Notebook: What's behind Penn State's success?

Penn State's Emily Ransone

Women's Rankings »

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1SooBin KimWashington  68.24 
2Leona MaguireDuke  69.16 
3Celine BoutierDuke  69.48 
4Alison LeeUCLA  69.82 
5Annie ParkUSC  69.83 

Women's Team Rankings »

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1South Carolina 70.50 
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Denise St. Pierre’s hold-your-breath moment at last week’s Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate in Knoxville, Tenn., came at Holston Hills’ par-3 14th. It was a hole that was wreaking havoc on scorecards.

“I said to my assistant, 'If we can get the team through this hole in even par, I think we’ll be in good shape,' ” St. Pierre said.

It was the last hurdle for Penn State to clear on its way to one of the most memorable victories in program history. The Nittany Lions finished atop a leaderboard of 15 teams that included five programs ranked inside Golfweek’s top 30.

The test for Penn State was showing up each day to compete with stiff competition. St. Pierre said her players respected the competition at the Mercedes-Benz. They knew they weren’t outmatched, and proved it with a four-shot victory.

Penn State took a one-shot lead into the final round and drew a pairing with Purdue and host Tennessee.

“We kind of just tried to focus each day on just staying in that moment,” St. Pierre said. “They did a great job doing that and didn’t get too ahead of themselves.”

Penn State had won its own Nittany Lion Invitational – by 22 shots, in fact – before arriving in Tennessee. The Mercedes-Benz served as validation for Penn State.

All five players in the Nittany Lions lineup finished inside the top 15 at the Mercedes-Benz. Experience is one of St. Pierre’s favorite aspects of this team.

“I think the most satisfying thing about my team this year is its the same team I had last year,” she said. “It’s not like we brought in a superstar and now we’re playing well.”

Also satisfying was how her team walked the course during the final round at Holston Hills. With standard bearers following each group, she watched her players scout out Penn State scoreboards and then break into grins at the sight of a teammate playing well. It gave the coach goosebumps.

“There was unspoken communication between my team,” she said. “They have a great ability to communicate through their body language that I really think has made a big difference for each of them.”

• • •

The next level: If the name Lindsay Danielson sounds familiar, it’s because she’s a member of the legendary Wisconsin family that has taken the state’s golf scene by storm. Danielson won four Division 2 WIAA state high school titles during her time at Osceola High School. Her younger sister Casey, a Stanford commit, recently won her fourth, too. Brother Charlie plays collegiately at Illinois.

That said, it’s surprising Lindsay Danielson had yet to win a collegiate title in her first three years at Wisconsin. She won her first on Oct. 14 at the Hoosier Invitational, and tied the 54-hole school record in the process.

Danielson finished the event at 3-under 213 (72-68-73) to win by four shots.

“I think it probably ranks up there in accomplishments in golf overall,” Danielson said of her first victory. “Especially in college; I’ve never won in college before. My goal wasn’t to win. My goal was just to help the team out.”

Danielson ended up leading the team to a victory also, though she concedes it isn’t the way anyone had imagined it might happen. Host Indiana claimed the team title originally – and had even accepted the trophy – before a scorecard discrepancy put Wisconsin in the lead instead. An Indiana player had signed for an incorrect score, and when she was disqualified, the Hoosiers’ team score climbed by four shots. It put Wisconsin ahead by two shots.

“It’s not how you want to win,” Danielson acknowledged. Still, she said, the team played well, so there was more to take away than the victory.

As for Danielson, a finance/banking major, this year marks the end of competitive golf. Danielson won’t pursue a pro career but is confident she’ll stay involved in the game, especially as Casey and Charlie continue to play. It will be bittersweet.

“I’ll be sad to be done doing something I’ve done my whole life,” she said.

• • •

Short shots: Reigning NCAA champion Chirapat Jao-Javanil of Oklahoma won her first title of the fall, and the fourth of her career, at the Sooners’ own Susie Maxwell Berning Classic. . . . Houston will start a women’s golf program in 2014-15. Director of Golf Jonathan Dismuke hopes to have two individuals to compete for the Cougars next fall. . . . As Washington remains the top team in the Golfweek College Rankings, Stanford senior Sally Watson has taken the top spot among the individuals.

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