2004 Spring Outlook
Dec. 29, 2003
There is something different about Washington golf in 2004.
'We have depth.'
It has been quite a while since Washington women's golf coach Mary Lou Mulflur has had the pleasure of using that expression to describe one of her Husky squads. So long in fact she quickly adds ...
'We have depth, but we're young.'
Depth was such a problem for Washington last season that the Huskies only traveled four players to the NCAA regional championship where they placed 13th.
With three returning veterans joined by four freshmen, the Huskies hope to find the right mix to make a return to the NCAA Championships after missing the national tournament last season for the first time in three years.
The returning veterans include senior Lindsay Morgan, junior Paige Mackenzie and sophomore Sung Ea Lee. They are joined by a freshman class made up of Ashley Bickerton, Courtney McCracken, Amber Prange and Amy Wang.
'I feel like we have the depth that we've been lacking the last few years when we've been a bit snakebit,' Mulflur says. 'It does a couple of things for you. It gives you a whole new level of confidence on the course and the players know they have to stay sharp to keep their spot because there is someone right behind them that can play and beat them.'
Morgan is the Huskies' top returning player from last season. She posted a 75.09 stroke average and qualified for the NCAAs as an individual competitor. It marked the third time in her career she had competed at the national championship. Morgan was named a preseason third-team All-American by Golfweek in the fall after earning honorable mention All-American honors in 2003.
'Lindsay is really big off the tee and was very consistent for us last year,' Mulflur says. 'She has to be a huge part of our team for us to be successful. We need her leadership and calmness that she can bring to the team. She did not play particularly well this fall, but I have every confidence that she will get it going in the spring.'
Morgan has carded 10 top-10 finishes during her career including her fourth-place finish at last year's NCAA regional.
Returning to the Huskies' lineup is Mackenzie, a junior who has three years of eligibility remaining after missing last spring due to a back injury. She placed 25th at the 2002 NCAA Championships and posted a pair of top-10 finishes last fall before a bulging disc forced her to put her clubs away for the better part of 10 months.
'It's huge to have her back in the lineup,' Mulflur says. 'It's great to see her out there playing and having fun again. There was a time when we were not sure that was going to happen again.'
Mackenzie's comeback during the fall was outstanding. She finished third at the Stanford Intercollegiate while helping Washington to a school scoring record and then walked away with the Kent Youel Invitational title, her first collegiate championships. She finished three fall events with a 72.55 stroke average to lead the team.
'She's at a completely different place with her game now,' Mulflur says. 'She has a better understanding of how she can get better. The sky is the limit for her. I expect her to continue and to be one of the best players in the country.'
While she rehabilitated her back, Mackenzie was limited to just chipping and putting. Mulflur thinks that extensive amount of work on her short game is the key to her improved play.
'They would only let her go so far back from the hole, so she wound up practicing her short game,' Mulflur says. 'Her short game. Her mental game. Those were the things she could work on while she was out. She spent a lot of time visualizing and seeing what it would be like in her mind to come back and how would it would feel to win a tournament. She came back and realized those things and I think she's made the mental part of the game a strength.'
With Mackenzie out of the lineup last Spring, Lee took on a larger role as a just a true freshman. She responded by finishing as the Huskies' top scorer in three events and earned honorable mention all-Pac-10 honors. She placed in the top-10 of her final three events last year.
'Sung did a nice job as a freshman and this year she's become more vocal and more of a leader on our team,' Mulflur says. 'Those are the kind of things you want to see veteran players step up and do. She was very consistent at the close of last season and she showed that this fall. That's what we need. Her play is going to keep us in the thick of things.
Lee had her best tournament in the fall, shooting 1-under 215 at the Stanford Intercollegiate and then placed fifth at the Kent Youel Invitational.
The four-player freshman class demonstrated in the fall they would make a solid foundation for Washington's future teams.
'Making the transition to college is going to be stressful for any freshman, but I think this group really responded,' Mulflur says. 'They were very impressive during our fall season.'
Prange, an AJGA All-American, was second on the team during the three-tournament fall season with a 75.00 stroke average. She carded back-to-back 69s at the Stanford Intercollegiate to finish that tournament at 1-over 217. Prange capped the fall with an eighth-place showing at the Youel Invitational.
'Amber is very competitive and I think she has a chance to be the freshman of the year in the Pac-10 this year if she puts in the work and effort,' Mulflur says. 'We're going to be counting on her this year. It's impressive for a freshman to post back-to-back 69s like she did at Stanford. It's one thing to do it once but to come back the next day and do it again shows she has some abilities.'
Bickerton, who was also an AJGA All-American, played in all three fall events and posted a 76.55 scoring average.
'You look at Ashley and she's not very big, but she can hit the ball a mile,' Mulflur says. 'She is a very competitive player. She works really hard and brings a lot of energy with her to the course. I expect her to make some serious improvements in her game as time goes on. She does all the right things.'
Wang also brings an impressive resume to Washington. She was named the Pacific Northwest Golf Association's 2003 Women's Player of the Year after winning the 2003 PNGA Amateur and the 2003 WSGA Amateur.
'Amy is very petite, but has a great sense on how to get around the golf course,' Mulflur says. 'She does not hit it real long, but she has a great sense of how to manage her game. She never seems to get rattled, she just glides along. She's a very steady player.'
McCracken was the Idaho 5A state champion as both a junior and senior and won the state's Amateur last summer.
'Courtney gives us another long hitter,' Mulflur says. 'She is very good off the tee and just needs to work on her irons to get more consistent.'
The Husky veterans and newcomers combined to produce a pair of runner-up finishes during the fall. The Huskies posted a school record score of 850 to crush the old scoring mark by 24 strokes at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Only top-ranked Duke, which also recorded a school-record score at the tournament, defeated the Huskies.
'When you can go toe-to-toe with Duke during a tournament when they are posting the best score in their history, that is a great indication of what this team is capable of doing,' Mulflur says. 'There wasn't a player on our team who came away from that experience thinking that was a fluke.
'I think these guys know they can play and now they are looking forward to the opportunities the season will present,' she says. 'The depth of this team is really going to be a factor. They know they need to keep pushing each other and it will result in good things for the team. I honestly feel like with these seven, it does not matter who is in the lineup. We'll do well. That's a nice feeling to have as a coach.'