For most Stanford students, last week was a lazy one at best, utilized for some much-needed down time: catching up on sleep after a tiresome winter quarter or enjoying the spring weather at the beach. But in the case of the Stanford men’s and women’s golf teams, the end of finals meant a return to the tee box, fairways and greens. From the results, it seems the view of the bunkers was all the sand the Card’s players needed to see to have a great week.
On the women’s side, No. 4 Stanford headed south to the San Diego State Farms Invitational and captured second place in the strong field that included heavyweights No. 1 USC, No. 2 UCLA and No. 6 Arizona State. Head coach Anne Walker’s lineup, which saw the insertion of senior Marissa Mar in place of freshman Quirine Eijkenboom, fired a 2-over 290 to begin the three-day, 54-hole event.
Sitting five shots behind the Bruins after the first round, the Cardinal reduced the advantage by one stroke by the end of Tuesday’s frame and had three players — sophomores Mariah Stackhouse and Lauren Kim, as well as freshmen Casey Danielson — in the tournament’s individual top 10. Danielson, a mainstay in Walker’s lineup throughout the fall and spring seasons, has played extremely well of late; the Wisconsin native has seemingly been thriving in the mild winter weather and has been her team’s number-one or number-two performer in each of Stanford’s past four events.
“I think her belief in herself has been at its peak over the past few events,” said Kim of Danielson. “She exudes more confidence now than she did at the beginning of the year and acts more like she belongs. I think this definitely comes from the way Coach [Walker] has been working on developing her game physically. She’s learned new shots and tightened up her mechanics, which gives her confidence in tournament play.”
Danielson certainly played liked she belonged at the front in San Diego, carding a 4-under 68 on Tuesday to shake off an up-and-down first round that included a double-bogey on the par-4 seventh hole. She would go on to finish third individually, one place behind Kim, who led the Card with a 6-under 210 cumulative score. Kim was especially efficient on the par-5s: she shot 7-under on twelve such holes over the course of the event.
“I knew I had birdied quite a few of the par-5s but in the end, I was surprised at how well I actually played them,” Kim stated. “I was really confident in my wedge game this tournament, and I think that was key in helping me play the par-5s well. Most of my approach shots into the greens left me makeable putts and plenty of opportunities.”
Although the men’s squad did not enjoy the same sunny weather as its female counterpart, its spring break event nonetheless produced the desired results. Playing competitively at home for the first and only time this season, the No. 6 Stanford men’s golf team easily outpaced the field at The Goodwin to collect the victory. The event, formally called the U.S. Intercollegiate, was renamed after legendary Cardinal golf coach Wally Goodwin, who was at the helm of the program from 1987 to 2000 and was in attendance. Goodwin mentored, among other players, current Stanford head coach Conrad Ray and PGA Tour professionals Tiger Woods, Notah Begay III and Casey Martin.
And the Cardinal delivered a spectacular performance for the former coach, punctuated by junior Patrick Rodgers’ third straight win. Rodgers, who last month announced his intention to turn professional after this season’s conclusion, flew out of the gates with an opening-round 7-under 63, creating a three-shot lead he would never relinquish. Subsequent rounds of 69 and 64 brought him to 14-under-par for the tournament, six strokes clear of Rico Hoey of USC and eight ahead of teammate Cameron Wilson.
“The guys really had a great weekend,” Ray said. “We battled a little bit of weather on Saturday, but we had some contributions across the board from all five players. It was neat to see the guys bounce back from finals and Dead Week and play well.”
Besides the strong performances from Rodgers and Wilson, Stanford also benefitted from a solid outing by freshman Maverick McNealy. McNealy, who has struggled with his consistency in his first year as a collegiate golfer, finished in a three-way tie for fourth. The Bay Area product’s high placing was anchored by an excellent opening round that saw him hole two eagles in his first seven holes en route to a 4-under 66.
Both the men’s and women’s squads have one regular season tournament left before turning their attention towards the Pac-12 Tournament and NCAA play. The women will conclude at the PING/ASU Invitational starting Friday, with the men wrapping up their slate at the Western Intercollegiate beginning on April 12.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.