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Park: National title streak might be extended by unlikely source

Stanford Athletics has seen a lot of streaks snapped this year. The football team lost more than two games for the first time since 2009. Women’s basketball missed out on the championship game of the Pac-12 Tournament for the first time in the tourney’s 13-year history. Women’s soccer lost at home for the first time since 2007. After a 31-year streak of winning Pac-12 titles, men’s swimming and diving failed to win its conference for a second straight season.

But don’t get frightened. All is still well in the world; Stanford is easily on track to win its 20th straight Directors’ Cup, and by one of the larger margins in recent memory. With women’s tennis and women’s water polo dominating towards the ends of their seasons, it would take a catastrophe of monumental proportions for Stanford to blow the 200-point lead it holds in the standings over second-place Penn State.

While we’re on the topic of women’s tennis and women’s water polo, though, another significant — and quite impressive — streak, still at stake, begs our attention: Stanford’s national title streak. Stanford has won at least one national title in every season dating back to 1976-77, making it the longest such streak in the nation, and one that I know that both the program and students take a lot of pride in.

I haven’t heard too many people worrying about this streak, even though Stanford seems to be again cutting it quite close, because I think that most people on this campus believe that women’s tennis and/or women’s water polo will bring a title home — myself included. Both of those teams have been utterly dominant this season, with women’s tennis having wreaked havoc against ranked and unranked teams alike, and women’s water polo in the midst of a formidable streak of top-five victories.

But I’m also going to bring your attention to another team that has been quietly priming itself for an impressive national title run this season, and will also have a good shot to continue that streak: men’s golf.

In a sport that’s about as close to the polar opposite to the frenzied action of tennis and water polo as possible, the soon-to-be-pro Patrick Rodgers and cool, calculated Cameron Wilson have led a young but very talented men’s golf squad to a huge surge at the end of the season. The team has won three of its last four competitions and placed second in the fourth, capped off by a 16-stroke victory at the Western Intercollegiate as it heads into the upcoming Pac-12 Championships.

With Wilson and Rodgers sitting atop the collegiate men’s golf world with twin top-five rankings, freshman Mav McNealy has finished a very consistent season on a high note, and other significant contributors like David Boote, Patrick Grimes and Viraat Badhwar have all proved capable of rounding out one of the most consistent lineups in the nation.

Women’s tennis is incredibly tough to win because of the strong competition that the Cardinal will need to face in consecutive rounds during the tournament. That could potentially affect a young lineup that has been successful all season, but has yet to be faced with real adversity. While I have an incredible amount of faith in the team, I also wouldn’t be shocked if the younger players struggle a bit when the lights start to shine a bit more brightly.

Additionally, as we saw with the heartbreaking triple-overtime loss in the NCAA Championship last season, the dynamic nature of women’s water polo and the ever-changing nature of matches can really affect how matches play out regardless of how they look on paper. Not even Stanford is upset-immune.

With golf, on the other hand, more wiggle room for shaky individual performances and a singular focus on individual performances that can’t be affected directly by the opposing teams could prove crucial. I think that the consistency of both Wilson and Rodgers, along with the experience that both bring to the table, will prove to be decisive, especially under the guidance of the experienced Conrad Ray, who last coached the squad to a national championship in 2007.

Seeing as how both women’s tennis and women’s water polo will already have completed their national tournaments by then, we’ll know exactly how much pressure will be on this men’s golf team when the time comes. I think that regardless of whether the streak is on the line or not, the Stanford men’s golf team will be ready to return to the upper echelons of the NCAA Championship standings.

I just hope that it’s televised with Gus Johnson on the call.

Do-Hyoung Park carded a 65 at Stanford Golf Course on Sunday… on the first hole. Buy him a new putter at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet him @dohyoungpark.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park is the Head Copy Editor at The Stanford Daily. However, his allegiance still lies with the sports section, of which he was at the helm before yielding to a peaceful transition of power to Ashley Westhem. Do-Hyoung is a junior originally from Seoul, South Korea and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing a major in chemical engineering. To contact him, please email him at dpark027 'at' stanford.edu.