Top 10 stories from the fall season
Monday, November 30, 2009
Lance and Asher wrap up the fall season. Is the women’s game deeper than expected?
With the fall golf season in the books, here’s a look back at 10 of the most notable stories from women’s college golf.
Is Duke back?
The Blue Devils made a convincing argument for themselves with a win at the NCAA Fall Preview. The Preview was the first Duke victory at a stroke play event since the 2008 ACC Championship, and what better way to hit the top again than with a comeback win from 10 shots back?
Duke ends the season ranked No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, after finishing T-4 and seventh in the weeks leading up to the Preview win. The Blue Devils just might be beginning to show signs of returning to national powerhouse status. The team won its last of three consecutive national titles three years ago, and this is senior Alison Whitaker’s last opportunity to grab a second title on her way out the door.
USC nowhere in sight at Preview
While Duke was leading the pack at the Preview, USC was, surprisingly, nowhere near the top of the leaderboard. The Trojans started their season with a win at the Mason Rudolph, and tacked on another top 5 at the Stanford Intercollegiate. By the time they hit the Preview, Golfweek No. 1 Jennifer Song, who had won two individual titles already, was absent preparing for the LPGA’s Hana Bank/Kolon Championship in South Korea.
Junior Lizette Salas led the team, finishing T-12, but with no other player finishing higher than 50th and senior Belen Mozo withdrawing in the final round, the Trojans slipped down the leaderboard. It was their first non-top-10 finish in 32 straight events.
Anderson proves her talent
Amy Anderson was a relative unkown when she hoisted the U.S. Junior Girls’ trophy in July. She wasn’t silent for long after that either, and after returning to North Dakota and starting her freshman season at North Dakota State, she quickly returned to the headlines.
Anderson went 3-0 to start her college career, logging individual wins at the Concordia Cobber Open by nine shots, the Chip-N-Club Invitational by three shots and the Northern Arizona Mountain Shooutout by nine. She eventually broke the streak at the Bob Hurley Auto Oral Roberters Shootout when she finished seventh.
In addition to earning so many medals, Anderson also put her name in the North Dakota State history books. She now owns the school’s 18-, 36- and 54-hole scoring records.
Michigan State flexes its muscle
Michigan State established itself as a top-5 team with an out-of-nowhere win at the Tar Heel Invitational midway through the season. The Spartans topped an 18-team field that featured 15 teams ranked inside the top 36 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and it took a true team effort to get it done. Every player recorded at least one sub-par round during the three-day tournament, and senior Laura Kueny fulfilled her leadership role with a T-2 at 4-under 212.
The Spartans led by 11 shots entering the final round, and won by 12 shots. Did the end result exceed the team’s and Coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll’s expectations?
“Well yes, of course,” Slobodnik-Stoll said.
That doesn’t mean it was a total surprise, even though Slobodnik-Stoll called it the first major tournament victory for the Spartans outside the Big 10 Championship.
“In our team meeting, we talked about winning,” she said.
Big 10 looking tough
Speaking of Big 10 superstars, Purdue joins Michigan State in that category after a fall that included wins at the Lady Northern Invitational and the Windy City Collegiate Championship, and a second-place at their season-opening Marry Fossum Invitational. Junior Maude-Aimee LeBlanc also won the individual title at both events.
The Boilermakers lost 2009 NCAA champion Maria Hernandez (though not completely, since Hernandez signed on for assitant coaching duties this year), but their fall season showed they’re working around it. Ranked No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, Purdue will be a force as it tries to win a third conference title in a row.
Louisville emerges as surprise team
Louisville developed a team dynamic this fall that no other program could boast. When Sara-Maude Juneau wasn’t winning tournaments, her roommate Laura Anderson was. The junior duo developed a flip-flop routine to lead the Cardinals to a No. 21 ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Each finished with the low individual score twice (Anderson lost a playoff for the Mercedes-Benz Women’s Championship). As a team, Louisville won the Napa River Grill Cardinal Cup by 32 shots, and also recorded a second and two thirds on the season.
