2005: College - Stahle, Lang, Sjodin choose early exits
Three of college golf’s power schools left Sunriver Resort a little deflated after some of the nation’s best underclassmen announced they would turn pro. Arizona State will lose this year’s NCAA Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year Louise Stahle; Duke sophomore Brittany Lang is moving on after two years; and Karin Sjodin will forgo her final season at Oklahoma State.
“It was a tough decision,” said Stahle, who ended the season ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “I’m on a good team at a good school and have great coaches. But I’m ready to do this. It’s always been tempting, but now I feel like my game is ready.”
Stahle didn’t want to be the focus at the NCAA Championship. The 20-year-old Arizona State freshman knew people were going to hound her about her future so she decided to throw all the cards on the table before she and her teammates left Tempe, Ariz., for Sunriver.
Stahle sat down with Arizona State coach Melissa Luellen prior to the NCAA Championship and told her that she was going to turn professional midway through the summer and forgo her final three years of college eligibility. The next step was for the Swede to tell her teammates of her decision so they could put it behind them and focus solely on playing well. Stahle said she felt it was best to get it out in the open because she didn’t want the pressure of her situation to cause any negative affects on the Sun Devils.
After the NCAAs, Stahle returned to Sweden to prepare for her title defense at the Ladies British Amateur Championship, and she also will play for her home country in the European Team Championship. She plans to turn pro in July, seek sponsor exemptions, and enter both LPGA and Ladies European Tour Q-Schools in the fall. Last year, Stahle tied for 42nd at the Women’s British Open and tied for ninth at the HP Open, an LET event in Sweden. She tied for 37th at the LPGA’s Safeway International in March.
Sjodin also let her team know of her pro plans well before her final putt dropped. The Swede spent much of the fall atop the rankings but closed the year at No. 9 after a disappointing 8-over 79 to finish her college career.
“I’ve known since I came over that I was going to take one semester at a time,” said Sjodin. “I think I made the decision early in the fall semester.”
Sjodin, who is 25 hours short of earning her degree in business and boasts a 3.9 GPA, says she plans to move back to Sweden and probably won’t finish her studies. Her summer schedule virtually will mirror Stahle’s, as she also plans to turn pro following the European Team Championship and enter both LPGA and LET qualifying.
Lang told coach Dan Brooks of her decision a few hours after Duke won the NCAA Championship. The Texan finished second in the rankings after collecting three victories this season. “I know how to play college tournaments and win college tournaments,” said Lang. “I think the best way is for me to play out there (LPGA) and prove to myself that I can do it.”
After playing in this week’s LPGA Corning Classic, Lang will try to Monday qualify for the ShopRite LPGA Classic, then attempt to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. The only other sponsor exemption Lang has in place is the State Farm Classic in September. She plans on remaining an amateur until qualifying school this fall.
Educated risk: Dan Brooks’ continuing education at Duke includes a masters degree in psychology and a healthy dose of patience. Some, however, would question his basic math skills. The veteran coach took a tremendous seasonlong gamble with only five players on his roster, including two plagued by tendinitis. Twice this season, a handicapped foursome had to play through illness or injury. Laser treatment and ice helped Niloufar Aazam-Zanganeh and Anna Grzebien deal with the pain in their wrists.
Brooks, however, says his team never griped about the paper-thin roster, and grew more united as the season progressed.
“If you’re not in the mix you’re not really playing for yourself the last day, you’re playing for your team, and that’s what it should be,” said Liz Janangelo. “It is so satisfying to come out on top together.”
Motherly advice: Oregon native Dan Brooks’ parents were on hand at Sunriver to celebrate. His mother, Colleen, said the first time Brooks considered coaching was after he read a flyer while working as an assistant at Idaho’s Crane Creek Country Club. “I don’t think he ever thought he’d be a coach until that flyer came around.” said Colleen. “But he didn’t really know anything about girls, their emotions. We’ve had lots of talks.”