An interesting week for the ANNIKA Award Watch List, with some top players out and others dealing with a weather-shortened event.
The ANNIKA Award Presented by 3M honors the player of the year in college women’s golf, as selected by a group of college golfers, coaches and members of the golf media.
This will be the fourth edition of the honor, with UCLA’s Alison Lee winning in 2014, Duke’s Leona Maguire taking the honor in 2015 and UCLA’s Bronte Law earning it in 2016.
The following players made the fifth edition of the ANNIKA Award Watch List based on a combination of early-season play and potential based on results prior to the beginning of the 2016-17 college season.
With further ado, the fifth edition of the ANNIKA rankings for 2016-17:
• • •
1. Andrea Lee (Last week: 5a)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 1
Results: WIN, Windy City Collegiate Championship; T-2, Stanford Intercollegiate hosted by Condoleezza Rice
The buzz: What a start for Andrea Lee. A tie for second at the Stanford Intercollegiate is her worst finish to date. A couple of things to note… Lee has only played two events, but a win and a T-2 against stellar fields should prevent any questions on that point. And yes, the T-2 did come at a home event, but only one other Stanford player finished in the top 10 for the week. Yes, it helps to play at home, but it doesn’t mean a player can coast to a high finish. Also, the Stanford event had its third round cancelled only after the first two were finished, meaning the 36-hole results were set as final. That makes matters a little tricky (golfers might play the second round differently if they figured there were still 18 holes to go thereafter rather than it being the final day). So yes, a few things to explain, but Lee is Golfweek‘s No. 1 and deservedly so. In two tournaments loaded with top teams, Lee has been beaten by exactly one player – reigning ANNIKA Award winner Bronte Law. The freshman entered highly touted, but being this good, this quick? No, Lee has raised the bar. Two other freshmen have already won this award (including one with the last name Lee), so while it’s still early in the season don’t discount a rookie being at the top.
2. Bronte Law (Last week: N/A)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 2
Results: WIN, Stanford Intercollegiate hosted by Condoleezza Rice; T-21, ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M
The buzz: That’s more like it. Law, as expected, rebounded from a mediocre (for her) performance at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate that dropped her off this list with a dominating win at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Again, yes, a little bit of a strange win with play being called early, but when Law ended the second round, she did have a 5-shot lead. Knowing her pedigree, was there much doubt she would’ve held on if they played the third round? Regardless, it still counts as a victory in the record books, and Law passed Kay Cockerill for most all-time wins at UCLA with that seventh career title. Needless to say, it makes much more sense to see the reigning ANNIKA Award winner up here. It might be short-lived, though, for two reasons. 1. Law is probably not playing in UCLA’s next event, the Nanea Pac-12 Preview, as she’s currently competing in Stage II of LPGA Q-School and the Pac-12 Preview starts the day after that ends. If you skip a tournament and others play well, you’ll drop on this list (See: Maguire, Leona below). 2. Law has been clear that she’ll jet for the LPGA if she earns her card, and she’s certainly got a good shot at doing so. If she turns pro, obviously she’s no longer eligible for this list.
3. Katelyn Dambaugh (Last week: 2)
School: South Carolina
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 9
Results: 2, Cougar Classic; 5, Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational; T-6, ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M
The buzz: If she’s determined to do the same thing as last year (finish as one of the top few players in the country), well Dambaugh’s right on track. In her last eight tournaments of 2015-16, Dambaugh never finished worse than T-11 and had five top-2 finishes (including a win). So far this season, contending every week? Check. The only downside is, copying last year so closely would mean grabbing the ANNIKA is unlikely. High finishes alone probably won’t cut it for the ANNIKA, Dambaugh is going to need a couple of wins, at least, to have a shot. By the way, her status is also not entirely clear. Dambaugh is also at Stage II of Q-School at the moment, which means she could be pining for her LPGA card now and if she gets it, leave early. But she’s also made it clear she wants to graduate, so she could be going the Emma Talley route of playing second stage to earn Symetra Tour status to be used in the summer after she finishes her final year with her team.
