Feature: Finishing With A Flourish

May 29, 2007

By Anthony Nguyen The Stanford Daily

May 29, 2007

Stanford, CA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- It had been the best-kept secret in all of collegiate golf - the No. 14 Stanford women's golf team can compete, and win, against the best programs in the nation. Now, after a fifth-place showing at the NCAA Championships, the Cardinal women have let the secret out of the bag.

At the par-72, 6,351-yard Legends Course in Daytona Beach, Fla., Stanford (299-300-304-294 - 1197) caught many teams off-guard with its first top-five finish at the championships since a runner-up showing in 2000. According to senior Lauren Todd, this was exactly what the women had intended to do.

'We surprised a lot of people out there, but we didn't surprise ourselves,' Todd said. 'It's a good place to be in, under people's radar.'

After four rounds of grueling competition, the Cardinal barely finished in sole possession of fifth place. In fact, Stanford's six-over-par 294 on the final day of play (its best team round in the tourney) was just enough for the women to hold on to the fifth spot, as Vanderbilt came in only three strokes behind for sixth overall.

In the individual standings, Todd appropriately ended her successful Stanford career with a top-10 finish. Her four-round tally of 296 (70-74-76-76) put her in a tie for ninth place - the best showing of her career at NCAAs. Fellow senior Jennifer Tangtiphaiboontana (77-72-77-75 - 301) also capped off her collegiate career with a respectable tie for 26th place.

Looking back on her final year, Todd was enthused by the thrill of coming up big at the right time.

'It's incredible - all four years, we keep doing the same thing, hoping for good results,' she said. 'It's nice to come through senior year and for it to work out.'

Placing in between Todd and Tangtiphaiboontana was sophomore phenom Mari Chun (76-78-71-74 - 299), who tied for 17th individually. Rounding out Stanford's team were freshmen Angela King (80-77-80-71 - 308) and Catherina Wang (76-77-86-74 - 313), who finished 60th and 81st, respectively, in their first NCAA appearances.

With four seniors graduating and no juniors on the roster, Stanford appears headed for a youth movement in the upcoming years. However, Todd does not anticipate any problems in the changing of the guard.

'Mari had a great year - she's just a solid player and she'll step up next year,' Todd said. 'Angela and Catherina also showed streaks of brilliance with their final rounds of golf. After playing with them, those three are just as good a one-three punch as you could hope for.'

But for now, the Card has much to celebrate after its noteworthy performance on the course - a by-product of the women's hard work and dedication throughout the season. As Todd put it, the win was a work in progress not realized until the final hole was played.

'Every year we come in with the same goals,' the graduating senior said. 'This year we had a very talented team. We had strong performances early on that boosted our confidence, and momentum swung our way towards the end of the spring.'

Additionally, the team's finish was a testament to its ability to adapt and improve. Though the course style played in their favor, the vehement wind conditions forced the Stanford women to constantly adjust throughout the four rounds.

'We're a good ball striking team and we have good control of the ball in the wind,' Todd said. 'The course really suited our team's game, especially with the wind. The conditions were different everyday, and it was like facing a new hole each time. It definitely kept us on our toes.'

Also, Stanford was able to finish strong in its second straight tournament - an ability that had been lacking as of late in the Cardinal's game. In the final round of play, all five golfers stepped up and produced low scores across the board.

Notably, the freshmen Wang and King lifted the squad with their amazing rounds. King posted a one-under-par 71, her lowest of the tournament, while Wang posted a two-over 74 after shooting a 14-over 86 in the previous round.

Taking home the team title was No. 2 Duke (300-287-293-290 - 1170), which claimed its third consecutive victory at the NCAA Championships. The Blue Devils' three-peat was the first in 12 years since the feat was last accomplished by Arizona State.

In fact, the Blue Devils effectively demolished their competition. The runner-up, No. 10 Purdue (303-294-291-297 - 1185), trailed by a significant, 15-stroke margin, but was able to edge out No. 9 UCLA (303-291-299-293 - 1186) by a single stroke. No. 8 Southern California (295-306-304-291 - 1196) was able to vault ahead of the Card by one stroke on the final day to take fourth.

With the season successfully completed, the Cardinal women were able to take time to reflect upon the up and down journey that brought them three tournament victories over the course of the season, and most importantly, respect for their game.

'Going to nationals, we knew anything could happen,' Todd said. 'We had played well early on in the season, but we always knew there was more in there. We played great this past week, and we're all really happy.'

(C) 2007 The Stanford Daily via CSTV U-WIRE

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