Playing at home can have its advantages, especially in collegiate golf. For one, there is no tiresome travel or learning on the fly during practice rounds. Competing on home turf affords the player more confidence: She knows what to expect because she’s had this exact shot or that lie many times before.
However, oddly enough, playing at home can also be disrupting to routines. Some athletes may get complacent and not prepare themselves as much as they would prior to a road event. In addition, having so many familiar faces in the gallery at home tournaments can be detrimental.
The Stanford women’s golf team will try to play the role of dominant—instead of uninspired—hosts this weekend at the Stanford Intercollegiate and continue the strong play it exhibited at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational.
For the Cardinal, which comes into the event ranked No. 3 nationally, it will be the first home tournament since last May’s NCAA West Regional. The squad finished fifth and advanced to the NCAA Finals then. Prior to that, Stanford dominated the Peg Barnard Invitational at its home course in February. And after finishing third at the Stanford Intercollegiate last year, the Cardinal will certainly be looking to reign supreme over the scheduled 54 holes against a very strong field that contains four of the nation’s top-five teams and six other top-25 squads.
The defending NCAA champions, USC—also the winner at this event in 2012—will give Stanford everything it can handle, as will the top-ranked Bruins and No. 6 Washington. But the group, led by sophomore Mariah Stackhouse, feels its meticulous preparation and course knowledge will put it over the top.
“The Stanford Golf Course requires a lot of patience,” said Stackhouse, one of the nation’s best young golfers. “There are certain holes that I look at as birdie opportunities, and others that I’ve learned to play safe by avoiding risky areas. It’s a mentally challenging course with very tough finishing holes, but it’s relatively tight and that fits my eye.”
While Stackhouse is the most recent champion of the group after her individual win at Edean Ihlanfeldt, fellow sophomore Lauren Kim and junior Mariko Tumangan have also lead the Cardinal at different points in the young season. And with the continued development of freshmen Casey Danielson and Quirine Eijkenboom, Stanford’s squad looks strong, despite the loss of seasoned veteran Sally Watson ‘13.
“The best teams in the country have deep rosters, it is what separates the good teams from the great teams,” said head coach Anne Walker. “Although we have seen strong showings from Lauren, Mariko and Mariah, I believe that in the course of the year we will also see our freshman step up and lead us in a tournament or two. We have strong players this year from top to bottom and we are looking forward to seeing them all in action this weekend.”
Not only will the Stanford coaching staff be eager to see how its players compete this weekend, so will many from the community. The team’s high ranking and forecasted temperatures in the high 70s should swell the galleries, especially those following local product Lauren Kim. Despite the extra sets of eyes trained on her, the sophomore hailing from nearby Los Altos doesn’t feel like the added attention will be negative.
“I absolutely love playing at home because we have such a supportive community,” Kim said. “Being local, it is easy for many of my friends and family to come watch. I feed off of their energy and their wanting us to succeed. When I make birdies and hear clapping and support from family and friends, it reminds me of all the endless support we get.”
Stanford is hoping the big turnout will translate into an even bigger win over nine conference opponents. The tournament, hosted by former Secretary of State and strong Stanford Athletics supporter Condoleezza Rice, begins Friday morning with play concluding Sunday.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.