February 18, 2011 2:02:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State men''s golf coach Clay Homan was expecting more than his team''s 12th-place finish at the Gator Invitational.
Already waiting on Brad Mason and Chad Ramey to return to the form they showed in the fall, the Bulldogs finished 59 strokes behind winner University of Florida last weekend.
Outside of sophomore John Darden''s career-best plus-7 finish, no other Bulldog broke par.
At least he knows why his team struggled: chipping and putting.
"We''ll miss a green or two, make a couple of bogeys, and kids end up pressing and forcing things," Homan said. "It''s a snowball effect when you don''t do a good job of scoring; you think about how you have to get it back and course management suffers as a result."
Homan says the Bulldogs have hit irons well and are solid from tee to green.
However, short-game mechanics haven''t progressed because of limited practice reps.
Plus, the Bulldogs are still a young team; Mason and Darden are sophomores and Ramey is a freshman.
Developing a solid short game often can be a struggle for young players, but Homan believes it''s the easiest part to develop.
"It doesn''t take strength and extreme talent," Homan said. "It takes repetition and confidence. If you have a good short game, you''re gonna be in every tournament. Very rarely do you hit it bad enough to where you can''t overcome it with a good short game."
The Bulldogs have had a week of warmer weather to get more time on the course to prepare for the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate on Monday and Tuesday.
Homan hopes to see adjustments in the last team qualifying round and 18-hole practice match against Meridian Community College on Saturday.
He says it''s realistic to see vast improvement this season.
"It just takes a lot of practice, kind of like pool," Homan said. "Sometimes, it''s just a matter of a light bulb going on.
"Making a technique change in the short game is much easier than making a technique change in a swing."
Darden and Ramey are locks to tee-off at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove on Monday, and the rest of the traveling squad will be determined this weekend.
The Bulldogs won the tournament in 2005, ''06 and ''09.
The large, sloping greens will give MSU an instant challenge to its short-game woes.
Homan hopes to see Darden continue his momentum from the Gator Invitational.
He''s played sparingly for Homan and didn''t make a squad in the fall.
His high-round of 76 in Gainesville was due to a pair of double-bogies.
"Hopefully, this is kind of a coming-out part for him," Homan said. "He''s probably our strongest player, and brings a lot to the table with his driving ability and can hit irons well."
------ MSU women''s tennis team looking to heal
This early in the season, most tennis coaches are feeling the effects of working through unfavorable weather.
Mississippi State women''s coach Daryl Greenan just wants his entire squad at full fitness.
The Bulldogs'' leading player from last season, Olesya Tsigvintseva, has played in just one dual this spring after having surgery in the fall.
Tsigvintseva played 15 of MSU''s 20 No. 1 singles matches last season and went 3-12. She also won five No. 1 doubles matches.
True freshman Roseline Dion suffered an injury early in the fall but has competed in MSU''s three dual matches. Greenan describes her progression as "gradual."
Ahead of their weekend home duals against Southern Miss and Troy, Greenan is keen to snap a three-match losing streak through improved play from Tsigvintseva and Dion.
"We knew it would take a while to get Les match-tough," Greenan said. "Rosie played a decent match and picked up her first win last weekend (against Georgia State). Les, at least, got her first match in. I''m hopeful that this weekend will be a little bit stronger.
"We may not be 100 percent, but I''d like to have all of our players competing this weekend."
The Bulldogs have been led by freshman Alexandra Perper, who is currently 1-2 in No. 1 singles matches.
Perper arrived at MSU in January and won her first match at No. 59 Oklahoma State. Perper beat Sarah Meghoufel 6-4, 6-3 to rebound from a three-set loss in her collegiate debut.
"She has a big serve and a lot of power in her game, which is definitely been the major factor," Greenan said. "She has the ability to push girls around, but we''re working on her managing that power a little bit better."
Greenan said assistant coach Courtney Steinbock will be critical in bettering Perper''s technique ahead of league play.
"I think at full strength, we have a shot at beating ranked opponents," Greenan said. "There''s a whole lot in the SEC, which is tough."
------ MSU tennis to host ''Campus Kids'' Day''
For the very first time, the Lady Bulldog tennis squad will hold a USTA Campus Kids'' Days on Saturday during their match against Southern Miss.
Campus Kids'' Day is a United States Tennis Association sponsored event designed to expose and attract local communities and aspiring young players to the realm of college tennis. The event also allows junior players, parents and coaches the opportunity to interact with collegiate players and coaches in a match day setting.
On Saturday, fans will be encouraged to participate in a variety of promotional activities such as racket stenciling, serve-speed competition, and skills. Various prizes will be rewarded during the activities. The Lady Bulldogs will also be available for a meet and greet at the conclusion of the match.
Attendance, food, refreshments and promotions are free and open to all. Come on out and join the Lady Bulldogs in a day full of food, fun and competition as they take on the Golden Eagles.
1. MSU women will face biggest test at South Carolina COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Columbus boys advance in Class 6A tournament HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Defense has been strong suit for MSU men COLLEGE SPORTS
5. New Hope boys win home finale HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS