By Austin Block
Entering its final tournament of the fall season, the women’s golf team hopes to build on its recent third-place finish at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational. The men’s team, on the other hand, is hoping to erase the past with a good finish at this weekend’s U.S. Collegiate Championship, hosted by Georgia Tech. The No. 23 Cardinal men struggled at the Pac-12 Preview, finishing eighth in a field of 12, a full 32 shots behind Cal, the nation’s top-ranked team.
“The team didn’t play their best, but we are still getting back into the groove,” senior Steven Kearney said. “Cal is having a really good season so far. We have just as much talent as they do, if not more. We just need to put it all together.”
Sophomore Patrick Grimes attributed the team’s disappointing finish to difficulties with their short game.
“We didn’t quite get everyone playing well at the same time,” he said. “For the most part, I think we struggled a little bit around the greens…So that was kind of our big focus heading into our next tournament.”
While the men’s team travels across the country, the No. 26 women’s team will host the Stanford Intercollegiate starting this Friday.
“It’s not only our home tournament, but it’s our last tournament of the fall, so we definitely want to finish strong,” junior Danielle Frasier said. “We’ve been getting better every week, and we’ve seen our scores go down, so I think we’re all just really looking forward to playing on our home turf.”
Senior star Sally Watson, who finished second in last week’s tournament, said that team members must continue to play competitively during the offseason in order to maintain momentum and avoid a slow start to the spring season.
If they do manage to maintain that momentum, this group has the potential to surpass the achievements of last year’s team, which tied for 5th in the NCAA Western Regionals before finishing 24th at the NCAA Championships.
Thanks to her recent strong finish, Watson is Golfweek’s top-ranked golfer, and highly touted freshmen Mariah Stackhouse and Lauren Kim are working their way up the rankings as well. Only two tournaments into their college careers, they are ranked 57th and 165th, respectively. Sophomore Mariko Tumangan, an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection last year, should also be a force for the team this season.
Watson said the team has been practicing well.
“We’ve had a lot of rounds recently in qualifying where two or three girls have been under par, and if we can bring that into a tournament, then we’re going to start to compete with the best,” she said. “We’re definitely very close.”
Tumangan agreed with Watson’s assessment of the team’s potential.
“I think that we obviously didn’t do as great as we had hoped in Tennessee [where the Cardinal finished 11th], but we definitely played better in Washington, and that wasn’t even [reaching our] full potential,” she said. “We definitely have a large chance to win [at the Stanford Intercollegiate this weekend].”
The men’s team also sees itself as a contender. Players will have the chance to prove themselves in this weekend’s U.S. Collegiate Championship, a high profile tournament with a competitive field.
“We really need to make an effort with shooting lower scores on the first day,” Kearney said. “It seems that we fall behind and have to play catch-up a lot in our previous tournaments.”
Seven of the nation’s top 20 teams will compete this weekend, including No. 3 Washington and No. 4 Southern California. Both of those teams beat Stanford by more than 20 shots in the Pac-12 Preview.
“I think it’s good preparation to go up against teams that we’ll be competing against all year, hopefully for a national title, and then also get some experience on a tough [course], just like we’re going to see later on in the year,” Grimes said.
The Cardinal will benefit from the return of junior Cameron Wilson, out with a back injury for the start of the fall season. Wilson finished the spring season on a high note, qualifying for June’s U.S. Open.
Accompanying Wilson to Georgia will be Boote, Kearney, freshman Dominick Francks and sophomore standout Patrick Rodgers, who has already won a tournament this season. In the Oct. 15 Golfweek rankings, Boote was ranked No. 10 in the nation, while Rodgers was ranked ninth.
“As long as we get everyone playing well, we can compete with all of the best teams in the country,” Grimes said. “With as good as some of them are, we are definitely going to have to play some really good golf, but it’s definitely something that we’re capable of.”