“To have the two anchors in place and then to have your 3, 4, and 5 be able to back up their numbers . . . that’s what a coach is looking for and they just happened to get that mix,” coach Kelly Meyers Rothberg said.
Arizona ends drought
Shaking loose from a winless streak is hard to do, but Arizona should be commended for snapping the streak after 66 events. The Wildcats won the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown this fall, their first victory since the 2003 Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational.
The charge was led by freshman Sherlyn Popelka, who won the individual title with her 7-under 209.
Arizona ended the fall ranked No. 20 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Transfers help Cal
It doesn’t always take a crop of new freshmen to freshen up a team, as Cal proved this fall. The Golden Bears drew on some locals looking for a team closer to home, and found themselves in Golfweek’s No. 10 spot.
Emily Childs, the top player at Colorado last fall, and Joanne Lee, No. 6 on USC’s 2008 national championship team, returned to the Bay Area for their sophomore season and helped Cal collect a big win at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational. Both players scored top-5 finishes at the tournament.
Florida State could have won again
Florida State burst onto the scene at the beginning of the fall season with a second-place finish right out of the gate at the Cougar Fall Classic. Two weeks later, the Seminoles were at the top of the leaderboard at the Lady Wildcat Invitational.
The Seminoles had a fall season to be proud of, but how much better could it have been? Florida State was poised to to enter a team playoff with Georgia at the final round of the Eat A Peach Collegiate, until senior Lacey Agnew signed for an incorrect scorecard – one that showed her score as one shot higher. The mistake left Georgia with the title and Florida State in second again. That could be a great motivator in the spring.
Clanton one to watch in the spring
One of the hottest players coming off the fall season is Auburn junior Cydney Clanton. After starting the season by taking medalist honors at the Hooters Match Play event, Clanton capped it with a win at the Preview. Clanton chalks up her success to improved putting and mental game.
“I didn’t let many things bother me this season like I had in previous seasons so I played pretty consistent,” she said.
At the Preview, everything clicked for Clanton, ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
“The whole fall season, I hit the ball overall pretty well,” she said. “I was pretty confident in going into the tournament with my ball striking and when a few putts started to drop, it just got my confience up.”
• • •
Five questions with USC sophomore, Jennifer Song:
1. How would you sum up your sophomore fall? What are you most proud of?
I just had a wonderful year. I came off with two national championship wins, and then starting with two tournaments, I won both of them so it was so exciting for me. Last year one of my goals was to win a college championship and it never happened so i was kind of upset. but coming away with two wins, it was just a big honor for me.
2. How do you think the team looks heading into the spring?
Every player is just trying to figure out what they need to do to develop with their game. Basically we’re working on our phycial condition. . . . Right now it’s off season so a couple of players are just taking theit time off and taking time off from golf and they’re doing other things and catching up with school and just resting. I think going into spring we’re going to look pretty strong.
3. What did you think of playing the tour event in Korea? Was that a hard decision to make because you would have to miss out on a few college tournaments?
Kind of sad that I had to miss one or the other, but I just felt like it was an opportunity to play in an LPGA event, I just had to go for it because first it’s in Korea which is my hometown too and I get to see my parents and it’s just a prestigious tournament to me. I just had to make the choice to go there. The outcome wasn’t so good because I didn’t play so well. I was 65, 66 out of 69 players. I think part of it was jet lag and I wasn’t feeling so well because the weathe rwas really cold there and I got cold. Everything just didn’t fit right, but I learned a lot and I saw a lot of great players out there, I saw how they act and train for the game and just wonderful to see every one of them.
4. What are you thinking as far turning pro next year?
As of now, I really don’t know what’s going to to happen. My dad and I are in deep conversations, we talk a lot about what my career is going to be like, but right now we’re just constantly communicating about what would be the best but we haven’t made any decisions yet.
5. With the holidays coming up, will you take a break from golf or continue to play? Any tournaments lined up?
I’ve continued to practice every day, but I’m just taking the time off. I am playing tournaments with a couple of my teammates.