4. Leona Maguire (Last week: 1)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 4
Results: 3, Windy City Collegiate Championship; T-3, ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M
The buzz: Maguire skipped the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational to prepare for Stage II of LPGA Q-School, which is perfectly understandable considering her future goals. But this is a college golf list, and as noted above, if you skip an event and others behind you step up, you’re going to be passed. Still, strong start to Maguire’s junior season. Like Law, though, the Irishwoman is attempting to get her LPGA card, and if she succeeds, she’ll presumably leave after the fall to try her hand at pro golf. There’s a lot of potential upheaval going into the spring.
5a. Cheyenne Knight (Last week: 3)
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 6
Results: WIN, Mason Rudolph Championship; 6, The Schooner Fall Classic; T-9, Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational
The buzz: A solid T-9 at Ruth’s Chris for the sophomore. And yet, she still dropped two spots on this list and three in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Shows how well the top players are competing right now. After an opening win, Knight hasn’t played quite to that level since. She’s done plenty to keep herself on this list, though.
5b. Jennifer Kupcho (Last week: N/A)
School: Wake Forest
2016-17 Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 7
Results: WIN, Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational; T-4, Cougar Classic; T-8, Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship
The buzz: Her first time on this list this year after she cruised to a six-shot win at Ruth’s Chris. Kupcho fell under the radar last year as her team failed to make the NCAA Championship and the freshman had a few poor showings mixed into her results. But here’s how she finished the year: T-2, T-2, T-6, T-6. The latter two came at the NCAA Stanford Regional and NCAA Championship (where she played as an individual). Looks like she’s carried that form over to this year. Her Demon Deacons have jumped from No. 35 to No. 10, too. Under the radar doesn’t mean she’s not one to reckon with.
• • •
With the fall season nearing its conclusion, who is trending up and who is trending down in the 2016-17 campaign?
Lilia Vu, UCLA
Entered the year as one of the top players in the country and has consecutive top-5 finishes to begin her sophomore year. She’ll likely be back on the top-5 list soon.
Dewi Weber, Miami
OK, the sophomore isn’t doing it against the greatest of fields, but two wins in three starts is still quite impressive. The latest was an eight-shot triumph at the Betsy Rawls Invitational. And this all comes after a T-2 at NCAAs last year.
Esther Lee, Colorado
She’s actually No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. But while we didn’t put her in the top-5 list for the ANNIKA, she could be on it soon. Lee opened the season with a win thanks to a record-tying 11-under 61 during the Branch Law Firm/New Mexico Invitational. A T-18 at the Stanford Intercollegiate was solid but not her best. We cut the senior some slack there, though, with the tournament ending abruptly.
Lauren Stephenson, Alabama
The Crimson Tide transfer (from Clemson) is fitting in quickly in her new home. Earned her second T-2 in three starts thanks to a strong performance at Ruth’s Chris. Overall, has started T2-T12-T2 and has jumped to No. 10 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
Maria Fassi, Arkansas
Was No. 1 on the ANNIKA list after her win at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, but tumbled significantly after a T-34 at the Cougar Classic. A T-9 at Ruth’s Chris was a nice bounce back, but with others playing better, she lost her spot in the top 5.
Bailey Tardy, Georgia
Tardy also lost her spot in the top 5, but not after any catastrophic performance. OK, T-18 at Stanford wasn’t fantastic, but her drop off the list has to do with what the others did. Still a strong fall season it was for Tardy.
Linnea Strom, Arizona State
One of the most promising sophomores in the country was in contention to win the ANNIKA Intercollegiate before running into a mass of bogeys at the end. Her follow up was a tie for 31st at Stanford, which could not have been what she was looking for. Small sample size, though, as she remains one of the country’s best sophomores until further notice.