With the fall golf season in the books, here’s a look back at 10 of the most notable stories from women’s college golf. Check back later this week for Lance Ringler’s top 10 men’s stories.
10. Colorado proves its grit
Even before its home event, the CU Heather Farr Memorial, Colorado was putting together a season that could make the team a favorite to advance out of regional play this spring. The Buffs won their season-opening event, following up with a second- and third-place finish in the next two events as Pepperdine transfer Jessica Wallace led the charge.
The Buffs left the course after the first round of the Heather Farr with a five-shot lead. When five players were involved in a multi-car accident that evening, head coach Anne Kelly wasn’t even sure she could field a team to finish the tournament. The next morning, Wallace and junior Emily Talley laced up their shoes and hit the course, only to lead Colorado to a 16-shot win, the largest margin of victory in program history.
“I woke up that morning, and physically I felt fine so I figured that it was better for me to be out on the golf course doing something than to be inside all day,” said Wallace, who also won the individual title that day.
9. Daytona State redefines JUCO experience
For all those who think junior college golf is merely a stepping stone, refer to Daytona State College, in Daytona Beach, Fla., as exhibit A. The Falcons won their first three events, beating such Division I programs as Stetson, Xavier, Augusta State and Miami as well as defending Division II national champion Nova Southeastern. They ended the season with a second-place finish and another tie for first.
As head coach Laura Brown explained midway through Daytona State’s whirlwind season, part of the reason the junior college enters Division I-dominant events is for exposure, but the Falcons clearly have proven they belong in those events as they consistently finish atop the leaderboard.
Daytona State’s star player, Mitsuki Katahira, earned medalist honors at four events and was runner-up at the fifth. While Katahira hopes to earn LPGA playing privileges through qualifying school next fall, sophomores Ericka Schneider (Ole Miss) and Amy West (South Florida) will move up to the Division I ranks at the end of this spring.
8. Portland cuts golf program
Women’s – and men’s – golf suffered a painful blow in the Northwest this fall as the University of Portland announced it would cut both programs at the end of the 2010-11 season. Portland cited Title IX compliance as the catalyst behind the cut, and will add women’s crew to the list of intercollegiate athletics in the fall of 2011.
The women’s team earned two top-5 finishes this fall, and is No. 153 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
7. Women’s World Amateur Team Championship drains college fields
While certainly an honor for any college player to have the opportunity to represent her country at the WWATC, the event also made for a quiet week in the college game at the end of October. As the four-day team competition raged on in Buenos Aires, Argentina, women’s college golf all but shut down.
A total of 38 college players made the trip, and Arkansas senior Kelli Shean, representing her native South Africa, finished T-4 at 5-under 283 to earn “low college” honors.
6. Yale freshman makes a name for herself
She may not have ended the season atop the rankings, but arguably one of the hottest players in the game this fall was Yale freshman See Heo Moon.
Moon wasted no time after joining the Yale roster, winning her first event at the Bulldogs’ season-opening Princeton Invitational, then going on to win three more times throughout the season.
“I know a lot of the other freshmen on the other teams because I played a lot of junior golf with them, and so it didn’t actually feel that much different transferring into college from junior golf,” Moon said of making the transition from junior golf to college.
Moon is No. 34 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
5. UCLA rounds into form at season’s end
For UCLA, the fall season was just starting to get interesting about the time it ended. The Bruins ended the first half of the year with back-to-back wins at the Landfall Tradition and the Pac-10/SEC Challenge.
Of course, success comes as no surprise when talking about the Bruins, considering they lost just one player from a team that last year scored six runner-up finishes and two wins. Ranked No. 3 by Golfweek, the Bruins boast big-name players in Curtis Cup duo Tiffany Lua and Stephanie Kono. Head coach Carrie Forsyth pointed to even more depth as a reason for the Bruins’ success.
“They’re a really solid team, just all around for the most part good ball strikers, good short game,” Forsyth said. “They’re a smart team, they’re not going to make too many mistakes.”
4. Freshman Tubert ties NCAA scoring record
Those who witnessed long-hitting Emily Tubert wax the field at the Women’s Amateur Public Links might have had an inkling she would take to collegiate golf like a fish to water. As if winning her first college outing (the Susie Maxwell Berning Classic) wasn’t enough, Tubert went on to tie the NCAA 18-hole scoring record in just her third event at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown.
Tubert posted a first-round 9-under 63 at Boulder Creek (Nev.) Golf Club that included seven birdies and an eagle. She finished at 11-under 205 to win by five shots. What’s more, the smiley California kid clearly has her head in the right place, as she had this to say at the end of the week: “Every time we tee it up I always tell my coaches, I say, ‘You know this is so cool, what an awesome experience,’ ”
3. McChrystal emerges as the player to beat
The last anybody heard of Megan McChrystal at the conclusion of the 2009-10 golf season, she had put up a final-round, 8-under 64 at the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C., to set a school, course and NCAA Championship scoring record. After a quiet summer that included more summer school than tournament action, McChrystal burst onto the scene at the beginning of the fall with a win at the NCAA Fall Preview.
The LSU senior finished out the season with a T-4 at the Mason Rudolph and a runner-up finish at the Tar Heel and will take the top ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarins into the spring.
2. Arizona State competes without a team
A year ago, Arizona State entered the fall season with a national title to defend. It was a much different story this year for the Sun Devils as only two golfers were able to represent the team in two events this fall.
Arizona State lost Juliana Murcia Ortiz to graduation after a fourth-place finish at the national championship, then saw Jennifer Johnson and Jaclyn Sweeney jump ship to join the pro ranks during the summer. Only Carlota Ciganda and Giulia Molinaro remained.
Both Ciganda (Spain) Molinaro (Italy) traveled to the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship this fall, and Ciganda had two top-20 finishes in her two starts for Arizona State this season.
“I would like to have a team because you are more motivated and you have more fun,” Ciganda said. “I love Giulia and I like going with them but I think having a team, it’s much better.”
1. Alabama is the team to beat
Last year’s NCAA Championship provided some pretty significant foreshadowing for Alabama’s reign at the top of the rankings this fall. Purdue might have had the darkhorse story locked up, but it was Alabama that outpaced the rest of the field in the final round, scoring a program-best third-place finish.
Alabama won two of its four events this fall – flying out of the gate with a win at the NCAA Fall Preview – and never finished worse than sixth. The Crimson Tide had eight rounds under par and one round at even par, and set the single-round school record three times this season.
The question now is whether that momentum can roll through another off-season.