Riding high after a second place finish at the Cougar Invitational last month, the women’s golf team got off to a solid start as host of the Stanford Intercollegiate this past weekend, shooting a combined two-under to sit in fourth place after the first round of play. But trouble struck on the second day of competition, and the Card couldn’t make up much of the large gap in the third round either, finishing the 16-team event in a tie for 10th place.
Junior Kristina Wong and freshman Mariko Tumangan were the low scoring individuals for Stanford after shooting identical 218s to tie for 39th place overall–Washington’s SooBin Kim took the tournament title with a three-round total of 200, 13-under par.
On Friday, it appeared as though the Cardinal would again threaten for a team title, despite being just No. 42 in Golfweek’s national rankings and not having an individual golfer inside the top-100.
Junior Sally Watson, who won the individual title at the Cougar Invitational, put together a very solid round of 70, tying classmate Marissa Mar for 13th place overall at one-under. And with Tumangan and Wong coming in just a stroke back after even par 71s, the Cardinal had four players inside the top 25. (Sophomore Danielle Frasier shot an 84, but only the top-four scorers per team count in collegiate golf.)
But the team’s play took a turn for the worse on Day 2. All four of Stanford’s top scorers from the previous day finished at least three strokes worse than they did on Day 1–Watson shot a 77, Wong shot a 74 and Mar and Tumangan shot 75s, while senior Lila Barton competed as an individual and was the lone bright spot with a one-under 70.
Weather conditions never really came into play, and Watson said it wasn’t easy to pinpoint any one problem that the team struggled with. “I think our varied performance had many reasons,” she said, “but that’s just golf. Some days it’s easy and other days you have to fight for everything.”
It might not have mattered all that much, as No. 1 UCLA ran away from the field despite finishing the final round at +2. The Bruins finished with a 54-hole total of 842 (-10), and placed six golfers in the top 25 overall. And if Stephanie Kono had not been playing as an individual and had counted for the UCLA’s team score, the Bruins would actually have finished 23-under par and won by 16 strokes.
However, Stanford did manage to battle back in Round 3 and, although not playing as well as it had in the first round, the Card moved up three places in the standings. Wong and Tumangan shot rounds of 73 and 72, respectively, to slide into the top 50 overall, and Watson and Mar finished just behind in ties for 62nd and 53rd, respectively.
Watson was encouraged by the way the team responded competitively. “Individually, everyone is looking good,” she said. “I feel like all of the returners have done a good job of improving their games over the summer and our freshman is also doing a great job contributing towards the team.”
And Wong pointed out that struggling in Round 2 actually provided the team with an opportunity to work on some aspects of the game that it wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. “We had a rough second day so we really didn’t have anything to lose,” she said. “Our main goal for the final round of the tournament was to play fearless golf. I think from now on we have to take that mentality to every tournament. We need to stop playing defensive golf and start playing more aggressive.”
In addition, Tumangan proved that she will be a very valuable contributor throughout the upcoming season, and there will likely be a very healthy competition for the team’s final few spots.
And if the tournament was any indication, the Pac-12 will be a very difficult conference to navigate when the season begins in February–three schools finished at even par or better, and there are eight Pac-12 teams in the top 21 of Golfweek’s rankings.
None of that is in the forefront of the team’s mind, however, according to Watson. “I think right now it is so early in the season that it is just important that as a team and as individuals we learn from every tournament and every experience so that come springtime we are prepared to compete with the best teams in the country,” Watson said after the tournament. “We have a lot of potential. We just need to learn how to perform more consistently under pressure.”