UC Davis an underdog? Not anymore
UC Davis is quickly losing its underdog status, and coach Anne Walker knows it.
The latest evidence came Wednesday at the Turtle Bay Collegiate Invitational in O’ahu, Hawaii, where her team collected its first win since 2007, flying from under the radar to right in the middle of it.
Walker, in her first year at the helm of the program, and her players’ phones and Facebook accounts nearly exploded at the beginning of the week with good luck messages from family and friends back home. The same thing happened a week prior before the final round at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown, which blew Walker’s plan of downplaying expectations right out of the water.
“It was like OK, well we know everyone is going to be calling you, so we might as well sit down and face it as a team,” Walker said.
That talk, spurred by freshman Demi Runas confessing her pre-final round nerves, ended up being one of the most memorable moments of the week.
“Looking back, I think that was one of the keys to our win, just all sitting in a room nervous together,” Walker said. “It kind of took the edge off, and after that we just had a great time with it.”
Turtle Bay marked the third consecutive tournament in which the Aggies had put themselves within striking distance, having failed to convert the first two times. A former player for Cal who then spent six years as the assistant coach at her alma mater, Walker knows final pairings aren’t always an easy undertaking.
But experience in those situations doesn’t hurt, and neither does a little last-minute preparation.
“We got here (Friday) and they wanted to put in a three-hour practice, and I’m not ever going to say that’s not OK,” Walker said.
Ranked No. 27 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, UC Davis is relying on juniors Alice Kim and Chelsea Stelzmiller as leaders, with two freshmen (including Amy Simanton, who led the team at Turtle Bay with her T-2 finish) contributing heavily. Walker thinks much of the team’s success is a product of her two leaders, so much so that they figured in to her recruiting strategy.
“I was selling that,” she said. “If you come to Davis, you have these two leaders and if you just follow them around, you’ll be good.”
Kim and Stelzmiller have done a lot to put their team on the map in the last year with appearances at the NCAA Championship as individuals and at the U.S. Women’s Open (where they shot identical 17-over 159s to miss the cut).
“I feel like everyone knows a little bit more about Davis now because not one but two of us represented UC Davis at the U.S. Open, and I think that’s kind of a big deal,” Kim said.
Look out California, there’s a new contender out West.
• • •
WONDER WOMAN: Cheryl Stacy is quickly proving there’s nothing she can’t do. Stacy has been a one-woman show this fall at Michigan, where she not only stepped into the head coaching position for the first time in her career, but did it without an assistant coach to handle the details.
Details, however, are not a problem for a coach who truly understands what her players are going through as they juggle school and team responsibilities. After taking the assistant coach position at Michigan in 2004, Stacy enrolled in night classes at Eastern Michigan to complete a degree in communication she had never finished at Ohio State. Stacy left early to pursue a professional golf career, and has six Futures Tour titles to her credit. As a collegiate player, Stacy had eight individual titles and played on three Big Ten Championship teams.
“I always kind of in the back of my mind regretted (leaving) because I think after a couple of years being out of school, I felt kind of inferior that I hadn’t completed something that I started,” Stacy said.
Stacy completed the last leg of her degree at Ohio State during the summer, as she commuted from her home in Ann Arbor, Mich., to Columbus, Ohio, (a little more than a three-hour drive) for class two days a week. She squeezed coaching and recruiting work into her days off.
“You just learn to manage your time, and I knew with the team, if they were studying on the plane I’d study with them,” Stacy said.
The Wolverines are ranked No. 66 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and had four top 10s in five outings this fall. Stacy plans to work with her players in the off-season to become a consistent top-30 team and hopefully receive a bid to nationals next spring.
“Since I started coaching I haven’t played a whole lot, but that’s something that I’d like to do more of because I think that the girls like it when I play with them.”
It’s a good bet Stacy would provide some stiff competition.
• • •
FIVE QUESTIONS with Texas A&M graduate student Julia Boland:
1. What do you think about on the course?
Not much really, there’s a whole lot of nothing going on in my head. Have you ever seen that “Simpsons” episode where they look inside Homer’s brain and it’s like a monkey with a bunch of symbols? That’s kind of what I think my brain is like, just sort of nothingness. I just don’t really think too much about golf and I generally ... talk to my playing partners or to my coach and just let things happen. I don’t think any technical thoughts.
2. What superstitions do you have or what do you like to keep consistent?
I always wear odd socks. It’s not superstitious though, it’s just because I’m really lazy and I can’t ... keep socks together. I always end up with odd socks. People think it’s superstitious.
3. How do your two wins this season compare?
Both of them we got to win as a team as well, which is really cool. I guess the second one was a little bit cooler because I knew the team a little bit better, the first win I’d only been with them maybe five days, I didn’t really know anyone, didn’t know my team that well.
4. What’s the biggest difference now that you’re a graduate student instead of an undergraduate on the team?
There’s probably more responsibilities placed on you as a graduate student as opposed to undergraduate where everything is sort of handed to you on a silver plate.
5. People are always asking you trivia on the course, so what’s the weirdest piece of trivia you know?
If you stretched out the DNA in a human body, like all the cells in a human body, you’d be able to go from the Earth to the moon 400 times.
I’m a little bit of a geek.