In advance of the 2014 Stanford women’s golf season, The Daily’s Cameron Miller spoke with women’s golf head coach Anne Walker to get perspective on events since the end of the fall season.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Now that we’re a month removed from the team’s fall schedule, what are your biggest takeaways from the four tournaments your team played?
Anne Walker (AW): Kind of confirmed what I was thinking as we’re moving into this fall. We have the talent; we have the players to be the best team in the country. But we also at the same time are a very young team, so what comes with that is some up and downs. And we had some up and downs. We played the University of Washington, and I think we could’ve beaten any team in the country that week. We smoked them. But then there are other weeks, like our final event at Nanea in Hawaii — we were a little bit tired, a little bit younger. We finished sixth — wasn’t our best.
TSD: Was there a tournament or individual performance that was of particular note to you?
Anne Walker (AW): Sahalee was. That’s an unbelievable golf course. That tournament has been there 25-plus years, and I don’t specifically remember a time when any team finished under par, and a lot of great teams played there. We played just absolutely outstanding, and Mariah’s, Mariko’s and Lauren’s performances were unbelievable.
TSD: It seems like the team’s big win at Edean Ihlanfeldt was the signature event of the fall. What are the big lessons the team can take from that tournament specifically?
Anne Walker (AW): First of all, it’s just great to know that we’re that caliber of team. The national championship is only one week — if the team that showed up at Edean shows up at the national championship, we’re going to be there until the very last putt drops. No question. It’s great knowing that’s in there. It’s very fun going into the offseason, going into next season knowing that we have the type of players who can compete.
TSD: What were your goals for the team in the fall season, given the NCAA Championships are more than six months away? What do you look for as a coach during this period?
Anne Walker (AW): I’m assessing, knowing that the championships are seven, eight months away. I’m thinking about: “For us to win the championship, what needs to be cleaned up? What do we have to be better at as a whole — as a group and individually?” This offseason, I gave each player one or two takeaways from the fall, observations that I had. It’s difficult in our sport because in the offseason, I can’t really work with them. It’s almost two and half months where I can’t really have a lot contact with them. So I have to rely on their work ethic and rely that they’ll remember what we talked about and use those takeaways.
TSD: Your squad seems to be a young but experienced one. Let’s turn first to your sophomores, Mariah Stackhouse and Lauren Kim. What did you think of their play this fall, and how have they stepped into bigger leadership roles?
Anne Walker (AW): I felt their play was terrific. Actually, I was doing a little fall wrap-up, and Lauren is averaging almost 2.8 shots better [per round]. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but, in golf, it’s huge. Once you get to that level, even half a shot [better] is a big deal. Mariah was averaging 73.2 at this time last year, and right now she’s averaging 71.9, which is massive. So they were terrific. They were better players, smarter players, more mature players. I notice that my expectations for them are sometimes greater than the average sophomore. But they are rising to that occasion.
TSD: You also played a couple of freshmen in your lineup this fall. In what ways did you see them grow during the four tournaments, and do you see them playing a big role during the spring?
Anne Walker (AW): I do, yeah. I see Casey and Quirine being there. Casey’s working on a couple of things in her swing to make a little more consistent clubface control through the ball. I think that’ll help take away some of her big misses. And Quirine’s just continuing to work on confidence. She’s a terrific player, and she’s got all the technical parts to be the best.
This five, I think, will play again this spring. I do think we’ll see Marissa Mar in the lineup, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jisoo and Danielle in the lineup, either. But I know that Marissa’s working really hard, she wants to be in that lineup very badly — she’s a senior. I think she’ll come out and shape things up when we get back in the spring.
TSD: What has been the point of emphasis so far during your team’s offseason work? Is there one overarching theme you’ve been focusing on, or is it very individual-specific?
Anne Walker (AW): During our season, we always come back to short games. I think the reason we’re a top-10 team right now is our short game improvement from last year. But no two kids have the same thing they’re working on right now — one player’s strength might be another player’s weakness. Mariko is working on her ability to play the yardage, meaning that she has a tendency to hit a full swing on every club and the yardage can be a 10-yard difference. Mariah’s not working on too much other than her putting. For Mariah, that’s the conversation we have … she’s at a level now where the difference between her and the No. 1 amateur in the world is that player makes one more 10-footer per round than Mariah does. That’s really hard to wrap your head around, but to get to a place where you make that 10-foot putt is a lot of hours of putting.
TSD: Is there anyone on your squad that we haven’t yet talked about that you believe could play a pivotal role in your team’s success in the coming months? How do you feel about your team’s depth at this point?
Anne Walker (AW): Great. It’s the reason we’re such a good team right now: We have depth. We’re going to add to that depth in the next year. That’s going to be my focus as a coach here, continuing to add to depth each year. I want to bring in at least two players — I think it’s important in a sport where you’re so individualized and only five players can travel. If you have a squad of six and one player goes down, it’s instant. And so depth is going to continually be my focus as I coach here at Stanford. But this year we’re in a good spot with that.
TSD: The Pac-12 conference has been ultra competitive in women’s golf in recent memory. Do you expect much of the same this spring? What are the advantages and disadvantages of playing in such a stacked league?
Anne Walker (AW): It’s hard. So, obviously, the advantage is we’re playing with the best teams every week. I mean, they’re unbelievable. And this year, USC and UCLA are head and shoulders above the rest of the country — we get to see them a lot, so we’re very familiar with them. The advantage of that is, if we’re right there with them, when we go outside of our league, we’re probably pretty good. This disadvantage to that is when you get beat up every week, you start to question yourself, ask yourself: “Are we good?” And then quickly you can lose your confidence. I’ve tried to hammer that home with our players: If we’re getting beat by 15, 16 shots against USC and UCLA, we cannot focus on that. Because this year they’re historic teams.
TSD: Now looking even past the spring season, your program recently added two signees for the Class of 2018. Talk about what Shannon and Calli will bring to the team in the coming years.
Anne Walker (AW): They’re two totally different kids. First of all, height wise, Calli is 5-foot-1, and Shannon is 6-foot. They bring two very different things, and I love that. Shannon comes with just an unbelievable amount of experience. She’s been playing a high level since she was 12, 13, 14. She’s very experienced, done a lot of international travel. She represented Europe multiple times. Calli, on the other hand, Calli is an athlete. She’s played multiple sports, kind of got into golf late but has had success with golf.
They have two completely different games: Shannon is kind of a short hitter and great short game, and Calli is one of the longest hitters I have ever seen — and her short game is really messy. So they bring totally different things. What I’m excited about is I believe I can help them in different ways. For Shannon, we can help get her stronger, get her bigger, help her hit it a little further, teach her how to practice better. And then Calli, I think we can harness a little bit of her length and raw talent and teach her how to have a better short game, teach her how to work her way around the golf course.
We’re just excited about the whole thing. There’s a really good vibe amongst my team right now. We love being together, the kids love being together, we’re working hard. Everyone’s attitude is really positive, everyone’s engaged. That can only be a good thing. If we win some along the way, that’ll be good. But at the end of the day what’s most important is that we’re doing the right things.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.