USC's Park leads season of strong freshmen
This season could very well go down as the Year of the Freshman. Looking back on the year, some of the best storylines were lived by first-year students. It means the Freshman of the Year race could be nearly as exciting as the one for Player of the Year. Here’s a look back at some of the best freshman feats of the last few months, and of the five players listed below, two have a legitimate shot at also becoming Player of the Year:
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Annie Park, USC
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 1
It’s rare for a freshman to be the No. 1-ranked player in the country, and even more rare for a first-semester freshman. Park graduated high school in New Jersey a semester early to join a light USC roster, and she’s been a great addition for the Trojans. In four spring starts in full-field events, Park has won once, finished in the top 10 two more times and her worst finish was T-18. Park, a level-headed player, has adjusted very, very well.
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Mariah Stackhouse, Stanford
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 4
When Stackhouse shot 10-under 61 to win the Peg Barnard Invitational by a mile, it put women’s college golf in headlines across the country. That’s not just good for Stanford, it’s good for the game. The details of that round – especially that she had a front-nine 26 that included only nine putts – were unbelievable. Stackhouse went on to finish T-6 then first in her next two events, though it would have been easy to lose her head after such a career round. She believes it could be even better, especially since the round included two bogeys. It’s exciting to think that Stackhouse has three more years in college – she could be the first collegian to shoot 59.
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Kyung Kim, USC
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 14
Kim was USC’s freshman sensation of the fall. She led her team to its first victory of the season at the Stanford Invitational. Kim closed the 54-hole event with rounds of 66-68 to claim the team title by three shots. The best part was the nonchalance that followed. Kim, who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links over the summer, said she arrived at USC with her game rusty. “I had a little trouble with my swing,” she said after the victory. “My first two tournaments didn’t go too well. I wasn’t hitting the ball as well. So it took me a lot of time to get my swing back.” Kim also has the second-lowest scoring average on the team. She’s sandwiched between Park and Sophia Popov.
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Emma Talley, Alabama
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 32
Talley kept a low profile in the fall. She never finished better than T-14, but her consistent scores were exactly what the defending national champions needed. Alabama lost Brooke Pancake at the end of last year, and Talley, together with sophomore Daniela Lendl, stepped up to fill that void. Talley’s true coming-out party was on the West Coast last weekend. She shot 9-under 207 to win the individual title at the Ping/ASU Invitational, and led her team to a third consecutive victory. She’s gone from a role player to a scorer, which is good for Alabama entering the SEC Championship.
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Charlotte Thomas, Washington
Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking: 37
Thomas was a rock for her Huskies in the fall as the team won twice and finished runner-up twice, then took the No. 1 national ranking into winter break. Thomas won the Oregon State Invitational right out of the gate, then finished T-2 at Washington’s own Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational. In 10 starts this season, Thomas has only finished outside the top 25 one time. It may not be flashy stuff, but there’s a lot to be said for consistency, and posting a score every single week. Thomas is that kind of player, and Washington is lucky to have her.
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SHORT SHOTS: Pepperdine’s West Coast Conference statistics are becoming a little ridiculous. Not only did the Wave win a 12th consecutive title on April 17, but it makes 15 conference victories in the last 17 tries. The best number? In that time, Pepperdine has compiled a 25-shot average margin of victory. . . . Ines Lescudier became the first player from Kennesaw State to win a 54-hole individual title when she won the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship on April 17. Lescudier birdied seven consecutive holes on the back nine (full story here). . . . This weekend’s SEC Championship – which features one of the deepest fields of any conference event – has two new participants in Missouri and Texas A&M.