After seeing its three-tournament win streak snapped at the Anuenue Spring Break Classic in Hawaii, the Stanford women’s golf team is seeking a quick turnaround at the PING ASU Invitational starting tomorrow in Tempe, Ariz.
“Hawaii was a tough week for us but we aren’t dwelling on it,” said head coach Anne Walker. “We learned from it and have been working on some things the past week. We feel like we are ready to play this week.”
The No. 13 Cardinal will certainly need all the momentum it can gather going into what will be an extremely tough Pac-12 Tournament, an event which will include eight top-50 and four top-10 teams.
“We will focus on being aggressive and assertive,” Walker said of the team’s strategy this weekend. “The Karsten Course typically is set up for birdies, and we must go chase them if we want a chance to win.”
A victory would be the second for the Cardinal at this tournament and its first since 1998, though Stanford has also had five individual champions at the event over the years. Stephanie Keever last won at Karsten in 2001.
If Stanford is to finish the regular season strong with a solid performance in Tempe, Mariah Stackhouse must continue her outstanding play. The freshman, ranked No. 5 in GolfWeek’s NCAA individual rankings, will be going for her third win of the season and seventh straight top-10 individual finish. More importantly, a strong showing in the desert will cement her as a true contender on the conference and national levels.
“I’ve been playing solidly, and I’m sure it’s a result of Coach’s focus on the improvement of our short game and playing in tournaments regularly,” Stackhouse said. “I’ve never seen this course, so I’ll pay attention to its layout in the practice round and approach it with the same mentality that I’ve had this whole year: stay level-headed, make birdies and minimize mistakes.”
“Mariah has a chance to win every week, but so do a lot of other players,” Walker said of her blossoming superstar. “She will fare best if she continues to focus on herself and taking care of what she can control. I believe that Mariah can be the best at all levels if she stays the road.”
Not only will the Cardinal need a strong showing from Stackhouse, but it will also need help from a relatively young supporting cast. Lauren Kim, another freshman, has arguably been the second best golfer on the team this year with a pair of top-10 individual finishes. Sophomore Mariko Tumangan and senior Sally Watson have played well in stretches, but Stackhouse has been the only consistent golfer week-in and week-out.
“Coach has always told us that it’s not a poor finish that defines us as a team, but it’s how we bounce back from that poor finish that truly determines our character,” Kim said. “I believe we are a strong team and can compete with the best. Finishing well in this tough field would be great. I think it is always important to have momentum going into the last part of our season. It always helps with confidence.”
Watson, for her part, has embraced more of a leadership role with such a young team.
“I have just tried to lead by example [by] working hard and having a good attitude,” she said. “I think going into the postseason, the main piece of advice I would share with the younger players is to have fun and never stop fighting. We have been working all year to compete for a Pac-12 and national championship, and now we just need to trust in ourselves and be confident in the work that we have put in.”
Following PING, the Cardinal will have a week to prepare for the Pac-12 Championships, which begin April 22 in Valencia, Calif. The NCAA Regional will be held at the Stanford Golf Course on May 9-11, and the NCAA Championships will take place in Stackhouse’s home state of Georgia from May 21-24.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 “at” stanford.edu.