A year ago, the Stanford women’s golf team entered its fall season with an undisputed leader: sophomore Mariah Stackhouse.
Stackhouse had more than earned that distinction throughout her freshman year, when she was easily her squad’s best and most consistent golfer. A WCGA and GolfWeek All-American whose 10-under 61 at the Peg Barnard Invitational set the collegiate women’s golf world on fire, Stackhouse came into the 2013-14 campaign as head coach Anne Walker’s top player.
The team’s dynamic has certainly changed — for the better — since then. While Stackhouse had an impressive 2013-14 regular season, which included nine top-10 tournament finishes and two wins, she stumbled — by her standards — in the postseason: She tied for ninth at the Pac-12 championships (after placing third as a freshman) and 33rd at the NCAA championships (she tied for 29th in 2013).
With Stackhouse struggling to regain her elite form, classmate Lauren Kim stepped up in a huge way for the Cardinal down the stretch. Kim, a Bay Area native, finished T-9th, T-11th and third at the Pac-12 championships, NCAA Regional event and NCAA Championships, respectively — monumental improvements from her freshman season. Her third-place showing at NCAAs was the highest finish by a Cardinal golfer since 1992, a performance that capped a spectacular spring season that saw her record five top-10 finishes in eight events.
Now, with the 2014-15 campaign on Stanford’s doorstep, it seems that Kim has joined, and perhaps even surpassed, Stackhouse at the front of the Cardinal’s pack.
“Staying up at the top and being a leader any way I can,” said Kim of her personal goal for the fall season. “Whether it’s team bonding or on-campus stuff, helping the freshmen get acclimated and being a leader on the course score-wise is really important to me. I had those leaders in my life that helped motivate me to become a better player — leadership is really important.”
Walker will need all the veteran presence she can get on the seven-woman roster, which counts two freshmen, two sophomores, two juniors (Stackhouse and Kim) and lone senior Mariko Tumangan.
The two newcomers — Shannon Aubert and Calli Ringsby — are two radically different players who Walker is eager to begin working with in earnest.
“Shannon comes with an unbelievable amount of experience,” Walker said last winter. “She’s been playing at the highest level since she was 12, 13, 14. She’s very experienced, done a lot of international travel, represented Europe multiple times.
“Shannon’s game is very polished at this point…Shannon’s kind of a short hitter with a great short game.”
“Calli, on the other hand, is an athlete, played multiple sports,” Walker said. “She got into golf late, but has had success with golf. Calli’s game is very raw…Calli is one of the longest hitters I’ve ever seen, and her short game is really messy…it’s like a diamond that just needs a little polish.”
Of the two, Aubert figures to get the best crack at the starting five, which is anything but cemented at this early juncture. Stackhouse and Kim will be the stalwarts, with sophomore Casey Danielson expected to continue her solid contributions from the third slot. After those three, it’s really anyone’s guess.
Tumangan played in every event last year, but her lack of consistency — especially in the spring season — might just push her out of the traveling five. Walker has shown she won’t play a senior just for the sake of sentimentality: Danielle Fraser ‘14 started just two events and fellow senior Audrey Proulx ‘14, while on the roster, did not play at all.
Sophomore Quirine Eijkenboom was also a regular in Walker’s lineup, though she struggled in her collegiate foray, finishing outside the individual top 35 in six of her eight tournaments.
No matter who ends up filling out the back end of Stanford’s traveling squad, Kim is confident that this team’s strength from one to seven will pay dividends.
“Playing as a unit is always something we’ve worked on,” Kim said. “I think this year, that’s easier with a lot of depth: knowing that any one of us could shoot the lights out and the others will be right there with them.”
Unlike their male counterparts, who have already completed 40 percent of their fall schedule, the women’s team has yet to begin regular-season tournament play. They’re set to debut this Sunday at the Annika Intercollegiate in Kissimmee, Florida; the event is co-sponsored by the Annika Foundation, an organization founded by former LPGA great Annika Sorenstam.
The Annika Intercollegiate — which is also making its event debut — is the only change from the Cardinal’s 2013 fall schedule. After returning from Florida, the team will head to Washington for the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational, an event Stanford dominated a season ago.
Then it’s on to the Stanford Intercollegiate from Oct. 17-19, the first of two home tournaments for the Card. The squad will wrap up its fall slate at the Pac-12 Preview in Hawaii; Stanford struggled on the Big Island last season, but ultimately won the conference title in April.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.