Seven top-10 finishes, two individual victories and a 10-under 61 round. Even for your above-average collegiate golfer, these may be performances accumulated over a couple seasons or perhaps an entire career. A 61 might seem like a score only attainable by those in the professional ranks. But that particular stat line belongs to one Mariah Stackhouse, who is not just your above-average collegiate golfer—she’s a superstar, albeit a budding one, who has accomplished more in eight collegiate tournaments than some do in 80.
Stackhouse picked up a club for the first time at age two and began tournament play at age six, but the child prodigy was kept grounded by her parents, saying that “golf was never something that was forced on me.”
“I was never raised to be a golfer,” Stackhouse said. “My parents always put school first. If my academics were suffering, then I wasn’t going to play golf. There’s a life after golf, and I don’t want to play it forever—I have dreams past golf and other things I want to do.”
With priorities on athletics and academics, Stanford seemed like the obvious choice for Stackhouse. Stackhouse said that balancing school and golf has been a challenge, but by managing her time, she has enjoyed both.
“I don’t think the academic rigors of Stanford impact the way I prepare. I’m not one of those people who likes to spend my life on the golf course,” Stackhouse explained. “I definitely have time to do my schoolwork, and I use my weekends for that purpose. I just don’t believe in being on the golf course for hours—it can be almost counterproductive if you spend too much time out there.”
Don’t be fooled, though—she puts in her work, usually between two-and-a-half and five hours on the course per day. But while consistent practice allows her to excel with her drives, chips and putts, Stackhouse credits her father for her cool, calm on-course demeanor.
“My dad [Ken] did not tolerate me having a bad attitude on the golf course,” she explained. “He would get more upset at the fact that I had a bad attitude than if I had a bad round, which really brought things into perspective for me.”
It’s that kind of collected, mature on and off-course personality that has allowed Stackhouse to block out all kinds of challenges, including a coaching change before arriving at Stanford. When the coach who recruited her to Stanford, Caroline O’Connor, resigned last May, Stackhouse admitted to being a bit unsettled.
“There was about a month block where nobody knew who the coach was going to be, and I was kind of freaking out,” Stackhouse said. “I liked Coach O’Connor and I had an idea of what I was getting into [before the change]. I was like ‘Oh my god, I could end up with a crazy coach.’”
Sudden coaching changes like the one Stackhouse and her teammates endured often result in players de-committing from or leaving a particular program. Despite the upheaval, Stackhouse kept an open mind and immediately reached out to new coach Anne Walker, who was hired in late July 2012.
Stackhouse said she likes that Walker provides both the structure needed for success and the sense of humor to keep golf enjoyable.
“Most importantly, she knows how to make everyone believe in themselves. She talks to each one of us and pumps us up,” Stackhouse said. “She believes that we can do it, and the fact she has so much faith in us makes us want to work harder to get to the level that she knows we can be at.”
An integral part of the “great atmosphere” that Stackhouse described is her relationship with classmate Lauren Kim. As the only freshmen on the team, the two have formed a special bond and have also been the top golfers on the team at several points this season. Stackhouse said the two support each other on and off the course.
“We laugh and have fun and sing music on the course, but we also push each other,” Stackhouse said. “I want Lauren to be low, and she wants the same for me, and that’s not only good for us, but also good for the team. I think our friendship helps that a lot—we’re playfully competitive.”
That “playful competitor” is currently ranked fourth in the NCAA individual standings and has amassed 99 career victories (97 junior, 2 collegiate). With three tournaments left this year, she is certainly looking for her 100th.
Stackhouse is especially focused on the NCAA Championships, which will be held late May in front of her family and friends in her home state of Georgia.
“Getting to 100 victories by the end of the season would be awesome, considering the only tournaments left are Pac-12s, Regionals and Nationals,” Stackhouse said. “Which means that if I got number 100 before the end of the season, I would’ve won a really big event.”
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.