USC’s domination in women’s college golf makes the top of our list of highlights from the 2013 season, but there are other questions that still need to be answered. In this roundtable discussion, our Julie Williams (@GolfweekJules), Lance Ringler (@GolfweekRingler) and Cassie Stein (@GolfweekCassie) tackle five questions from the women’s college golf season.
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What was the biggest storyline from the fall season?
Julie: USC not only going undefeated, but taking its winning streak to seven. Even more interesting is that the Trojans won four times this fall with four different lineups. The national championship roster was together for the final fall event, the Pac-12 Preview in Hawaii. It makes USC look very good entering the spring season.
Lance: It’s hard to look past USC’s winning ways. The defending national champs won all four fall starts and pushed their overall winning streak to seven dating back to last spring. That confidence, momentum and experience will be needed this spring, because the target has been identified by the rest of college golf.
Cassie: USC going undefeated and taking on a seven tournament-winning streak is a big storyline, but I’m going with the start Clemson had. The Tigers started their women’s golf program this fall and had a lot of success. In their four tournaments, the ladies finished no worse than T-5 and led in one. A team victory is soon in the future for the Tigers.
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Which team (or player) was the biggest surprise?
Julie: I was surprised by Alabama’s slow start to the season. The Tide were my preseason No. 2 pick, but finished T-4, eighth and T-5 before winning the season-ending Landfall Tradition. Last year was similar – Alabama had a slow start to the fall (starting out the season with an eighth-place finish) before winning six titles in the seven spring events leading up to the NCAA Championship. Alabama has such a solid core (Stephanie Meadow, Emma Talley, Janie Jackson) that I think this spring will be a similar story.
Lance: Expectations were large for USC’s Annie Park. After winning the individual title at the NCAA Championship by six shots last spring and being named player of the year, not finding the winner’s circle in four fall starts was certainly a surprise.
Cassie: Duke was slated fourth in Golfweek’s Preseason Rankings, but with the loss of All-American Lindy Duncan, I didn’t know how the Blue Devils were going to respond. The team finished T-4, T-3, 1st (Tar Heel Invitational) and 2nd in its four starts this fall. Freshman Yu Liu is sixth in the individual rankings and filled in nicely for the absence of Duncan. The Blue Devils are for real.
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Who made an impact as an individual?
Julie: How about Liz Nagel? The Michigan State senior won the Spartans’ season-opening Mary Fossum Invitational just days after her grandpa died. Nagel, who battled thyroid cancer last year, came up big for her team all fall. She had two other top-5 finishes at the Mason Rudolph and Landfall Tradition, and a top 15 at the Tar Heel. Somebody needed to fill Caroline Powers’ shoes this season, and Nagel seems to have taken that job upon herself. Michigan State finished the fall No. 24 in Golfweek’s rankings (Nagel was 19th).
Lance: Did you happen to notice San Diego State’s Sirene Blair this fall? The freshman from South Jordan, Utah, closed the fall with a victory at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown and finished inside the top four in all four starts. She was under par in three of her four events and recorded a 71.8 scoring average and is ranked No. 29 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Cassie: Five USC players are in the top 45 of the Golfweek Rankings. Yes, the team used four different lineups this fall, but five inside the top 45 is impressive. Actually, four players – Sophia Popov, Annie Park, Karen Chung and Kyung Kim – are all inside the top 12. UCLA and Washington have three players inside the top 16 and 17, respectively, but kudos to USC for a great fall.
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What if you missed this…?
Julie: Oklahoma State had a great fall, especially in the big events. The Cowgirls made a run at both the Dale McNamara Fall Preview (third) and the Windy City Invitational (second) titles before winning the inaugural Schooner Fall Classic. Oklahoma State’s fall schedule was demanding, and it does not get any easier in the spring. This team will have been tested by the time postseason rolls around. It’s one I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Lance: Washington is back in the discussion amongst the best teams in college golf. One year ago Washington was ranked No. 1 at the mid-season break, this year the Huskies will enter the spring No. 4. With four players ranked individually inside the top 20, this team has to be considered a legit threat each time out.
Cassie: How about Miami golf getting back on the map? Ranked 37th by Golfweek, the Hurricanes are looking to make their first national championship appearance since 1992 after winning five national championships between 1970-84. The team played three tournaments this fall and finished second at the Challenge at Onion Creek, its best finish since the 2012 Hurricane Invitational.
Who receives your Annika Award vote for Player of the Year after the fall season?
Julie: I’m not really going out on a limb here, but my vote goes to Alison Lee. Two victories in her first semester of college? That’s an excellent start. Lee is a fun player to watch because her swing is so smooth and she gets into the game. I’m predicting big things for Lee in the postseason.
Lance: Really tough call at this point. You have to think USC’s Annie Park and Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow are again going to make a serious case to be the POY once it’s all said and done. However, there will be others and at this point in time I tend to like what Clemson’s Ashlan Ramsey has shown. Winning always matters when talking about POY and Ramsey has two victories in four starts. Her ability to go low is also a focal point, in 12 rounds played this past fall, the freshman has went below 70 five times.
Cassie: Honestly, Ashlan Ramsey has put the Tigers on her back for the program’s first season. She continued her stellar play from the summer and won the Lady Paladin and the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational, and finished T-2 and eighth in her other two tournaments. She is ot only a great golfer, a nice and mature lady for her age. There are big things to come in this woman’s future, and maybe it will happen in the spring.