Zamora among trio making a case for POY

Marta Silva Zamora of Georgia during the final round of the Women's NCAA Championship at Country Club of Landfall.

Women's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Alison LeeUCLA  69.96 
2Stephanie MeadowAlabama  70.17 
3Gaby LopezArkansas  70.29 
4Noemi JimenezArizona St  70.31 
5Celine BoutierDuke  70.40 

Women's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Southern California 70.64  13 
2UCLA 70.83  12 
3Duke 70.89  11 
4Stanford 71.74  13 
5Arizona State 71.75  12 

A year ago, Oklahoma State’s Caroline Hedwall was barreling through the spring season in a take-no-prisoners style that left little doubt as to who would garner Player of the Year honors at the end of the season. Hedwall, who left Oklahoma State after her sophomore year and turned professional at the end of the summer, won four times in eight starts, and never finished worse than fourth.

This year, LSU senior Megan McChrystal has owned the most commanding reign at the top of the rankings – that is, until she was replaced this week by Georgia junior Marta Silva Zamora. Here’s a look at the players who could come out on top of the rankings by season’s end, thus winning Player of the Year accolades:

Marta Silva Zamora, Georgia junior

Golfweek ranking: 1

With a win at home at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, Silva Zamora took her total number of wins while at Georgia to five, not to mention claiming the top spot in Golfweek’s rankings.

Silva Zamora went 4 under in the final eight holes of the Liz Murphey to beat Arkansas’ Emily Tubert by two shots. It’s that kind of play that makes her a contender. Silva Zamora, the reigning Spanish Amateur champion, has finished in the top 10 six times in seven starts, withdrawing because of illness in the eighth.

Last year, Silva Zamora earned a spot in the NCAA Central Regional as an individual, and finished third to move on to the national championship, where she was T-33.

Megan McChrystal, LSU senior

Golfweek ranking: 2

One strength McChrystal has in her corner is that she’s capable of going very low. For proof, reference last year’s NCAA Championship records. McChrystal had nine birdies on her way to an 8-under 64 that set the new NCAA Championship scoring record.

Like Silva Zamora, McChrystal also made that trip as an individual, advancing out of the West Regional with a sixth-place finish. Even though she put most of her focus on summer school instead of amateur tournaments this summer, McChrystal flew out of the gate in the fall with a win at the NCAA Fall Preview, the fourth of her collegiate career. She hasn’t won since, but has two other runner-ups.

McChrystal hadn’t finished outside the top 5 in any tournament this year until coming in T-58 at the Liz Murphey. It effectively knocked her out of the top spot. What’s interesting is McChrystal and Silva Zamora will have the chance to go head-to-head at the SEC Championship next week. What’s even more interesting is that the two have an identical stroke average: 71.4.

Lizette Salas, USC senior

Golfweek ranking: 3

Enter the third Player of the Year contender, and the best bet from the West Coast. Salas has had her work cut out for her this year, captaining a USC team that hardly resembles the one that was runner-up at last year’s NCAA Championship. Salas finished runner-up to McChrystal at the NCAA Fall Preview, and also was runner-up at last month’s Battle at Rancho Bernardo. She has three other top-10 finishes in seven starts.

A Player of the Year nod would be a nice topper to another record Salas is chasing: Four-time All-American. As for the latter title, she’d be the first USC player to achieve it.

And while we’re looking at the rankings... The Class of 2014 is one heck of a group, meaning Freshman of the Year also is far from a lock. Contenders include USC’s Sophia Popov (No. 5) who has two wins this season, Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow (No. 8) with two wins (both this spring) and Arkansas’ Emily Tubert (No. 16) with three wins. Tubert also tied the NCAA 18-hole record in October with a 9-under 63.

• • •

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Nathalie Mansson

Five questions with Tennessee junior Nathalie Mansson, of Stockholm, Sweden, who was medalist at the Rebel Intercollegiate and helped lead the Lady Vols to a team title.

1.) You beat teammate Erica Popson in a playoff for individual medalist honors. What’s it like playing off with a teammate?

It’s always tough, we both wanted to win from the start going into the tournament and of course a win for the team. When we had already won (as a team), it was just I guess we both wanted to win. It was fun. It’s always interesting and hard. You like each other but you still want to win.

2.) Your second-round 67 was a tournament record and a career best. How does it feel?

I’ve shot 67 once before and it was a year and a half ago or something. I thought that I was capable to do it pretty soon again. I’ve been playing pretty good in practice and stuff but I haven’t really shot a low score in a tournament. Going out there, I knew that one girl shot 68 the first day so I just wanted to keep making birdies because I thought I was four behind. I was four behind going into the second day so I just wanted to keep making birdies and that was my only goal. I had a little bit of a hard time in the middle of the round but after making a couple good up-and-downs, everything just went in. It was great. I played the same type of golf the first day but I just didn’t make any putts so I thought that if I could just make some more the second day, I can shoot a low score.

3.) You now have three wins as a Lady Vol. How do they compare?

This one feels almost the best one just because I’ve been really struggling this whole year compared to the other two. I just felt that this really gave me some more confidence and I feel like I could definitely do it again now.

4.) You returned a lot of last year’s team, one that made it to the NCAA Championship. Feeling good about postseason?

I feel really good. This is the best team I’ve played on for these three years and I think we can definitely be up there and even winning any of those tournaments that are left. We all have good games in us and everybody is feeling good about their games right now. We all have worked hard to get here. Last week was just a good proof of what we are working for.

5.) It’s also the time of year for finals. What’s the one you’re most worried about?

I actually have five sociology classes. It’s my major – sociology/criminal justice. It’s a little bit different. It’s been a lot of work. Any of them will be a hard time, a lot of work of to do.

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