2002 Washington Women's Golf Outlook
Jan. 25, 2002
Washington women's golf coach Mary Lou Mulflur is in her 19th season coaching the Huskies. There may never have been a season she has looked as forward to as Washington's 2002 campaign.
Not only does she have all but one golfer back from last year's team that placed 16th at the NCAA Championships, but Washington will be the host school for this year's event at Washington National Golf Club on May 21-24.
'I think that says an awful lot about the state of our program,' Mulflur says. 'Our team is very excited about the possibilities.'
Last fall as part of its commitment to play as the host school for the NCAA Championship, Washington held the Fall Preview, featuring the nation's best teams. Despite some damp conditions that washed out the final round of play, the field of players and visiting coaches gave Washington National high praise.
'I think our players came away from that event with a real sense of pride and enthusiasm,' Mulflur says. 'We did not play very well during that tournament, but we were much better the rest of the fall season.'
Much better indeed.
The Huskies went on to finish fourth at both the Northwest Invitational and at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Washington set a school record for a 54-hole score at the latter event, carding an 874. That broke the old UW standard by a whopping 16 strokes.
'We started out a little slow,' Mulflur says. 'We didn't play particularly well at the Preview. We started playing better at the end of the fall and we played extremely well at Stanford. It was fun to end on a good note.
'The interesting thing about Stanford was that there was not a player on the team who felt like, 'Okay, this is it, this is as good as we can play. We've arrived'. They know they are talented.'
If that was not a big enough momentum builder, then the Huskies just have to think back to last year's NCAA Championship where they posted a 16th-place finish, the best ever by a UW team. Washington shot 296 during the final round of play. Only national champion Georgia turned in a better scorecard that day.
'That did not escape the attention of the team,' Mulflur says. ' I think that was an important week for us and Friday's final round was important in terms of getting a sense of belonging, of knowing, we could be that good.'
Returning All-American Kelli Kamimura will spearhead Washington's effort to return to the NCAAs, on its home course.
Kamimura has been the most consistent golfer in the Husky program's history. She owns Washington's record for career tournament victories with four, including two during her junior season. She has the two best single-season stroke average totals of any UW player, including last season's all-time record of 74.3. Her 54-hole total of 209 at last season's Spartan Invitational also stands as a Washington record.
Kamimura needs only two more top-10 tournament finishes to take over the lead on the Husky all-time list. She enters the spring of her senior season with 17.
Last fall Kamimura, the lone senior on the Husky roster, lowered her stroke average to 72.75 during three events and recorded top-10 finishes.
'She is just so consistent,' Mulflur says. 'That's the best part of her game. She had a great fall. I think that was important for her, to set her up to have a really good spring. As good as her fall was, she knows she can accomplish much more this spring.
'Most importantly, she knows how to win and has the confidence to go into a tournament and try and win it. Mentally, she is as strong of a player as we've ever had. She might get frustrated at times, but she never gets down on herself. That's a great example for the other players.'
Mulflur says Kamimura is not a fiery team leader, but she gets the job done.
'She won't stand up and make a big speech, but she knows when to take a player aside individually and talk to them about the best interests of the team. She's a good leader for us. She does a good job of keeping the team focused.'
As talented as Kamimura has proved to be, it has been the improved, more consistent play from her teammates that has propelled the Husky program.
Junior Louise Friberg emerged from the 2001 season with the second best stroke average on the squad at 77.29. She posted two top-10 finishes, despite never posting a below-par round. Friberg was 18th overall at the NCAA West Regional, helping the Huskies earn a spot at the NCAA Championships.
Last fall, Friberg lowered her stroke average to 75.5 during three fall events.
'I think Louise comes into the season with the most focus and determination she has displayed since she has been at Washington,' Mulflur says. 'We need her to be a more consistent scorer and I think she can do that. She has matured as her game has followed suit.
'Louise has a lot of creativity in her game and is an excellent, and accurate iron player. That puts her in a position to make a lot of birdies and I feel her putting is the strong part of her game. When she is on, she can make putts from anywhere on the green.'
Another player who posted an improved stroke average during the fall was sophomore Lindsay Morgan. As a freshman in 2001, Morgan appeared in 10 events and posted a 77.66 stroke average. One of the college game's longest drivers, she lowered that average to 75.0 last fall.
'Lindsay is very talented and can really drive the ball off the tee,' Mulflur says. 'She spent a lot of time last summer working on her short game and when she came back here, you could really tell a difference in her wedge play. She needs to be more consistent in her scoring, and you can see that coming. She's making a nice progression as a sophomore. She's learning more about managing her game and the strategy of the game itself.'
Another sophomore on the team that Mulflur sees with tremendous potential is Bianca Clark.
A former competitive downhill skier, Clark has only played golf for several years. She is still adapting to the challenges of tournament play, but has shown tremendous improvement.
'She has great imagination with her shot making,' Mulflur notes. 'I really feel the sky is the limit for her. She hits the ball very long and has a lot of talent. She came to us with a limited competitive background, so it is just a matter of getting her to focus on her abilities and to improve.
'I think she has the potential to take another big leap this spring. Every time she plays another round, she learns something from it.'
Junior Michelle Grafos also returns after appearing in eight tournaments last fall. She made the Huskies NCAA squad and posted a final-round 74 to help Washington to its 16th-place finish.
'Michelle is like Bianca in that she did not play a lot of top competitive tournaments before she came here,' Mulflur says. 'Her final round at the NCAAs last year was a great sign for her that she can compete at this level. I think that gave her a real sense of belonging. She is another player who just needs to get the repetitions of tournament play to improve her game.'
The Huskies roster includes a pair of freshmen, including one who just joined the team in January.
Newcomer Paige Mackenzie was outstanding during her Husky debut last fall. Her 74.5 stroke average was second only to Kamimura. She never managed a top-10 finish, but her three tournament scores were very consistent, ranging from 72 to 77.
'That is very good play for a freshman, yet she was not happy with that performance,' Mulflur says. ' By her own admission, she felt she didn't set her standards high enough and that she could have done better. You love to hear that as a coach.
'Paige is a very determined individual. She wants to excel. She's only played eight college rounds, but in each one of those, I think she learned from it. Those experiences, good or bad, are going to help her get better. She has a very bright future for us.
Freshman Veronica Pinel enrolled at Washington in January after completing her high school education last winter in her native Columbia.
'Veronica has a solid resume and we'll see how quickly she is able to adapt to college and to tournament golf at this level,' Mulflur says. 'We're excited to see what she can bring to the team this year.'
Mulflur feels the team's improved play at the end of the fall will pick right up when the Huskies open the season Feb. 17-18 at the Lady Aztec Invitational.
'I feel good about where we are at and the development of the team,' she says. 'We need to improve our scoring in terms of consistency, but I can see that happening. If we accomplish that, we'll be right where we want to be at the end of the year.'
Which would be in their own back yard for the NCAA Championships.