Women's spring preview: Big West Conference
During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the 2014 spring season for each conference. Check out all of the previews here.
Today, we look at the Big West Conference:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: UC Davis
• Player to watch: Betty Chen, UC Davis: The sophomore finished the fall ranked 89th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. She had an individual victory, too.
• Freshman to watch: Shawnee Martinez, Long Beach State. The newcomer was the 49ers most consistent player during the fall.
• Conference championship: April 13-15, San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Country Club
• Past champions (since 2009): UC Davis (2010-13), Long Beach State (2009)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
- UC Davis (40): The four-time-defending Big West champions have done well replacing graduates Demi Runas and Amy Simanton, as the Aggies finished sixth or better in four of their six fall tournaments. One of those finishes was a victory at the Hoosier Fall Invitational. Sophomore Betty Chen proved why she’s the highest-ranked player in the conference with a 73.83 scoring average and an individual victory at the Hoosier. She leads a deep and talented lineup that also includes junior and 2012 Big West individual champ Bev Vatananugulkit, freshman Paige Lee, senior Jessica Chulya and sophomore Andrea Wong, all of whom are ranked 341st or better by Golfweek.
- UC Irvine (76): The Anteaters finished runner-up twice during the fall and also had a sixth-place finish at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown. They closed the fall on a down note, though, finishing 11th at the Minnesota Invitational. Sophomore Luciane Lee led UC Irvine during the fall with two top 10s and a 74.7 scoring average. But the Anteaters won’t challenge UC Davis for the conference title unless upperclassmen Sara Banke and Michelle Yang step up. Freshman Kaley In could be a factor this spring, as well.
- Long Beach State (78): The 49ers challenged themselves during the fall with trips to the Ptarmigan Ram Classic, Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational and Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown, which explains why they didn’t finish better than seventh. Freshman Shawnee Martinez, Golfweek’s 191st-ranked player, had a big impact in her first half season, and sophomore Kassidy Teare was also a key contributor, finishing the fall ranked No. 399.
- Cal State-Fullerton (85): After an eighth-place showing at the Minnesota Invitational to begin the fall, the Titans closed with three top-4 finishes, including a victory at the Wyoming Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate. Tisha Alyn Abrea and Martina Edberg shined during the fall, but Cal State-Fullerton will need more from Se Ri Lee, Makayla Mier and others if it wants to make a run at the conference title.
- Hawaii (117): The Rainbow Wahine began the fall with finishes of sixth, sixth and T-2, but then closed with a last-place showing at the Pac-12 Preview. Freshmen Izzy Leung and Rachel Ek form a formidable one-two punch for this young team.
- UC Riverside (121): Led by Savannah Vilaubi, the Highlanders won the Birdies for Breast Cancer team title, finished seventh at the Wyoming Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate and placed third at their fall finale, the Firestone Grill Cal Poly Invitational.
- Cal Poly (123): The Mustangs bookended their fall campaign with victories, but were 10th and 14th in its other two starts. Senior Taylor Yoshitake and sophomore Madison Hirsch were Cal Poly’s top two scorers, and were tied with two others for the team lead in top 10s (two).
- Cal State-Northridge (146): It says a lot about the strength of this conference when the worst team is ranked 146th in the country. The Matadors were the worst team in the conference during the fall, according to the rankings, but did have two runner-up finishes and a third-place showing in four fall events.
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Lance Ringler weighs in on the conference title race
UC Davis has dominated the Big West women’s golf scene for many years and even though the Aggies are not what they may have been in recent years, they will be tough to beat and will certainly be the favorite to win the league for the fifth consecutive year.