BENTON HARBOR – The St. Joseph girls golf team took care of business Tuesday evening by placing first overall in the SMAC West jamboree at Berrien Hills Golf Club.

The Bears finished with a score of 188 and were followed by Mattawan’s 202 and Portage Central’s 203. Niles (215), Lakeshore (228), and Portage Northern (229) rounded out the field.

The win moves St. Joseph into a tie with Mattawan for first place in the division standings.

“I was happy with how we played,” St. Joseph coach Ryan Walters said. “The girls did a good job mentally staying in the game. They did a good job battling through and not letting their whole game fall apart and fought through to a good score.”

“It’s awesome,” St. Joseph golfer Madison Jackson said. “We took second in the first one and we haven’t lost the conference in seven years. That was tough but we brought it back today. Hopefully, we can ride this wave to another conference championship and into regionals.”

Maya Hunter led the Bears with a score of 42, good for second overall. Portage Central’s Ella Huffman was the medalist with 40.

“It was very hot and a little rough on some holes but I was able to put together a round I was happy with,” Hunter said. “The course isn’t in very good shape. The greens are kinda slow and the fairways have lots of patches which can make it tough.”

Willow Brawley and Sophie Hoover each scored 52 to lead Niles. Isabella Najera’s 59 led Lakeshore, which beat Portage Northern for the first time this year.

“The girls continue to work hard,” Lakeshore coach Pam Porter said. “They take the game seriously. They are young in their development but it’s a matter of catching fire right now. We see it in practice and now we’re putting it together on the course.”

The mental aspect of golf is often the toughest obstacle for golfers to overcome. But St. Joseph golfer Bella Finnigan found a solution that works for her.

“Anytime I would get in my head, I would sing ‘Gloria’ by Laura Branigan in my head and I would get back in the zone. I just love to sing that song; I’m not a singer or performer but that song just makes me happy and brings good energy.

“It gets rid of everything negative.”

SMAC West Jamboree at Berrien Hills

Team scores – 1. St. Joseph 188, 2. Mattawan 202, 3. Portage Central 203, 4. Niles 215, 5. Lakeshore 228, 6. Portage Northern 229

Medalist – Ella Hoffman (PC) 40.

St. Joseph – Maya Hunter 42, Madison Jackson 49, Bella Finnigan 49, Leah Terry 55.

Lakeshore – Isabella Najera 52, Lily Florian 49, Claire Gourlay 58, Lily Florian 59.

Niles – Willow Brawley 52, Sophie Hoover 52, Maddie Fuller 53, Maddie Lister 58.

Contact: mharden@thehp.com, 932-0371, @HPMaxwellHarden