Women's Golf 2009 Season Preview
Feb. 11, 2009
SEATTLE -- The University of Washington women's golf team know it's just a matter of time before its potential shines through. In fact, it could be as soon as February, when the Dawgs begin the spring season that they will turn heads in the Pac-10. And with the way the Huskies finished their fall season, that possibility is not remote.
'It was unfortunate that we had to end fall that way,' said UW head coach Mary Lou Mulflur. 'We wanted to keep plaing, but it was really encouraging that we finished with 55 birdies in Vegas and I think that is the most we've ever made.'
Mulflur was speaking about the Las Vegas Showdown in October, where her women finished just behind four of the top programs in the country. The Huskies begin the spring season Feb. 23 with the Arizona Invitational in Puerto Penasco, Mexico.
'They finally got a glimpse of how good they can be and sometimes that's all it takes,' said Mulflur of her young team that has just one senior and three juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
But UW's result in Las Vegas wasn't its sole impressive performance, as the Dawgs finished third at their home tournament, the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational.
'We felt good about our play at the Edean, and Vegas we played our best golf so the only bad part there was we were getting solid play and now we have to wait two months,' Mulflur said. 'Overall, it was a solid fall season -- but one we can improve on.'
At the end of the fall season, the Huskies are ranked No. 33 in the PING/Golfweek standings and boast a top-50 golfer in sophomore Anya Alvarez. In just three tournaments so far in the 2008-09 season, Alvarez was Washington's top finisher twice, including her fourth-place finish at the Las Vegas Showdown, where she shot a second-round 66.
'Anya has come a long way on her mental game,' Mulflur said. 'She has worked really hard on that, and it came up huge for her in Vegas. If something went wrong, she didn't get rattled -- she just played her game and a year ago, Anya wouldn't do that.'
Alvarez is the No. 44-ranked golfer in the country, according to Golfweek and Mulflur expects nothing but improvement from her. During the 2007-08 season, she owned the Huskies' lowest scoring average (76.80), and that trend has continued so far over to this season -- the difference being that she has taken more than four strokes off her game thus far, taking just 72.11 strokes per round.
If there is one thing that the Huskies have in spades, it is youth and the length off the tee. Those two characteristics are personified by a pair of sophomores in Alvarez and Karinn Dickinson. During the 2008 Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational, Dickinson finished in a tie for third place under likely the most difficult conditions the Huskies will see all year at Sahalee and against the one of the more difficult fields they will see as well.
'Karinn has improved over the summer in her short game,' Mulflur said. 'She really worked hard on her chipping -- she's still fine-tuning that but it is definitely better and you can see that in the results. She has shown a lot more touch.
'Anya and Karinn are just solid beyond belief. To have your two low scorers be sophomores is very encouraging.'
After the sophomore duo, leading the Huskies so far this year on the course has been junior Molly Aronsson.
Finishing in the top three for the Huskies in two of their three tournaments during the fall, Mulflur said that Aronsson had to fight through a rough start to the seasonr, but she is all the better for it.
'I was glad to see her toughness this fall because she didn't qualify for our home event,' Mulflur said. 'That is hard to take when you've played in every tournament for us for two years.'
Aronsson has been one of the Huskies' top scorers the past two years, and Mulflur said she has grown into a leader on this very young team.
'Instead of getting down on herself, she has really turned it on and responded in a positive way. I was really proud of her and I think the other girls noticed it too.'
After those three spots, the Huskies are looking for more consistency out of the final two spots and while the talent is there, it's a matter of translating that to low scores. Senior Molly Boyle is looking to have a great final year with the program, which Mulflur said would be fitting, given her contributions while playing for the UW.
'Molly is great to have around and she keeps every one loose. She's very consistent and doesn't make many mistakes,' Mulflur said.
Another player that is emerging as a leader is sophomore Nicole Ferrero.
'I fully expect Nicole to be a significant force this spring,' Mulflur said. 'Her best attribute is her mental toughness. I don't think I have ever coached a player with more mental toughness -- I don't know what it would take to rattle her.'
Even during a fall that was less than fantastic for Ferrero, Mulflur said she was not at all phased and, as is the case with the rest of the team, ready to start spring. Junior Christina Yoon has as much ability as any golfer on Mulflur's team, and she said that big things are coming from her, as long as she can maintain her composure on the course and not try to out-think her talent.
'Christina has had a disappointing fall, and I'm sure she's tired of hearing this, but she's capable of so much more,' Mulflur said. 'When Christina calms down and sort of gets out of her head, she can put up great numbers. If she can put it together this spring, watch out!'
Sophomore Katie Saucier made strides over the fall and will look to make a contribution as well. Also looking to contribute will be a trio of freshmen, who have been led by Tacoma product Sadena Parks. Parks qualified for the team for UW's home tournament and carded a 38th-place 228, which was the fourth-best score out of the five.
'When Sadena played, she played pretty well,' Mulflur said. 'I expect her to come out this spring pretty fired up because she'll put in the work this offseason and really wants to play.'
'Darcie is probably the most positive player I have ever had. I have never heard her say a negative word. It's really good to have a player who brings that on a team,' Mulflur said.
Tallman is nursing an injured wrist and hoping to be healthy sometime in the spring season. While there are a number of question marks entering the spring season, Mulflur said this year's team has some of the best chemistry she's seen.
'They have a tremendous belief in each other and that is rare in such a small team where there is so much competition to qualify,' she said. 'They've been really solid and I think that is huge to know that they are playing at that level.'
Mulflur also believes that her team has played better than her finishes have indicated, as her squad is 21st in the country in Putting/Par -- a statistic that accounts for chipping and putting efficiency.
'These guys are converting when they are on the green and when they miss they are getting up-and-down so that to me is really the only number that I'm concerned with,' she said of her putting par mark.
'It was good. It wasn't awesome. We played with a different lineup every week and we never had the same line up twice. That is a little unsettling, but then again, that is what fall is all about. From that standpoint, there are some question marks, but it also gave a lot of people playing time and they were out there competing.
But while this young group is showing promise beyond its years, Mulflur said that success will ultimately come down to how hard they work in the offseason, which is good, considering the focus her golfers have shown in the summer and between fall and spring. As any Pac-10 player learns in her first year, playing on the West Coast isn't any picnic. At the end of the fall season the top three ranked teams in the country come from the Pac-10 in Arizona State (No. 1), UCLA and USC, and another four teams ranked in the top 25. Mulflur said that the competition is going to be tough, but she is excited to see how her girls handle playing against the toughest schools in the country.
'This is probably the most talented group I've had in here from top to bottom,' Mulflur said. 'You know some great things are going to happen before the end of the year, I would be shocked if they didn't.'