As the college season draws to a close, Golfweek has been monitoring the race for the inaugural ANNIKA Award presented by 3M. The award is presented to the best female college player, as voted on by players, coaches and select media. If you’d like to register to be a voter, click here.
The NCAA Championship begins next week at Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club. Here are five favorites entering the final tournament of the season:
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Celine Boutier, Duke
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 7
Golfstat head-to-head ranking: 5
Scoring average: 71.83
Best finish this season: Won Bryan National Collegiate, Ping/ASU Invitational, ACC Championship
In a few words: Boutier has won three of her last four starts with Duke, and is the player who is peaking the most entering postseason. The Frenchwoman plays a vital role for the Blue Devils, one of a handful of teams capabale of scoring for 72 holes at the NCAA finals. Outside of college golf, Boutier won her U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in Colorado on May 14, which shows she’s remained in a competitive mindset in the days between NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Championship.
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Noemi Jimenez, Arizona State
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 3
Golfstat head-to-head ranking: 2
Scoring average: 71.27
Best finish this season: Won NCAA West Regional
In a few words: Jimenez’s season was peppered with close calls – two runners-up (including one at Tulsa Country Club for the Fall Preview) and four more top 5s. Her breakthrough came a week ago at the NCAA West Regional, where Jimenez won by two. The Spaniard may be the most positive and patient player in women’s college golf. These are traits she showed by moving forward with each near-miss, taking something positive away from it and continuing to play aggressively rather than defensively. For Jimenez, it’s all about the team – or in her mind, her Sun Devil family.
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Alison Lee, UCLA
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 1
Golfstat head-to-head ranking: 1
Scoring average: 70.8
Best finish this season: Won Betsy Rawls Invitational, Stanford Intercollegiate, Pac-12 Championship
In a few words: Lee’s body of work as a freshman has been impressive. Look where Lee has come in the past few years – a small and smiley AJGA veteran has blossomed into the No. 1 college player in the nation. Lee’s playing experiences were vast before she got to UCLA (from LPGA starts to USGA events to Junior Solheim and Ryder Cup teams), and she has a lot of shots in her bag – more than many of her opponents. In the past, Lee’s biggest obstacle had been confidence and putting bad play behind her, but she’s shown a tendency to build on success – her first two college victories came on the heels of a trip to the semifinals at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and a successful turn on the Junior Solheim Cup team. Her first NCAA Championship appearance will begin just 24 days after she claimed the Pac-12 Championship title.
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Stephanie Meadow, Alabama
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 4
Golfstat head-to-head ranking: 3
Scoring average: 71.43
Best finish this season: Won Landfall Tradition, T-1 Lady Puerto Rico Classic
In a few words: Meadow’s senior season win total matches that of her junior season, but she has contended more frequently, finishing in the top 5 four other times. Meadow continues to benefit from swing work with Alabama head coach Mic Potter and mental-game work she began with Vision54 coaches over a year ago. It is hard to see Meadow’s fiercly competitive nature when she is on the course, which suggests said mental training has worked wonderfully (even though the Northern Irishwoman has been like this since junior golf). The NCAA Championship is her last hurrah with the Crimson Tide.
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Annie Park, USC
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 2
Golfstat head-to-head ranking: 7
Scoring average: 71.16
Best finish this season: Won Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge
In a few words: Park is two postseason titles short of where she was this time last year, but it’s unrealistic to think each subsequent season would be just like that phenomenal freshman spring. Park has still measured up with the best players in the country week in, week out. She had one victory and four top 3s in 11 starts with the Trojans this year. Park is good at tuning out noise and concentrating on her own game and her own swing. She’s known for a long ball, but in Tulsa, she’ll have to think placement, too.