No. 1 Stanford women’s golf opened its spring season this week, taking on 13 teams at the Lamkin Invitational in Rancho Santa Fe. The Cardinal defeated all but one, finishing in second place behind No. 12 San José State. Sophomore Rachel Heck won medalist honors with a five-under-par total.
After going undefeated in their fall season, the Cardinal entered the Lamkin Invitational as the clear favorite to win. Throughout Monday’s rounds at the Farms Golf Club, Stanford demonstrated why this was the case.
Freshman phenom and No. 1-ranked amateur in the world Rose Zhang paced the Cardinal in Monday’s morning round with a three-under-par 69. Sophomore Sadie Englemann eagled her final hole of the round to match Zhang’s 69, while freshman Caroline Sturdza shot an even-par 72.
The highlight of the morning, though, came from Heck on the par-three 14th hole. From 164 yards, Heck hit a six iron directly at the pin. Her ball landed some 15 feet short on the green before bouncing and rolling toward the hole. The ball inched closer and closer to the cup before it found the bottom for a hole-in-one.
This marked the first hole-in-one in the Stanford women’s golf program since then-sophomore Aline Krauter aced the third hole at the 2019 Silverado Showdown.
Heck would finish the round with a two-under-par 70, and Stanford took a nine-shot lead over San José State into the afternoon.
The Cardinal maintained a five-stroke lead before play was suspended due to darkness on Monday evening.
In the afternoon round, both Heck and Zhang fired team-low scores of 73. Senior Calista Reyes, playing as an individual, posted a two-over-par 74, while Englemann shot 75.
It took Stanford almost three years to make another hole-in-one after Krauter’s in 2019. The window between aces would be much shorter this time around.
Sturdza, playing the par-three fifth hole, hit another perfect golf shot. From 181 yards, she made the second ace of the day for the Cardinal.
Sturdza ended the round with a four-over-par 76.
Entering Tuesday’s round, Stanford’s lead over the Spartans had shrunk to a mere three strokes. With overcast skies and temperatures in the mid-50s, the golf course was playing much more difficultly. The final round would be a stern test for the Cardinal.
Zhang, who won her three prior collegiate events, posted the highest score of her young college career: a three-over-par 75. Englemann tied Zhang’s 75, while junior Angelina Ye and Sturdza battled the difficult conditions for rounds of 81 and 84, respectively.
Midway through the final round, Stanford’s three-shot lead had turned into a five-shot deficit. The Spartans would never trail again, eventually winning by three strokes with a nine-over-par total.
On the individual side, Heck began Tuesday tied for seventh place at one-under-par. While the majority of golfers in the final round struggled to make pars in the difficult scoring conditions, Heck was playing an entirely different game.
Starting on the par-four 11th hole, Heck made birdie and was off to the races. After she reached the fourth hole (her 12th hole of the day), she blitzed the course for four birdies during a six-hole stretch.
The birdie barrage catapulted Heck into the lead, and despite a bogey on her final hole, she won the individual title by three shots. Her final-round 68 was the best in the field and one of only two under-par rounds on Tuesday.
“This win was really special,” Heck said after the round. “After not competing for a few months, winning individually was not even on my radar. I really just hoped to have a solid tournament to get the season started.”
The victory was just another achievement in Heck’s remarkable collegiate career. In the last 350 days, Heck has won seven individual titles including the conference, regional and national championships. The reigning Annika Award winner now sits in third place on the Stanford all-time wins list behind Andrea Lee ’20 and Mhairi McKay ’97.
Overall, the Lamkin Invitational was a strong start to the spring season for Stanford. In finishing runner-up, the Cardinal bested seven top-25 teams in the country including No. 4 Oregon, No. 11 Texas and No. 13 Arizona. However, the loss to San José State marked the first time that Stanford was defeated in stroke play since the Pac-12 Championships last season.
“We are proud of our runner-up finish against one of the strongest fields of the year,” said assistant coach Maddie Sheils. “There are many great teams in college golf and victories are difficult to come by, so we do not take for granted just how special our 2021 win streak was.”
“While we’re disappointed to come up just short of the team win, we’re more pumped than ever going into the rest of the season,” said Heck.
The Cardinal will have over a week off to practice before they have a chance to avenge their loss against the Spartans. On Feb. 24, Stanford will compete against San José State in the Battle of the Bay at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin.