After two second-place and two third-place finishes in its fall golf season, Stanford women’s golf is now ranked No. 1 in the country according to Golfstat, despite losing two All-Americans — Mariah Stackhouse and Lauren Kim — to graduation last year. Thus far, the Cardinal have been carried by exceptional play from freshman phenom Andrea Lee, senior Casey Danielson and incredible overall team depth.
The season kicked off at the Windy City Championship in Chicago, with the team taking second place overall in the 54-hole contest, just four shots behind the winner, Georgia. Lee took home first place individually, going 10-under and winning by one.
In the second event of the year, Stanford played host for the Stanford Intercollegiate. The team placed second, behind UCLA who put together a dominant team effort, collectively going just 4-over across the 36-hole event. Lee tied for second at 2-under and Danielson claimed fourth place with a 1-under performance. Of the 90 players that competed, just four were under par, with two of them being Stanford athletes.
Next came a trip to the Nanea Golf Club in Hawai’i for the Pac-12 Preview. The team took third place in the 54-hole challenge, while freshman Albane Valenzuela, who represented Switzerland at the Olympics in Rio this past summer, had an impressive finish, came in third of 64, and Danielson led the field with 13 birdies en route to tying for seventh.
Wrapping up the fall season in Atlanta at East Lake Golf Course for the East Lake Cup, Stanford came in third again. The Cardinal dominated the one-round individual portion of the event. Junior Shannon Aubert tied for fifth, and Lee and Danielson beat the field, both shooting 68, good for 4-under at the par-72 course that annually holds the PGA Tour’s season finale, the Tour Championship. To settle the tie, it took the two six playoff holes until Danielson made par and Lee birdied, crowning Lee the champion.
On what it was like to battle against a teammate, Danielson said, “We’re talking and laughing the whole time, but then we would get really serious over our shots because we both definitely wanted to win.”
“Props to her for making the birdie on the last hole,” she said, before jokingly adding, “but I’ll get her next time.”
After such a strong first day, the team didn’t have as much success in the match play portion of the tournament, losing 4-1 to Washington on Day 2 before rebounding to beat UCLA 3-2 on Day 3 to claim third place.
With her two wins and one second-place finish in four starts, Lee was selected as the Pac-12 Women’s Golfer of the Month for October.
Head coach Ann Walker said, “Nothing really phases her at all, which is key to being a great golfer. She just takes it all in her stride.”
“She has her head screwed on and her perspective in the right place,” Walker added. “She’s really excited to be in college, she’s extremely excited to be a Stanford Cardinal and she’s just looking forward to embracing the whole opportunity from Day 1. And when you do that, that takes away any pressure and allows you to live day-to-day in the moment, and then good things happen.”
Teammate Danielson had high praise for Lee as being a big part of the team’s early success.
“She’s an incredible golfer and an incredible competitor,” Danielson said. “She’s just a complete stud, and she’s been really great to have on the team.”
Lee has not been the only Cardinal to garner recognition. Danielson herself was honored with the Tom Cousins Award before the East Lake Cup kicked off. The Tom Cousins Award, presented to one men’s and one women’s golfer at the tournament, highlights student-athletes who have made significant contributions in community service.
Danielson started her “Birdies for a Cause” initiative during her sophomore year of high school. She gets sponsors to contribute a set amount of money for each birdie she makes in competition, and then donates the money she raises to a cause of her choosing.
In high school, that cause was the local food shelf to help individuals feed their families. In college, the money she has raised goes to support the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. She said “Birdies for a Cause” has “been really rewarding” and praised the Tom Cousins Award as a wonderful idea “to honor and encourage community service in the college golf world because there’s not too much stress on that.”
“I think it’s a really neat award in honoring that, and so I’m really honored to be a part of that tradition,” Danielson said.
Walker said, “It makes me very proud and Casey has been such a great leader for us. Casey has never been one to put golf first. It’s always golf, school, community service and friendships. They’re all equally important to Casey, and she never lets them get out of whack as far as getting too consumed with one of those.”
But both Danielson and Walker stressed that this team is about far more than two players. In fact, this team is deeper talent-wise than any in a long time, even the National Championship team of two years ago.
Danielson mentioned the impact of having so many qualified players.
“Since there are 10 of us, there’s a lot of competition for those five traveling spots, so I think that’s definitely a factor,” she said.
Walker added, “There have been numerous days where our high score at qualifying has been 76, and that is the reason that I think we’ll be there at the end fighting for a championship… the quality one through 10. That’s very rare for a women’s team.”
The team now gets more than three months off until competition starts back up, as it hosts its next tournament, the Peg Barnard Invitational, Feb. 11-12 at the Stanford Golf Course. The break will give the Cardinal a much-needed rest.
“All the kids on my team play amateur golf beyond Stanford,” Walker said. “They play on the world stage, and that’s all in the summer. The only way for them to be fresh and ready to go again in February is if they’re able to get away for the game a little bit.”
If its fall performance and incredible depth are any indication, Stanford women’s golf will certainly be a top contender for the NCAA Championship when spring rolls around.
Contact Jamie MacFarlane at jamiemac ‘at’ stanford.edu.