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Women’s golf poised to begin spring in strong fashion at home

One hundred days removed from its final fall tournament, the No. 5 Stanford women’s golf team will finally complete its long winter layoff this weekend. For the second consecutive year, Mariah Stackhouse, Lauren Kim and company will kick off their spring campaign Saturday on their home course as they play host to the 36-hole Peg Barnard Invitational.

Many will remember this as Stackhouse’s breakout tournament from last year, when she set the current Stanford Golf Course record with a 10-under 61 on the event’s final day. Head coach Anne Walker, however, is not looking so much for historic rounds in the opener as she is for continued improvement.

Sophomore Mariah Stackhouse

Sophomore Mariah Stackhouse (above) will aim to repeat as individual champion at the Peg Barnard Invitational this weekend, held at the Stanford Golf Course. The Georgia native set the current course record with an astonishing 10-under 61 performance at this event last year. (NICK SALAZAR/The Stanford Daily)

“The players have been working very hard the past three weeks,” Walker said. “Their effort has been on par with our goals for the season. I have seen something in each individual’s game that shows improvement — in particular, Mariko [Tumangan]‘s wedge game, Casey [Danielson’s] and Jisoo [Keel]‘s swing planes and Lauren [Kim]‘s mental process.”

In addition to using the tournament to fine-tune their individual games, the members of this young Stanford squad will also be looking to repeat their performance as team champions at Peg Barnard, and for good reason: A win at this event in 2013 began a spring season bookended by the Cardinal’s best finish at the NCAA Championships since 2007. If all goes as planned, Peg Barnard will once again be a springboard for a successful drive to NCAAs in Tulsa, Okla.

“We would love to win and start the season with momentum,” Kim commented. “I think it is always important to start the season off well and give ourselves the confidence we will need by the end of the season at Pac-12s, Regionals, and hopefully Nationals. It won’t be the end of the world if we don’t win, but it would be nice to finish well.”

And with the opener on its home course, the Card will have every chance to begin the spring season in strong form. The familiarity with the layout gives Stanford a definite advantage over its opponents, and the lack of travel means no hassle with packing or making flights. Even sleeping in their own beds can provide a sense of comfort and continuity of routine for the players, which are of ultimate importance in the days leading up to the competition. Yet Walker’s squad realizes that not everything can or will be held constant, and factors such as the weather — particularly the area’s recent rain — have already altered their approach.

“The changing speed of the greens on our course due to rain and the lack thereof has proven challenging for our putting as a team,” Kim said. “As a team, we have agreed to work on putting before the weekend. The fewer strokes we give away because of small mistakes, the better chance we have of winning.”

It was just that mastery of the greens that allowed Stackhouse to do last year what no other woman had done before: shoot 10-under on the famed Stanford Golf Course, besting a veritable pantheon of past Cardinal golfers that included LPGA major winners Mickey Wright and Hilary Lunke. The then-freshman was masterful with her putter that sunny Sunday afternoon, sinking a 40-foot eagle on the par-5 seventh and a 30-foot birdie two holes later and nailing three birdies on the course’s five par-3 holes.

With the record-setting performance came additional expectations from Walker — not only on Stackhouse, but also on classmate Kim, who finished T-5th at her first Peg Barnard. But while Stackhouse and Kim are both asked to carry their team more than the average sophomore would be, they haven’t let the pressure impact their overall play.

“Coach does a good job of letting us know she has high expectations without becoming overbearing,” Kim said. “I definitely appreciate the way she holds us to high standards because it shows she believes in us and our abilities both as golfers and as individuals. I’ve noticed that sometimes I become my own enemy and it helps to have someone like Coach — and Mariah in my case — who push me to be my best and remind me to believe in myself.”

In order to repeat at home, however, Stanford will need more than solid play out of its sophomores. Junior Mariko Tumangan, the oldest player in Walker’s fall tournament lineups, will have to improve on her 6-over 148 cumulative score at this event in 2013 if the Cardinal is to defeat Pac-12 opponents No. 17 Oregon and No. 26 Cal at this year’s iteration of Peg Barnard.

Freshmen Casey Danielson and Quirine Eijkenboom will also receive the chance to better their scores from the Stanford Intercollegiate a few months ago, in which neither player broke par for a round. Seniors Marissa Mar and Danielle Frasier, who will play as individuals, are looking to work themselves back into the team’s top five, a position both have held at one point in their collegiate careers.

Play at the 2014 Peg Barnard Invitational begins Saturday morning on the Stanford Golf Course. Spectating is free and open to the public, with live tournament scores and stats provided by golfstatresults.com.

Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Cameron Miller

Cameron Miller is a sports desk editor for The Stanford Daily's Vol. 245 and is the men's and women's golf writer. Cameron is also a Stanford student-athlete, competing on the cross country and track and field teams. He is originally from Bakersfield, California, but spends most of his time away from the Farm on the state's Central Coast. Contact him at cmiller6@stanford.edu.