Notebook: Short game fuels Stanford women

Stanford's women's golf team

Stanford's women's golf team

Women's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Alison LeeUCLA  69.59 
2Annie ParkUSC  69.73 
3Yu LiuDuke  69.81 
4Stephanie MeadowAlabama  70.00 
5Gaby LopezArkansas  70.01 

Women's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Southern California 70.32 
2UCLA 70.60 
3Duke 70.79 
4Stanford 71.49  10 
5Arkansas 71.52 

When searching for an explanation for Stanford’s so-far flawless spring, look no further than the team’s short-game statistics. That’s where head coach Anne Walker has been focused lately.

“We’re just more polished,” Walker says of the difference between her Cardinal team last fall and this spring.

Walker, in her first year at Stanford after four years with UC Davis, took a hard look at where her players were losing strokes after the fall season. She determined it was around the greens, particularly on the putting surface. There were too many three-putts.

“We’ve been working really, really hard,” Walker said. “I’ve been pushing these guys to their max.”

The result is that Stanford has gone three for three since winter break, winning the Peg Barnard Invitational on its own Stanford Golf Course, then following with team titles at the Cal Classic and most recently the Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational.

Stanford, ranked No. 6 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, is traveling a team with varied experience. Freshmen Mariah Stackhouse (a strong Freshman of the Year candidate) and Lauren Kim join sophomore Mariko Tumangan, junior Danielle Frasier and senior Sally Watson in the lineup.

“Our focus this year is just team, team, team,” Walker said. “Doing what we need to do, No. 1 through 5. Our goal is to compete and be in contention.”

Each victory this spring has been different, and it wasn’t until the Juli Inkster that Stanford had to protect a lead – a four-shot one – in the final round. The Peg Barnard, of course, is notable because it was during the final round of that event that Stackhouse broke the NCAA women’s scoring record with a 10-under 61. Stackhouse won by 10, Stanford by 14.

Walker watched much of that round from the trees. After she saw Stackhouse hit her approach to 25 feet at the par-5 seventh and make eagle to go 7 under in seven holes, Walker hung around.

“I watched her the whole way from there but kind of a half a hole ahead of her,” Walker said.

That 61 was significant for Stanford’s team victory that day, but on the grander scheme, it put women’s golf in the spotlight for a week.

“There was a ton of press, and just people being really interested in it – 26 on one nine is a special thing,” Walker remembers. “It was good for women’s college golf.”

What is brewing for Stanford’s next event, the Avenues Spring Break Classic in Hawaii, also is good for college golf. When Stanford goes for its fourth consecutive victory, it will do it in a field that includes UCLA, a team making a big comeback after a surprisingly slow fall, and Washington, Golfweek’s top-ranked team through the first half of the season.

Stanford only has the Ping ASU Invitational when it returns to the Lower 48. Then it’s conference championship season, and what happens at the Pac-12 Championship traditionally is one of the best women’s golf stories of the season.

“I think the Pac-12 will be a really strong championship,” Walker said. “If we want to compete, then we need to keep working hard.”

• • •

Keep an eye on Detroit: The Titans won a fourth team title in five starts this season. Detroit finished nine shots ahead of the field on March 6 at the Magnolia Spring Break Classic, but it was the individual race that was most interesting.

Junior Lindsey Lammers, Detroit’s top scorer, and teammate Christina Thorne, also a junior, had to play off for the individual title. Lammers and Thorne also are roommates.

Lammers birdied the second hole of sudden death to claim her second individual title this year and the fifth of her career.

• • •

Short shots: The JCI Foundation has announced Kathy Betty, a prominent Atlanta Business Women, as the honorary chairperson of the second annual Judson Collegiate & Legends Pro-Am Challenge, to take place at the Country Club of Roswell on July 12-15. The event brings together the Legends of the LPGA with the top collegiate women golfers. It is played in memory of Jim and Beth Judson, who lost their lives in a private plan crash in 2010. The event was designed by their daughter Lauren, a junior on the Southern Mississippi team. . . . USC, which has won two of three starts this spring, remains atop the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. UCLA, which began the spring ranked No. 36, has climbed to No. 10 after finishing runner-up to USC in the past two events.

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