2003: Freshman Blasberg arrives quickly at top
In both cases, Golfweek’s postseason women’s college awards were close. In the end, however, the choices were clear.
Arizona freshman Erica Blasberg outlasted two heralded seniors to claim top honors in the final Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, earning her Golfweek’s College Player of the Year honor. California’s Nancy McDaniel led the Golden Bears to seven victories, the most in women’s golf this season, and was named Golfweek’s College Coach of the Year.
Pepperdine’s Katherine Hull joined Blasberg as the only two players to top the rankings all year. But Blasberg entered the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship ranked No. 1 and her third-place tie at the event sealed the honor. Southern Cal’s Mikaela Parmlid’s individual victory moved her ahead of Hull to No. 2 in the final rankings.
“It was a good season, and I finished on a semi-good note,” Blasberg said. “I knew I was going to play well this year, I just didn’t quite know to what degree. But I exceeded everything I had hoped for.”
Blasberg won two tournaments – the Stanford Pepsi and the Wildcat Invitational – and finished in the top 3 in seven of 10 events. Only once did she finish outside the top 8 – a tie for 21st at her first college event, the NCAA Fall Preview. Playing the nation’s 14th most difficult schedule, only 40 players defeated Blasberg. Of 897 players Blasberg faced, only 10 ranked outside the top 50 finished ahead of her.
Coach of the Year had many well-deserving candidates: USC’s Andrea Gaston, who coached the NCAA champions; Ohio State’s Therese Hession, who lost her top player, Mollie Fankhauser, a week before the season began but still led the Buckeyes to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championship, an all-time high for a Big Ten school; or Pepperdine’s Laurie Gibbs, who led the Waves to five consecutive victories and a runner-up finish at the NCAAs.
But the nod went to McDaniel, the only coach in the program’s eight-year history, who led California to seven victories combined in the first seven years. This year, the Golden Bears won seven times in 12 events, including the Pac-10 Championship and the NCAA Central Regional, and ended the season ranked No. 8.
“We were very consistent and we were really good front-runners,” McDaniel said. “It was by far the best season we’ve ever had here.”