ANNIKA Award Watch List: May 3, 2017

UCLA's Lilia Vu is one round away from her first college win.

ANNIKA Award Watch List: May 3, 2017

Women

ANNIKA Award Watch List: May 3, 2017

Conference championship season is over and NCAA Regional sites have been announced, which means we’re in the stretch run for the ANNIKA Award race.

The ANNIKA Award Presented by 3M honors the player of the year in college women’s golf, as selected by 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 13th edition of the ANNIKA Award Watch List.

This is where matters really start to heat up, as we are into the postseason. There are only two events left (at most) for the ANNIKA contenders, so it’s certainly crunch time. (Remember, too, voting opens up after regionals, which means whatever happens at nationals will likely not factor in on every ballot.)

With further ado, the fifth spring edition of the ANNIKA rankings for 2016-17:

• • •

1. Leona Maguire (Last time: 1)

Year: Junior

School: Duke

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 1

Results: WIN, ACC Championship; 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 (1-0-1 in match play as well); T-6, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate; 1-1 in match play in Duke-Northwestern showdown; 0-0-1 in Northwestern quad

The buzz: How do you solidify yourself as the favorite at a crucial time? Just win the conference championship! That’s exactly what Maguire did. Her three wins on the season are something to behold, but the fact her worst finish this season is T-6 also holds weight. Maguire gets some breathing room, as she’s the clear favorite now as she charges toward a potential second ANNIKA in three years.

2. Andrea Lee (Last time: 2)

Year: Freshman

School: Stanford

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; T-3, Pac-12 Championship; 3, Silverado Showdown; T-11, Bruin Wave Invitational; T-23, Nanea Pac-12 Preview

The buzz: A great showing for Lee at Pac-12s as she tied for third. But on this cutthroat list, she actually almost got knocked down a spot after that performance (see more under Lilia Vu). Maguire becomes the clear favorite – but “clear” doesn’t mean “lock.” Far from it. Lee grabbing back the No. 1 spot after Regionals – and remember, voting is open after regionals finish – is absolutely feasible, but she’ll likely need Maguire to falter.

3. Lilia Vu (Last time: N/A)

Year: Sophomore

School: UCLA

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 4

Results: WIN, Pac-12 Championship; WIN, Silverado Showdown; WIN, Anuenue Spring Break Classic; WIN, Bruin Wave Invitational; 2, ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M; T-5, Stanford Intercollegiate hosted by Condoleezza Rice; 11, East Lake Cup; T-24, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge; T-32, Nanea Pac-12 Preview

The buzz: What a spring for Lilia Vu. The sophomore capped it off with a six-shot triumph at the Pac-12 Championship. That was her FOURTH straight win. Really incredible stuff. Considering Vu was a top-five player in the country as a freshman, we knew something like this was possible, but not an explosion of this magnitude. This is a full-season award, though. Like her freshman year, Vu has heated up big time in the spring but is still recovering from less-than-ideal play prior to catching fire. While Vu has the most wins of any ANNIKA contender, her two finishes of T-24 or worse are weighing her down. Yet, she’s right on Lee’s heels for No. 2 – Vu moving to that second position this week was certainly a consideration. If Vu can make it five straight wins at the NCAA Lubbock Regional, there’s a chance she’ll be the ANNIKA favorite when balloting opens.

4. Cheyenne Knight (Last time: 3)

Year: Sophomore

School: Alabama

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 3

Results: WIN, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate; WIN, Mason Rudolph Championship; T-3, The Landfall Tradition; T-5, SEC Championship; 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: A top-five finish at SECs is nothing to sniff at, but Knight drops a spot thanks to Vu’s heroics. And Knight needed a kick-up in play at the conference championship and postseason to have a shot at the award. A wonderful season for the sophomore, but she’ll probably need to win out to have a shot at the ANNIKA, and even then, she’d be somewhat at the mercy of when people vote.

5. Jennifer Kupcho (Last time: N/A)

Year: Sophomore

School: Wake Forest

2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 5

Results: WIN, The Landfall Tradition; WIN, Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational; 2, ACC Championship; T-2, Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational; T-3, Bryan National Collegiate T-4, Cougar Classic; T-8, Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship; T-47, Darius Rucker Intercollegiate; WD, Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge (doesn’t count in rankings)

The buzz: Even as the team around her is struggling, to say the least, Kupcho isn’t skipping a beat. Her last three starts are all top-three finishes. And she still has those two wins this season. Kupcho may have some pressure to make the NCAA Championship, as she may have to do so as an individual again considering her team’s woes. That T-47 is keeping her from really being in the thick of this race. Anything short of winning her regional and then the NCAA Championship probably won’t cut it for getting the ANNIKA. And like Knight, Kupcho has that same issue of not knowing when voters will cast ballots.

• • •

There’s only two more events in the 2016-17 season, and it’s likely there will be a few votes cast before the final event (the NCAA Championship). So any player not on the list currently is essentially out of the running. With that being the case, there’s no real need for an “up” and a “down” section. Instead, we’ll offer one player who’s not on the list but did show something recently.

Conference Championship standout

Katelyn Dambaugh, South Carolina

Huge time for Dambaugh to get her first win of the season, as she captures the SEC Championship. That puts Dambaugh at No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. In our opinion, Dambaugh was second among the ANNIKA favorites entering 2016-17. So not being in the running at this point is not ideal. But this has still been a stellar senior season with that win and five other top-seven finishes.

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