Cal rolls to top-5 ranking with three transfers
After its second victory this season, California has become a perfect example of what can happen when the stars align for a team. It’s not as if the Golden Bears are lacking in raw talent, but head coach Nancy McDaniels also can’t argue that serendipity played a big role in bringing this team together.
California won the Peg Barnard Invitational on Feb. 20 by 18 strokes, prevailing in difficult weather conditions. To get it done, the Golden Bears, ranked No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, relied heavily on three standout transfers, all juniors: Emily Childs (Colorado), Joanne Lee (USC) and Daniela Holmqvist (Tulane).
Childs and Lee – who finished first and seventh, respectively, at the Peg Barnard – were lured back to Berkeley after growing up in the Bay Area. For Swede Holmqvist – who scored a career-best runner-up this week – it was about a combination of California sunshine and competitive golf. After joining the roster for the 2009-10 season, Holmqvist is just beginning to hit her stride as a Golden Bear. The Peg Barnard was her third top 10 this season.
“Some of the transferring is really serendipitous, with us being able to have the money at the time,” McDaniels said of a team that has been plagued with injuries in recent years. “It’s not always like that for programs, and sometimes I just feel like that’s where they ought to be if it all works out because it’s just a hard transition to not only have the scholarship but the person who wants to come.”
Add senior Pia Halbig – who won the Mason Rudolph in the fall and had two other top-3 finishes – to the mix and Cal has a solid foursome to lean on as the spring progresses. Another ingredient of note? Ties run deep with the Cal men’s team, fresh off a victory at the John Burns Intercollegiate.
“When two teams in the program can team up with one another, it’s pretty powerful,” McDaniels said.
Cal remains close to home next week for the Juli Inkster Spartan Invite in San Jose, and won’t stray from the West Coast for the remainder of the season. Ranked third among the Pac-10 teams (trailing USC and UCLA), Cal should be kept in mind when the Conference Championship is contested in April.
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Rewriting history: What Iowa State couldn’t quite get done Feb. 15 at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, the Cyclones managed to complete a week later at the Central District Invitational. After threatening to beat top-ranked Alabama, the Cyclones rebounded in Parrish, Fla., to win their second team title on the year.
Iowa State turned on the jets in the final round of the Central District to hop fourth-ranked LSU and win the 15-team event by seven shots. The Cyclones’ final-round 5-under 283 lapped the field and was the lowest team score of the week.
It’s a far cry from the ending this team, ranked No. 20 by Golfweek, authored in Puerto Rico. The Cyclones lost steam in the final holes to fall just short of what would have been their biggest win in program history.
“I think it’s just almost like contagious,” head coach Christie Martens said. “One person starts playing well, then just everyone was making birdies. Last week didn’t really finish well. They had it going kind of like they did today but didn’t really close it well, so it was super exciting today that they all kind of kept it going and were able to finish strong.”
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Five questions with Texas A&M freshman Katerina Ruzickova of Ostrava, Czech Republic, who led the Aggies to a third-place finish at the Central District Invitational.
1.) What was key in the team’s success?
I feel like putting was really important because the course was shorter than the courses we’ve played before. We had many chances for a birdie and really just staying patient because sometimes the putts would not go in and we get frustrated. Just pretty much staying patient and try to make as much birdies as we could.
2.) What did you work on during the off-season to come back strong?
I was just working on my swing, just did a couple changes to get a little bit stronger and steady. Should have maybe put some more time into my short game, putting especially, but feel way more comfortable than I did before with my swing.
3.) How did you and the team get motivated to bounce back from a slow start?
The qualifiers helped a lot. We played four qualifiers, and the course we played, it’s just pretty difficult when it’s windy or the pins are in a tough position. The qualifier really helped to stay mentally ready for the tournament. Just mentally prepare myself, try to play the course in my mind, see myself compete with others.
4.) What are your thoughts on your first year in College Station? All that you had hoped?
Texas A&M, I thought it was a really good fit for me. I already knew whenever I came there this is it, that’s the place.
5.) Your team hosts the NCAA Championship this spring. Excited?
I am really excited, it’s a huge motivated for our team as well so hopefully we’ll do great and I believe we have a great chance to do fine. We know the course like no one else so it should be great.
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A look ahead...
What: Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate
When: English Turn G&CC
Where: New Orleans
Why it’s important: Welcome to the Who’s Who event on this week’s competition schedule. Three of the top teams in the nation (Alabama, LSU and USC) will be in attendance, and 16 of the 17 teams in the field are ranked inside the top 50 (Kentucky, the single exception, is No. 52). Alabama and USC already have earned big wins this spring. Host Tulane very nearly got it done in its opener, as well. Finally, keep an eye on young Arizona State, back in the game after filling out its roster with international talent during the off-season.