With Mother Nature rearing her ugly head on the Stanford campus this week in the form of one cloud burst after another, the Cardinal women’s golf team will surely be happy to escape to the desert this weekend for its final tune-up before postseason play begins. Anne Walker’s quintet — headlined by sophomores Mariah Stackhouse and Lauren Kim — will look to replicate its glowing performance from the 2013 PING/ASU Invitational at this year’s iteration of the event, which begins Friday in Tempe, Ariz.
In what essentially amounts to a Pac-12 Tournament preview, the PING/ASU field will feature eight of Stanford’s conference foes, including fellow top-10 teams UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and Washington. The competition figures to be the strongest the Card has faced all year, with nine of the NCAA’s top 12 squads scheduled to compete on the Karsten Golf Course. However, the Cardinal are not using this event as a measuring stick to see how they stack up against their Pac-12 opponents; rather, they are focused on continuing their solid play of late and building momentum with the postseason looming.
“We are lucky to play in such a competitive conference with six of the nation’s top-10 teams,” Walker said. “However, we are not so focused on proving ourselves within the conference — we have shown multiple times this year that we are one of the best teams. We are more intent on staying in the present and working on reaching our peak performance state on a more regular basis.”
Stanford has certainly made big strides towards that goal over its first four spring tournaments, turning in two team victories and a runner-up finish. That recent stretch of play has created great momentum for the young squad as it readies itself for the championship portion of its schedule. More importantly, though, the Card has seen its depth blossom tremendously over the past few months, with three different players tallying the team’s lowest score in as many events. Key to this encouraging trend has been the strong efforts from freshman Casey Danielson, who has stepped up her game and solidified herself as the squad’s third-best player — a much-needed boost, considering the slump junior Mariko Tumangan seems to be mired in.
“I think we have been getting better each week and seeing multiple players contribute to our team’s success,” Walker commented. “We have three weeks before conference; we will be looking closely at our stats and making some final adjustments to brush up on areas before we head to [Oregon for the Pac-12 Championships].”
One of the aspects that the Cardinal are hoping to improve on at PING/ASU is what Stackhouse called “course management.” With the wind likely to blow in Tempe, it will be incumbent upon Stanford to give each shot the attention it deserves, make committed swings and pick up good shot lines. Stackhouse’s experience at the LPGA Tour’s Kia Classic last weekend — where she missed the cut — reminded her that taking one’s time is often the best strategy.
“The Kia Classic definitely showed me that I need to put a lot more focus back into smart course management, rather than quick decisions,” Stackhouse admitted. “The amount of time spent on approach shots and strategy definitely reflected in a more solid performance for me, and I felt more in control of my game at Aviara than I have throughout most of this spring season.”
This weekend will see the return of the lineup Walker has utilized the most throughout the 2013-14 campaign: Stackhouse, Kim and Danielson, to go with Tumangan and freshman Quirine Eijkenboom. The latter two have struggled during the spring, and the weight of Stanford’s lofty postseason hopes rest on the expectation that one of the duo will break through with a solid fourth score. Still, the Card are taking things one event, day, round and shot at a time, trusting that back end of its roster will be in a position to score low when it counts.
“ASU had a very strong field last year, and is a great way to prepare for the Pac-12s,” Stackhouse said. “More than seeing how teams stack up, this event will give us another opportunity to focus on steady play as a team and working toward a solid team score each round.”
The 54-hole, play-five-count-four event begins Friday and will conclude Sunday. Up-to-the-minute scoring will be provided by golfstatresults.com.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.