Annika Award Watch List: Feb. 28, 2014
As the spring season progresses, Golfweek is monitoring the race for the inaugural Annika Award. An award update will be posted each Friday on Golfweek.com.
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An easy way to focus on the process is to forget about the prize waiting at the finish line. For advice on this method, consult Mariah Stackhouse, the Stanford sophomore who seemed the only person at the UC Irvine Invitational on Feb. 25 who didn’t realize she had just won an LPGA exemption.
“I was so confused because I had no idea what (UC Irvine head coach Julie Brooks) was talking about,” Stackhouse remembers about accepting her individual trophy. “We took pictures after and I was still confused.”
Stackhouse admits that Stanford head coach Anne Walker had told the team at the beginning of the season that the winner of the UC Irvine Invitational would receive a sponsor exemption into the LPGA’s Kia Classic (to be played March 27-30). Stackhouse had just forgotten about it. The Kia will be her fourth LPGA start, following the 2010 Mojo 6 and the 2011 and ’13 U.S. Women’s Opens.
In 54 holes at Santa Ana (Calif.) Country Club, Stackhouse never made more than a bogey. It was consistent golf at its finest, and Stackhouse, at 4-under 212, won the tournament and the exemption by two shots.
Walker has watched Stackhouse develop a “cleaner” game while on the Cardinal roster. Stackhouse is almost exactly one year removed from setting the NCAA scoring record with a 10-under 61 at the 2013 Peg Barnard Invitational.
“She is a more savvy golfer,” Walker said. “I see her make better decisions on the course.”
Stackhouse, No. 5 in Golfweek’s rankings, is now four victories deep in her college career. She has U.S. Curtis Cup captain Ellen Port’s eye (Stackhouse was one of 14 players invited to a recent practice session) and is among a handful of players in the conversation for the Annika Award week in, week out.
For Walker, meanwhile, the latest proud-coach moment came from a life decision, not a course decision. Upon receiving the Kia exemption, Stackhouse checked the calendar. Stanford plays the San Diego State Farms Invitational March 24-26 (a Monday-to-Wednesday event) and the Kia starts Thursday. Stackhouse has decided to play both.
“I didn’t want to give up the opportunity to play (with my team) since (the Kia) didn’t conflict with any of our college events on the tournament day,” Stackhouse said. The LPGA event will also be played at Santa Ana Country Club, so Stackhouse should already have good notes. It could be a long week of golf, but that’s OK with Stackhouse. Afterall, it’s Stanford’s spring break.
Stackhouse is a crucial part of a close-knit Stanford squad – which is ranked No. 5 in Golfweek’s rankings and now on a two-tournament winning streak for the spring. As teammate Lauren Kim said in accepting the Peg Barnard Invitational team trophy earlier this month, “We are the best of friends and the best of competitors.”
Stackhouse certainly fits that bill.
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Other notable players and performances
• Annie Park, USC
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 1
In a few words... Another top-10 finish (T-8) at the Allstate Sugar Bowl. It’s exactly where she finished at this event last year.
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• Stephanie Meadow, Alabama
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 2
In a few words... A T-22 at the Allstate Sugar Bowl represents a down week for Meadow. Watch for a bounce-back at the Darius Rucker.
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• Alison Lee, UCLA
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 3
In a few words... Tied for third at the Allstate Sugar Bowl to lead UCLA to a victory over top-ranked USC. The theme of Lee’s freshman season: She always contends.
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• Tonje Daffinrud, Denver
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 31
In a few words... The Denver senior has a knack for keeping pace in deep fields. She was runner-up at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and a big win this spring is not out of the question for her. Her next opportunity will be at the LSU Golf Classic.