New Athletics Program Off to Strong Start Despite Pandemic / Jace Aymond

Initiating a new athletics program for any university is challenging in and of itself. However, adding in the additional element of doing this exact thing amid a pandemic seems almost impossible. For Mississippi College’s women’s golf team, that was exactly the case. Yet, they made it through the rough year that was 2020 and are now starting their 2021 season off with incredibly impressive performances. 

The first player in the history of the program is none other than Sarah Hodson, a sophomore from Raceland, Louisiana. She, along with Jenna Belton, were the only two on the roster during the team’s first year in existence, and Hodson claimed, “It was truly special and something that I’m very grateful for. It’s so awesome to me that I can say that I was on the first ever Mississippi College women’s golf team, especially whenever it’ll grow in future years. It’s something that I’m really thankful for.”

Their coach, Brent Belton, also knew how difficult the start would be, but he’s even more excited that this team finally has a place at MC, saying, “We started in the midst of COVID, which was a challenge to say the least. MC has never had a women’s team, with 100 years of no women’s golf. We were trying to recruit people off a screen last year because we weren’t allowed to visit, so everything was done virtually, which presents a number of challenges. To have a full team and be able to represent a college that I care so much about and what they stand for is an awesome thing for us.”

In their opening year, COVID certainly did present some struggles, as Hodson noted, “A lot of our tournaments last year were cancelled because of COVID. It was all just a mess. Everything just kept getting moved around and players couldn’t go; it was just such a weird time. But this year is much better.” Sarah and Jenna participated in four tournaments during the fall and spring semesters last year with the two posting multiple top-10 finishes in the individual standings. 

The current fall schedule for the Lady Choctaws has produced some outstanding results as well. The team tied for first at the Tyler Junior College Invitational as a team, and Hodson took the crown for the individual title. At the Rhodes Classic in Millington, Tennessee, the Choctaws were the runner up out of the six schools competing, with Hodson once again leading the Lady Choctaws at only four over par in the two rounds of play.

The team consists of five freshmen and two sophomores, and as Coach Belton describes them, they’re “very, very young. It’s very much a start from the ground operation, but we’ll continue to grow and recruiting looks really strong for 2022, so I think the program is in great shape going forward.”

The last tournament for the fall slate is in Henderson, Tennessee, hosted by Freed-Hardeman University. The Lady Choctaws won’t hit the links again after that until 2022, but they have already shown that they are more than capable of competing with anyone after only a year of being in existence. 

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