HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: A big weekend in golf

Jamie Freedman leads the Nova Southeastern Sharks. nsusharks.com

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

The best team in Division II women’s golf?

It just might be the Nova Southeastern University Sharks.

They roll into next week’s NCAA Division II Championship at Bay Oaks Country Club down in Clear Lake, ranked No.1 in the nation and favored, despite having finished third in this week’s tough South Super Regional.

Don’t shake your head. The South is the strongest region in Division II and the two teams that beat the Sharks happen to be defending champion Barry University and 2016 champ Rollins.

And the Sharks? NSU won four consecutive NCAA Division II titles from 2009-2012 – as well as runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2013 -- and they’re eyeing a fifth.

They’re a team that won six straight tournaments at one point and finished the regular season with 10 wins in 13 events. Their roster is filled with talent, including four players who have been together for three seasons.

And did we mention their first win of the 2017-2018 season was at Bay Oaks? The Sharks beat Dallas Baptist by six shots to win the NCAA Division II National Preview in Houston in September.

Still not enough? Their top player is senior Jamie Freedman, the only Division II player – male or female – to be named to the 2018 Arnold Palmer Cup, which will be played in July at the Evian Resort in France. She was the medalist in the Preview event at Bay Oaks and has been a top-10 fixture this season.

Freedman is currently ranked fourth individually and is one of four Sharks in the top 15. Senior teammate Michelle Ruiz, the Sunshine State Conference 2018 medalist, is fifth; junior Sophie Madden is ninth; and senior Janelle Johnson is ranked 15th.

The team didn’t make it out of the Super Regional last May, but made up for it this year and lead a strong field for the May 16-19 event that includes third-ranked Dallas Baptist, fourth-ranked Barry and No. 8 Rollins. Individuals in the field include No.1 Paloma Vaccaro, a senior from West Florida, and No.12 Amanda Gartrell, a sophomore from Florida Southern.

The top three teams from the four NCAA Super Regionals as well as the top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the Championships.

Second-year Sharks coach Heather Wall played college golf at Nova Southeastern rival Florida State and has stressed the team aspect. Among other things, she makes sure each team member keeps a piece of rope in her yardage book to remind them to “hold the rope and never let go” for her teammates.

The Sharks are the team to beat coming in, but the field is top heavy with Dallas Baptist, Barry and Rollins.

It should be a great show.

 

 

 

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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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