessee carded three of the top five three-round scores in school history, five individual rounds that rank among the top 15 in school history and four individual three-round scores that rank in the top ten in school history. Leathers and Morgan Hale took home Sun Belt Golfer of the Month honors, becoming the first winners of the award since Taryn Durham took home the accolades twice in the 2004-05 season, and Hale and Karisa Akin were each named to the Sun Belt's All-Conference team.

"Overall, there was no question that we improved greatly from the fall to the spring," said coach Chris Adams. "We played great at Kiawah, UALR and Ole Miss, while playing against highly competitive teams. The girls really stepped up this spring, and being in the hunt on the last day was certainly a boost to their confidence."

After notching a win over Toledo to start off the season, the Blue Raiders played at the Kiawah Island Invitational. In a field the boasted of a number of higher-ranked teams and individuals, the Blue Raiders finished tied for sixth (out of 33). The tournament took place on two courses, and in each of the first two rounds Middle Tennessee boasted of the best score of the day on their respective course. Morgan Hale set a new career low round in the second round with a two-under 70 and followed it up with another round of 70 to finish third (out of 169) in the event with a one-under 215. It was the third best performance in school history and propelled the Tullahoma, Tenn., native to the Sun Belt's Player of the Month award.

Following a respectable fifth-place finish at the Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate, Middle Tennessee began a particularly busy stretch that saw the team compete in three events over a span of nine days. The Blue Raiders started off with a three-round event at the UALR Women's Golf Classic. After playing two rounds on day one, MT sat in first place thanks in part to outstanding first round performances by Hale and Ashley Haggard. Hale tied her career low with a two-under 70, but Haggard topped her performance with a four-under 68. Haggard, a native of Savannah, Tenn., would place third in 88 player field with a three-over 219. Ultimately, the Blue Raiders finished two strokes off the lead to finish third, but tied the school record for lowest three-round score.

Middle Tennessee began play in the deepest field of the season three days later at the Ole Miss Rebel Intercollegiate, an event in which 16 of the 20 participants were ranked in the Golfstat.com Top 100. The Blue Raiders beat out a number of highly ranked teams en route to finishing seventh at the event. Leathers led all MT golfers with a three-over 219, a career-best score for the senior.

Middle Tennessee put a cap on the regular season with their first-ever home event, the Stones River Shootout, which pitted the Blue Raiders against in-state foes Austin Peay and Belmont. Battling extreme wind conditions the Blue Raiders won the single round event by 19 strokes, led by Hale's two-over 73.

The team would save their best for last, as Middle Tennessee ended the season with the best finish in school history at the Sun Belt Conference Championship. Led by an All-Conference performance from Akin, the Blue Raiders battled UALR to a dramatic finish that saw MT hold on to second place by a single stroke. Akin shot a career low round on the second day with a two-under 70 to propel her to a fourth place finish in the 54-player field. Freshman Olivia Love, who led the Blue Raiders in stroke average in the fall season, notched a top ten finish as well, tying for eighth with an eight-over 224.

"We are only losing one senior for next year," said Adams. "Our team has confidence and know we can compete out there, we definitely have a positive future."

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