During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the spring season for each conference. Today, we look at the Pac-12:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: USC
• Player to watch: Alison Lee, UCLA
• Freshman to watch: Karen Chung, USC
• Conference championship: April 25-27, Trysting Tree GC, Corvallis, Ore.
• Past champions (since 2009): USC (2013), California (2012), USC (2011), Arizona (2010), Arizona State (2009)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
• UCLA (No. 1): Two team titles and four individual victories for the top-ranked team in Golfweek’s rankings. Freshmen Alison Lee and Bronte Law made a big impact. In fact Lee, with two individual victories and the top individual ranking by Golfweek, would be a great bet for Player of the Year at season’s end. Their biggest challenge will come from USC (see below).
• USC (No. 2): The perfect season. The Trojans went undefeated with four different lineups this fall, stretching their winning streak to seven (which includes last spring’s postseason sweep). USC played well as a whole even without star Annie Park playing as well as she could have individually. USC’s shot at a national title defense will add great drama to the end of the season.
• Washington (No. 4): Washington scored a season-opening win at the Topy Cup, then proved itself among the Pac-12 elite with a runner-up at its own Edean Ihlanfeldt, third at Stanford and third at the Pac-12 Preview. Washington will be a spring contender.
• Stanford (No. 5): It was a slow start for this young squad, but an Edean Ihlanfeldt victory was the Cardinal’s fall highlight. Mariah Stackhouse still is a big player for Stanford, and so is freshman Casey Danielson.
• Arizona State (No. 7): The Sun Devils played a tough fall schedule, and made a run at the Mason Rudolph and Betsy Rawls titles. Spring schedule will be West Coast heavy and challenging, as usual.
• Arizona (No. 12): The pieces are there, but the Wildcats have not yet played to potential. Expect more from Manon Gidali and Kendall Prince in the fall. With all pistons firing, this squad could be as strong as UCLA and USC.
• Oregon (No. 16): Compiled lowest fall average in program history, and a tough spring schedule will be a great test. Cassy Isagawa continues to be the Ducks’ go-to player.
• California (No. 26): The Golden Bears have been an up-and-down team over the past few seasons. The fall was highlighted by a Ptarmigan Classic victory and a top 5 at the Edean Ihlanfeldt. Nicola Rossler maintained the low scoring average.
• Colorado (No. 51): Colorado continues the rebuilding process after having such a great season in 2011-12. Runner-up at the Ptarmigan Ram was promising. Twins Jenny and Kristin Coleman remain on this roster as anchors, but will graduate at the end of the spring.
• Oregon State (No. 57): The Beavers are sticking to the West Coast this year which means they have gotten (and will continue to get) plenty of experience against Pac-12 competition. The conference championship will be played in their backyard this spring. It could give Oregon State a leg up.
• Washington State (No. 86): Highlight of the season was winning its own Cougar Cup. Kudos to Washington State for a tough schedule. Senior Mallory Kent is a go-to player.
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LANCE RINGLER’S TAKE:
The best conference in women’s golf and it is not even close. USC and UCLA should go back and forth all spring on which team is the nation’s best. But, looking ahead to the Pac-12 Championship it could be interesting playing the event in the northwest at Trysting Tree Golf Course hosted by Oregon State. This could help the likes of Washington or Oregon have a little bit of advantage.