Women's Golf Shooting For National Honors
Jan. 16, 2001
Stocks may be looking like a bear of late, but the USC women's golf team is in the middle of a bull market run unlike any in its history.
Every leading indicator--team rankings, individual rankings, national honors, stroke average--is on the upswing for the Women of Troy. Last season, USC rose to an all-time high of fourth place at the NCAAs and looks to shoot even higher in 2001. Indeed, for the Women of Troy, it looks like there is nothing but good times ahead.
Credit fifth-year head coach Andrea Gaston, who has coached three top 10 teams, one NCAA champion and two first-team All-Americans during her tenure. She expects to once again be in the hunt for the title at the 2001 NCAAs, to be held at Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., on May 23-26.
'We're definitely a top five team,' said Gaston. 'I feel we have not only the resources available, but also the talent to contend for the national title. But there are going to be a few things in the makeup of our team that will be key for us to reach that goal.'
Gaston has her finger on just what those things are.
'The foundation of our success will be our work ethic, our commitment to each other, our self esteem and a continuous focus on our 'Blueprint for Success,'' she said. 'We will need to continue to build each other up and work as a team.'
In order to achieve these goals, Gaston has designed and methodically implemented a program--the aforementioned 'Blueprint for Success.' This program includes emphasis on formal strategic planning, tactical team and individual goal setting, personal development, Human Performance Technology, physical training, sports psychology and academic achievement.
The Women of Troy enter the spring season ranked third in the Golfweek Rankings after a stellar fall campaign. USC tallied five top 5 finishes, including the team title at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational and a runner up finish at the Stanford Women's Intercollegiate. At the same time, the Women of Troy showed they need to develop more depth if they wish to challenge for the top spot in the land.
'We have a number of golfers who can compete consistently with the top 10 in the country,' said Gaston. 'The depth of our team is one of our keys to success and I expect to keep on building on that strength.'
Sophomore Candie Kung returns as USC's top golfer after earning All-American first team honors last season. The 19-year-old wunderkind from Monterey Park, Calif., is the defending Pac-10 individual champion and finished 13th at the NCAAs. Just 16 tournaments into her career, she already holds Women of Troy records for lowest round (65), lowest season stroke average (72.6) and has the second-lowest 54-hole total (211)--feats all accomplished as a true freshman. This past fall, Kung continued her strong play, notching four top 5 finishes, while lowering her stroke average to 72.1 and twice firing a team-low round of 67. She is ranked second by Golfweek.
'Candie thrives under pressure and is truly a precision player,' said Gaston. 'She's all business out there. She's very prepared and organized and leaves nothing to chance. For such a young player, she is most impressive. She is also a great leader.'
Junior Leila Chartrand spent this past fall building on a solid sophomore season and in the process has turned into one of the top golfers in the country. She had three top 5 finishes in the fall and her stroke average of 73.1 was second on the squad. A veteran golfer who has come up big in big tournaments, Chartrand finished fifth at the 1999 NCAA West Regional and fifth at the 2000 NCAA Championships. Going into the spring, Golfweek ranks her sixth in the nation.
'Leila has been very consistent this fall,' said Gaston. 'Her short game has improved immensely. She's becoming much more confident and has adjusted well into her new role as a top 10 player.'
Sophomore Mikaela Parmlid has the potential to be a difference- maker in the spring. She has shown the ability to perform at the highest levels of collegiate golf. Last season, she was second on the squad with a 74.6 stroke average. Her best showing was at the Pac-10s, where she won the individual title only to be disqualified due to an incorrect scorecard.
'Mikaela is a much more organized player this year,' said Gaston. 'She's a very hard worker who has unlimited potential. She's a very strong player and is one of the longest hitters in women's collegiate golf.'
Senior Nicole Dalkas is USC's most experienced golfer and could be a big key for the Women of Troy in the spring. She qualified for the Futures Tour and should be back to her sophomore year form that saw her place fifth at the 1999 NCAA West Regionals.
'Nicole has a chance to end her senior year with a bang,' said Gaston. 'She showed some good signs this past fall of getting back to her old self. I have no doubt that she will be working hard this winter in preparation for the spring.'
Sophomore Yon Yim played in just one event as an individual this past fall, but she gained valuable experience during her freshman year when she competed in eight tournaments, including the NCAAs.
'Yon is continuing to grow stronger mentally,' said Gaston. 'We've been trying to make her stronger physically. I expect her to continue to develop and to contribute in the spring.'
The Women of Troy lost senior Linda Ishii to graduation, but have added four new golfers to the roster this season: freshmen Anna Lee of Hacienda Heights, Calif., Anna Rawson of Adelaide, Australia and Kelsey Durkin of Torrance, Calif., plus junior Becky Lucidi, who transferred from New Mexico. Thus far, Lee has been the only freshman to see action (the others have battled various injuries) and Lucidi will sit out the season per NCAA transfer rules. Lee played in all five of USC's tournaments in the fall and is third on the team with a stroke average of 76.2. She already has two top 20 finishes under her belt.
'Anna's been a tremendous asset this fall,' said Gaston. 'She's a fierce competitor. Her short game and her putting are her strengths. Her five-foot putts almost seem like tap-ins.'
Gaston has high hopes for the rest of the newcomers.
'Anna Rawson is one of the top five junior Australians,' said Gaston. 'She has all the potential in the world to be a top collegiate player. We haven't seen Kelsey Durkin in action due to injury, but we would like to see her in competition by spring so she can get competitive experience and develop into the player we know she is capable of becoming. Becky Lucidi is a fine player who was a second-team All-American at New Mexico. I look forward to seeing her play next season.'
Gaston is also excited about a new addition to the athletic infrastructure at USC: a short game golf facility. Gaston believes that it will make a positive impact on the team come spring time.
'It creates more opportunities for practice when our golfers have free time,' said Gaston. 'The difference in our shooting low scores will come in the short game, not in the long game.'
Five years into her tenure at USC, Gaston feels it is time for her team to make a move from being one of the top teams around to being the top team in the country.
'I don't like complacency,' she said. 'I am not satisfied with being No. 3 or No. 4. My players are not satisfied either and they expect a lot from themselves. I continue to encourage them to expect even more. We are driven to become the top team and win a national championship and it's my job to make sure the team reaches that goal. '
There is no doubt that the ingredients are there for a title run. All the Women of Troy need to do now is to put it all together at the right time. Gaston makes it clear that luck won't have anything to do with how well USC performs at the NCAAs on May 23-26.
'It's going to take a lot of hard work to get there,' she said. 'We knew (when I first became head coach) that we needed a team of talented and developing players to make good things happen. I believe that we have that team in place right now.'
One thing is for sure: if USC women's golf was a stock, it would be traded on the futures market.