By Andrew Tan
After the first round of Pac-12 Championship play at Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes, CA on Monday, No. 4 Stanford women’s golf checked in at second in the conference field with a score of 5-over 289, six strokes off leader and host of the tournament, No. 1 USC.
Junior Albane Valenzuela, ranked second on the team and 12th nationally, led the way for the Cardinal, anchoring Stanford’s overall score with a 6-under 65. Valenzuela leads the field by four strokes and hopes to capture Stanford’s first individual PAC-12 title since its only other, won by Mhairi McKay in 1997.
Where the Cardinal fell behind in the opening round was in the play of its second through fourth finishers — junior Andrea Lee (3-over 74), seeded first on the team and first nationally, sophomore Mika Liu (74), fifth and unranked and junior Ziyi Wang (5-over 76), fourth and 83rd. All four of USC’s scorers performed better than Lee and Liu, who tied for second-best on the day for Stanford. The top four scores from each team’s five players are summed to form the team’s aggregate score. Freshman Aline Krauter, Stanford’s third-seeded golfer ranked 45th nationally, scored 9-over 80 and her score was not counted.
Over the next two days, the Cardinal will face stiff competition from USC and will need to play its best golf all season if they hope to upset the Trojans. Lee’s play in the following rounds will be especially critical as she is the leader of a strong group for Stanford; Lee picked up two more individual wins this season to bring her total up to eight in her career, equaling the program record set by McKay from 1994 to 1997.
If Lee can put in a couple strong rounds of play and Valenzuela maintains her torrid pace, Stanford will have a capable one-two punch to counter USC’s well-balanced lineup. Breakout play from any of the Stanford’s backline starters could also prove invaluable in a race against the Trojans for victory.
An unseating of USC would mark just the third time Stanford has taken home the hardware and its first since 2014. Stanford will be paired with USC for the second round and again with its southern California rivals if it maintains its position or leapfrogs USC.
Tee times are scheduled from 10:10 – 10:50 a.m. in ten minute increments, starting with the highest-scoring players and ending with the lowest scorers. First tee time for Stanford is Krauter at 10:10 a.m.