WINDERMERE, Fla. – After seeing the scores from the women’s NCAA Fall Preview, I thought I would weigh in with three thumbs ups (good) and three thumbs downs (bad). Here we go.
1. Duke: This was the Blue Devils’ first stroke play win since the 2008 ACC Championship, and Alison Whitaker is doing her best to fill some large shoes after Amanda Blumenherst and Jennie Lee graduated. The Aussie lead the Blue Devils with a 1-over 217 to finish T-6. With a field like the Preview, the win raises the question: Is Duke back?
2. Cydney Clanton: What a performance at Landfall! Three straight days of 70 on a very tough golf course over the best women’s field we will see this fall. Now that deserves two thumbs up.
3. Auburn: Granted, Clanton’s 6-under 210 helped the Tigers to a second-place finish, but more importantly, this gives the Tigers confidence. I was at the Women’s East Regional in Gainesville, Fla., last spring, and could see how heartbroken this team was to miss nationals. With a second place at Landfall, the Tigers have something to cheer about again, “WAR EAGLE!”
1. Michigan State: Last week we were praising them for going up to No. 5 in the rankings, but a 10th-place finish hurts. I had higher expectations for this team because they have been to Landfall before. Six teams who have never played there before finished better than the Spartans.
2. USC: I know Jennifer Song wasn’t competing, and that Belen Mozo WD’d, but this is USC. Lizette Salas did all she could with a T-12 finish at 4-over 220, but she received little help elsewhere, and the result was a 16th-place finish for USC in the 18-team field. Inah Park shot a 13-over 229 to finish T-50, Caroline Kim finished T-70 with a 20-over 236 and Stefanie Endstrasser was at 26-over 242 to finish 79th.
3. UCLA and Arizona State: Yes, both teams finished third and fourth, respectively, but when you are the cream of the crop in women’s college golf, anything but a first- or second-place finish is disappointing. However, I know this was a tournament where many of these teams were just getting their feet wet. I expect the Bruins, Sun Devils and Trojans to be at the top of the leaderboard when they return to Landfall in May for the NCAA Championship.