Conference championship season is now underway, so it’s a perfect time to unveil another ANNIKA Award Watch List update.
The ANNIKA Award Presented by 3M honors the player of the year in college women’s golf, as selected by a group of college golfers, coaches and members of the golf media.
This will be the fourth edition of the honor, with UCLA’s Alison Lee winning in 2014, Duke’s Leona Maguire taking the honor in 2015 and UCLA’s Bronte Law earning it in 2016.
The following players made the 12th edition of the ANNIKA Award Watch List.
With further ado, the fourth spring edition of the ANNIKA rankings for 2016-17:
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1. Leona Maguire (Last time: 2)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 1
Results: WIN, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge; WIN, LSU Tiger Golf Classic; 2, SunTrust Gator Invitational; 3, Windy City Collegiate Championship; T-3, ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M; T-3, East Lake Cup; T-6, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate; 1-1 in match play in Duke-Northwestern showdown
The buzz: We said three weeks ago that Maguire would have been knocking on the door of No. 1 with a win rather than runner-up finish at the SunTrust Gator. But when you follow that up with a win, it doesn’t matter, you’re making the jump. The 2015 ANNIKA winner is back on top after her second win of the 2016-17 season. While the junior still is down a victory to Andrea Lee, remember one of the freshman’s three triumphs was 18 holes of stroke play against a small field. Maguire also has a worst finish of T-6 while Lee has two showings outside the top 10 despite playing an easier schedule (39th-toughest vs. Maguire’s seventh-toughest). But let’s be clear, this race for No. 1 is INCREDIBLY tight. With Lee returning to action at the Silverado Showdown and placing solo third, Maguire barely jumped her for the top spot. It’s splitting hairs at this point. If Maguire slips up at all at the ACC Championship – which started Thursday with Maguire opening in 4-under 68 for a share of the lead – and Lee is her normal self at the Pac-12 Championship, the freshman will get her No. 1 spot back.
2. Andrea Lee (Last time: 1)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 2
Results: WIN, Windy City Collegiate Championship; WIN, Peg Barnard Invitational; WIN, East Lake Cup (2-0 in match play as well); 2, Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Championship; T-2, Stanford Intercollegiate hosted by Condoleezza Rice; 3, Silverado Showdown; T-11, Bruin Wave Invitational; T-23, Nanea Pac-12 Preview
The buzz: Stanford actually returned to competition two weeks ago at the Anuenue Spring Break Classic, but Lee played at the ANA Inspiration (the LPGA’s first major of the year) instead. A great opportunity of course, and Lee didn’t skip a beat in finishing solo third in her return at the Silverado Showdown. A little surprising she didn’t hold onto the 36-hole lead there, and that drop from first to third in that event ultimately cost her the No. 1 spot on this list. For now. She returns to competition April 24 at the Pac-12 Championship, and if Maguire’s No. 1 right now, Lee is 1a. As we noted above, it’s that close.
3. Cheyenne Knight (Last time: 3)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 3
Results: WIN, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate; WIN, Mason Rudolph Championship; T-3, The Landfall Tradition; 6, The Schooner Fall Classic; T-9, Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational; T-10, Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic (3-0 in match play as well); T-16, Bryan National Collegiate; T-17, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge
The buzz: There’s certainly separation with that top two from the rest, but Knight is far from out of this. Not the most inspiring recent performances with a T-16 and a T-10 (in 18 holes of stroke play), but that’s still solid. And Knight has two wins on the season already. With a conference championship, NCAA regional and (likely) NCAA Championship appearance to come, Knight can no doubt make up the ground to get to No. 1. It’ll take an incredible battle, though.
4. Casey Danielson (Last time: N/A)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 4
Results: 2, East Lake Cup (1-1 in match play as well); T-3, Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate; T-3, Bruin Wave Invitational; 4, Peg Barnard Invitational; T-4, Stanford Intercollegiate hosted by Condoleeza Rice; T-4, Silverado Showdown; T-7, Nanea Pac-12 Preview; T-10, Anuenue Spring Break Classic; T-12, Windy City Collegiate Championship
The buzz: This marks the first of two pairs of teammates on this list. Danielson has not won yet in 2016-17, but she’s been hanging around just below the cut for this list for quite some time. Her penchant for high finishes was eventually going to get her on, and it has! Danielson has been especially on form since the spring started. In her five starts since the end of winter break, she has just one finish outside the top four (a T-10 at the Anuenue Spring Break Classic). The way she’s going, Danielson can absolutely remain on this list by the time balloting is closed. If she wants the ANNIKA, though, she may need to win out – at the very least capture two titles between Pac-12s, regionals and (likely) nationals – to have a real chance.
5. Kristen Gillman (Last time: N/A)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 5
Results: WIN, Bryan National Collegiate; 2, Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic (1-1-1 in match play as well); T-2, Mason Rudolph Championship; T-4, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate; T-8, Schooner Fall Classic; T-15, Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational; T-21, The Landfall Tradition; T-24, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge
The buzz: This was expected to be a freshman class that boasted some players near the top. Lee has helped take care of that, and Gillman now joins the list. Gillman earned her first college win two weeks ago at the Bryan National Collegiate and then had a runner-up showing at the Liz Murphey (in one round of stroke play). She hasn’t had any truly disastrous performances this year, but two finishes outside the top 20 are more than the other four on this list have combined. Like Danielson, winning out from here may be her only chance at the ANNIKA. Regardless, a strong freshman year thus far.
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The spring season is heading toward postseason play. Here are some notable movers outside the top five.
Lilia Vu, UCLA
The Bruins needed someone (or multiple players) to step up after Bronte Law turned pro after the fall. How does three wins in a row sound? Considering a dominant freshman spring that saw her finish third in Golfweek‘s rankings, Vu was expected to be a super sophomore. After a solid but unspectacular fall, that’s come to fruition. After victories at the Bruin Wave Invitational, Anuenue Spring Break Classic and Silverado Showdown, she’s now No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Vu also boasts a runner-up showing at the 2016-17 opener in the ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M. Even with three wins and a second, Vu is still being weighed down by T-24 and T-32 finishes. Regardless, for a second straight spring, Vu has become a force.
Jillian Hollis, Georgia
Hollis, a sophomore, has faced the 26th-toughest schedule in the nation, and she does have three finishes outside the top 20. But her other five are all top-10 showings, and her last two starts are T3-WIN – the latter coming in 18 holes of stroke play. The game seems to be coming together at the right time. Hollis has been contributing a player diary to Golfweek this spring. You can read her thought-provoking posts here: Part I and Part II.
Matilda Castren, Florida State
The senior won the Clemson Invitational on April 2 to earn her second victory of her final season at FSU. She has no finishes worse than T-12 in nine starts, either! She’s only No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings for a reason, though: Castren’s done all this against the 296th-ranked schedule in the country. She’ll be facing her toughest competition of the season soon, though, with postseason on the horizon.
Morgane Metraux, Florida State
One tough finish can end it all for ANNIKA hopes. Metraux, a junior at Florida State, went undefeated in February thanks to consecutive wins and followed that up in mid-March with a tie for sixth at the Clover Cup. All of that put her on the ANNIKA list and in the running. But a T-48 at the Clemson Invitational saw her Golfweek/Sagarin ranking drop from No. 5 to 14. Her strength of schedule (294th in the country) was already a concern, and now there’s this black mark on her resume. Too many great candidates above for Metraux to win the ANNIKA. But with three wins and all but one finish in the top 20, there’s no doubt she has enough on her resume to at least get back on the list if she finishes strong in 2016-17.