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story.lead_photo.caption Henderson State senior Cameron McRae putts on the green of Hole 4 of the Arlington Course during a practice round of golf at Hot Springs Country Club Sunday afternoon. McRae and his teammates are the five-time Great American Conference champions and are looking to defend their title in today's GAC Tournament. (The Sentinel-Record/James Leigh)

Henderson State's men's golf team starts its quest for a sixth-straight Great American Conference title, and Arkansas Tech's women's team looks to defend its fourth-straight GAC title as teams from around the conference descend upon Hot Springs Country Club today.

The No. 14 Reddies, led by senior and Lakeside grad Cameron McRae, return all five golfers from last year's winning team and lead the Division II Central Region as the only GAC team in the GCAA Top 25. Southern Arkansas stands second in the regional rankings with Arkansas Tech third.

McRae was the only Reddie named to the All-GAC First Team in the conference awards banquet Saturday night at the Hot Springs Convention Center while sophomore Mitchell Ford, of Little Rock Catholic, was named to the second team. Buffalo Island graduate Trey DePriest, in his sophomore campaign, was an honorable mention, and junior Nick Shapiro was honored as one of the conference's six Distinguished Scholar Athletes.

McRae has three top-10 finishes this season for a 1-over 1742 in 24 rounds, including the lone second-place finisher at the Harding's Natural State Classic last week in Heber Springs. The former Ram shot a 7-under 135 over the two-round tournament to finish just one stroke behind Southeastern Oklahoma State's Zach James, the two-time GAC Player of the Year, to lead the Reddies to the tournament win.

Ford has two top-10 finishes on the year with a 2-over 1682 in 23 rounds, and his top finish of the season came the second week of March as he shot a 10-over 154 for fourth place in SAU's Arkansas Collegiate in El Dorado. DePriest finished fourth in last week's Natural State Classic with a 4-under 138 for his third top-10 finish of the year.

SAU head coach Ben Sanders was named the GAC Coach of the Year at Saturday's banquet, and junior Kade Johnson and sophomore Roman Timmerman were named unanimous All-GAC First Team selections. Johnson and Timmerman are the first two Muleriders to make the first team, marking the first time two from SAU have made the All-GAC teams in the same season.

Sanders has led the Muleriders to the cusp of their first Central Region Tournament after being picked seventh in the GAC Preseason Coaches Poll. He also led the team to their first tournament win since the fall of 2016, becoming the program's all-time winningest coach with back-to-back wins at Georgia Southwestern's Hurricane Invitational and SAU's Arkansas Collegiate.

Another Lakeside graduate, Harding freshman Ryan Camras, was named the GAC Freshman of the Year as well as an All-GAC Honorable Mention, and he was the only member of the Bisons to earn a postseason award other than redshirt-junior Gregor MacIntosh, who was one of the Distinguished Scholar Athletes. Camras has taken two top-10 finishes in his inaugural season, taking a 3-over 1919 in 26 rounds this season to average 73.81 strokes per round.

No. 9 Arkansas Tech enters the women's side of the tournament as the top-ranked team in the Central Region. No. 25 SWOSU ranks third with Henderson State sixth.

The Golden Suns unanimously swept the conference awards with senior Peerada Piddon claiming the Golfer of the Year award for the second-straight year, Jacqueline Klemm receiving the Freshman of the Year honor and head coach Amy Anderson taking the Coach of the Year for the fifth consecutive year and sixth time since the foundation of the league in 2012.

Piddon, Klemm and senior Pia Nunbhakdi were also All-GAC First Team selections with freshman Sydney Staton getting a second-team nod. Only SWOSU had as many selections with two first-team and two second-team selections; HSU had two second-team selections and an honorable mention.

Piddon finished the regular season with a 1-over 1315 in 18 rounds with one win and six top-10 finishes this season. She won the Central Region Fall Preview with a 1-under 71, and she turned in a 4-under 140 for third at the Dallas Baptist University Women's Classic in October.

Klemm enters today's tournament with a 3-over 1499 in 20 rounds of play. She has two top-10 finishes this season, including September's UIndy Invitational where she recorded a 2-over 218 for fifth place.

Nunbhakdi has four top-10 finishes, including February's St. Edward's Invitational, where she turned in a 4-over 146 for second place among 75 participants. She has tallied a 3-over 1505 in 20 rounds on the links.

SWOSU senior Gloria Choi leads the Lady Bulldogs as one of the team's two first-team selections. She has one win this season, at the Diffee Ford Lincoln Invite in March where she carded a 1-under 139 to lead the team to the win.

The Lady Bulldogs' other first-team selection, Veronika de Bochdanovits, turned in her best performance at the Diffee Ford Lincoln Invite as well, finishing tied for third with a 7-over 147.

Both men's and women's tournaments tee off at 7:30 a.m. for the first round with the second to follow in the afternoon. The men will tee off from the gold tee on holes 1 and 10 of the Arlington Course, and the women will tee off from the white tees on holes 1 and 10 of the Park Course.

McRae is paired with James and Arkansas Tech's Austin Gean for a 9 a.m. tee on hole 1. Camras will tee off at 8:10 a.m. with Oklahoma Baptist's Davis Farnell on hole 10.

Sports on 04/15/2019

Print Headline: Reddies, Golden Suns favored in GAC tourney

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