The Stanford women’s golf team tied for fourth as play concluded Wednesday at the Pac-12 Championships hosted by UCLA at the Valencia Golf Course. The finish is the highest for Stanford at the conference tournament since the Cardinal placed second in 2001.
After roughing up most of its conference foes at the recent PING/ASU Invitational, the team was unable to replicate that performance at Pac-12s, especially in rounds one and two. Stanford was fifth after Monday’s first round, shooting a 10-over 298 as a team, already 18 strokes behind No. 1 Southern California. Senior Sally Watson lead the Cardinal in round one, shooting 3-over on her first nine but roaring back with a birdie and eagle on the 13th and 15th holes, respectively. Watson was later named the Pac-12’s Scholar Athlete of the Year.
Tuesday’s second round saw a return to normalcy for Stanford with Mariah Stackhouse leading the way. The freshman torched the Valencia course, posting five birdies to card a 5-under-par 67 — tied for the second-best score of the tournament. With her first bogey-free collegiate round, Stackhouse moved into a tie for first in the individual standings with the eventual conference champion, USC’s Annie Park, at 4-under.
“My approach shots were great Tuesday, and I was able to convert a fair share of my birdie opportunities as well as avoid bogeys,” Stackhouse said.
As for the team performance, the Card improved on its Monday score by two strokes yet slipped from fifth to seventh in the team standings. Watson struggled after her solid round on Monday with an 8-over 80, and freshman Lauren Kim saw her woes continue with a 6-over 78, leaving her at 11-over for the tournament.
“I struggled with my feel, tempo and rhythm the first two days,” Kim remarked. “Coach [Walker] and my dad helped me find my tempo after Tuesday’s post-round range session and it completely changed how I was hitting the ball [Wednesday] — I was hitting it close and giving myself opportunities to make birdie.”
Indeed, Kim improved markedly in yesterday’s final round, shooting a 1-under 71, scattering five bogeys with five birdies.
She was not the only Stanford golfer to find her zone on Wednesday, as it was sophomore Mariko Tumangan who recorded the team’s low score for the day with a 2-under 70. Tumangan posted 3 birdies, including one on her final hole to move into a tie for 14th in the individual race.
Stackhouse was still in contention with Park, USC’s Sophia Popov and Colorado’s Jennifer Coleman early in her round on Wednesday, but bogeys on the fourth and sixth hole followed by a double-bogey on the par-3 seventh ended the Cardinal freshman’s chances for what would have been her 100th lifetime victory. She ended up in a tie for third with Coleman, shooting 1-over in the final round.
“I feel like I had a great tournament,” Stackhouse said. “This was my first ever Pac-12 Championship and I placed in the top three. I had a 3-under par total, which is great considering the tough setup of postseason events.”
The resurgence of Kim and Tumangan, coupled with Watson’s bounce-back round of 2-over 74, allowed Stanford to rise to fourth in the final team standings in a tie with No. 5 Arizona. Stanford’s even-par 288 team score on Wednesday was its best of the tournament and second best of the day to USC’s 6-under.
The Trojans thoroughly dominated the field by placing four golfers in the top 10 and outpacing No. 13 Washington by 24 strokes, No. 7 UCLA by 26 and Arizona and Stanford by 29. It is USC’s second Pac-12 title in three seasons, and Park’s individual win is the third consecutive conference title for a Trojan freshman (Popov in 2011, Doris Chen in 2012).
The Cardinal’s focus is now squarely on the NCAA West Regional, which begins May 9 at the Stanford Golf Course. In order to advance to the NCAA Championships, Stanford must finish in the top eight in the 24-team regional field.
“Heading into Regionals, our team is working on improving our consistency and grinding until the last putt drops,” Stackhouse said. “I’ll continue to focus on placing top-10 and making as many birdies as possible.”
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 “at” stanford.edu.