No. 6 USC Women's Golf Seeking Third Straight Win, Playing Locally Starting Sunday
The No. 6 USC women's golf team, the two-time defending Pac-12 champion coming off a pair of record-setting victories in its last two events, stays local again this week at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge at the Palos Verdes (Calif.) G.C., Sunday through Tuesday (March 13-15).
The 16-team field features host Ohio State, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Baylor, California, Duke, Georgetown, Kent State, Oregon, Pepperdine, Texas, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wake Forest.
Tee times begin at 9 a.m. PT Sunday and Monday and there is an 8 a.m. shotgun start Tuesday. Results will be at Golfstat.com.
USC's starting lineup, for the third event in a row, features senior Katherine Muzi, sophomores Brianna Navarrosa and Michaela Morard and freshmen Xin (Cindy) Kou and Amari Avery.
It will be the ninth start this season for Muzi, Navarrosa and Kou, the sixth for Morard and the fifth for Avery.
USC finished second at the Northrop Grumman in 2020. The 2021 event was canceled. Troy has won the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge four times, most recently in 2017 when the Trojans captured the event by one stroke with a tournament record 4-over 856. In the previous victory, the Trojans won in 2014 at a combined 14-over 866 while then sophomore Annie Park ran away with the individual title at 6-under 207. That was Troy's best individual effort at the event and one off the tournament record. USC also won it in 2011 and 2010. Ireno Cho was medalist in 2006.
The Trojans, under fourth-year head coach Justin Silverstein and third-year assistant coach Katie Mitchell, feature a young roster with just two upperclassmen returning with just one senior.
The Trojans had to replace three All-Americans from the 2020-21 roster in Allisen Corpuz, Amelia Garvey and Alyaa Abdulghany not to mention Gabriela Ruffels, who turned pro before her senior season.
Navarrosa is USC's leading returner in stroke average (74.08) and top 11 finishes (three) and rounds in the 60s (four). Senior Malia Nam, the 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, is the Trojans' lone returning All-American on the squad, but she has yet to play this season due to injury.
Freshman Amari Avery has not yet played in enough events to be ranked Golfweek, but through three events, she would unofficially be No. 2 overall. Freshman Xin (Cindy) Kou ranked No. 13, senior Katherine Muzi is No. 31 and sophomore Brianna Navarrosa is No. 64.
Recent Record-Breaking Results
USC has turned in record-breaking performances in back-to-back wins.
The Trojans posted one of their best regular-season performances in program history by combining for a school-record 39-under par — led by winning freshman Amari Avery's 15-under and fellow freshman Xin (Cindy) Kou's third-place 13-under — to capture the Icon Invitational on Feb. 22 at the Golf Club of Houston.
The Trojans nailed down their first tournament victory of the season at 39-under 825 (270-281-274) for a 15-stroke victory, following their school-record 18-under opening round with a final-round 14-under, tied for the fourth-best round in program history.
Avery, the spring semester enrollee in just her second stroke play tournament in college, won her first college hardware at 15-under 201 (65-71-65), clinching her one-stroke win with a short par on 18 after seven birdies on the day.
Her 15-under tied the USC record for most under par in a 54-hole event, previously owned alone by Trojan 2006 NCAA champion Dewi Claire Schreefel, who set the mark in 2007. Avery, who had only two bogeys all tournament, is also the first Trojan to post a pair of 65s in one tournament.
Kou, barely outdone, tied for third at 13-under 203 (68-68-67), her third top 5 finish this season and also with only two bogeys.
USC followed that with another record-setting performance, winning The Gold Rush by a school-record 36 strokes, two better than the same event a year earlier. USC won at 1-under 863 (288-289-286), defending its title here and winning The Gold Rush for the third time.
Avery became the first Trojan to win back-to-back events in nine years and led a starting five that all finished in the top 8. She won with a 5-under 211 (69-74-68), becoming the first Trojan - and the first USC freshman - since Annie Park to win twice in a row. Park, like Avery, was a spring semester freshman enrollee when she finished the 2013 season by winning the Pac-12, NCAA Regional and NCAA Championships.
Senior Katherine Muzi posted her second-best finish as a Trojan by taking second at 1-over 217 (70-75-72) while freshman Xin (Cindy) Kou locked up her fourth top 5 of the year in fourth at 3-over 219 (73-74-72).
* Freshman Xin (Cindy) Kou leads USC with seven rounds under 70 this year, good for a tie for fifth on USC's all-time season chart. She also leads USC with 10 rounds under par and 12 rounds of par or better. Among Trojans with at least five starts, she leads the team with a 72.11 stroke average. Her 13-under at the Icon Invitational is tied for the third-best total in school history.
* Kou has four top 5 finishes, five top 10s and six top 15 results in seven starts.
* Kou showed no signs of freshman jitters in her debut tournament as a Trojan, taking third at 8-under 208 (68-73-67). It was the most under par in a USC opener since Malia Nam, also as a freshman, took second at the same event at 12-under on Sept. 19, 2018.
* Kou was just the third Trojan freshman in over 20 years to record four straight top 15s to start the season, following Nam in fall 2018 and Jennifer Song in the fall 2008. She is just the sixth Trojan overall in more than 20 years to post at least four rounds in the 60s in her first 3 events, joining Nam (five, 2019), Karen Chung (4, 2016), Annie Park (four, 2015), Kyung Kim (five, 2014), and Song (five, 2010).
* Freshman Amari Avery is off to an amazing start to her Trojan career with two wins and a tie for sixth among three stroke-play starts. She is averaging 70.11 through nine rounds, which is more than a stroke under the USC season average. She is already second on the team with five rounds in the 60s to go with six rounds under par.
* Avery won her first college hardware at 15-under 201 (65-71-65) at the Icon Invitational, clinching her one-stroke win with a short par on 18 after seven birdies on the day. Her 15-under tied the USC record for most under par in a 54-hole event and she is the first Trojan to post a pair of 65s in one tournament.
* She won with a The Gold Rush at 5-under 211 (69-74-68) for her second straight crown.
* Avery was named Pac-12 Golfer of the Month for February, which didn't include her win at The Gold Rush.
* Senior Katherine Muzi (68-73-71) is having the best season of her Trojan career. She boasts a stroke average of 72.86 and is second on the team with nine rounds under par and 11 rounds of par or better. She is third on the squad with four rounds under 70. Including her win at the Pac-12 Preview, Muzi has four top 11 finishes, which also includes a second at The Gold Rush.
* Muzi was the Pac-12 Golfer of the Month for November after closing the fall by winning the Pac-12 Preview by one stroke at 9-under 210 (68-71-71), securing the title with a birdie on the final hole. Her win came one event after she posted a then-career-best 10th-place effort at the Stanford Intercollegiate.
* Sophomore Brianna Navarrosa is riding a streak of three straight top 16 finishes and has five in the top 20 this year and now nine for her career.
* With a stroke average of 73.57, she has five rounds under par and eight for par or better.
* Sophomore Michael Morard has come on strong this spring and is riding a streak of improving in four straight events, highlighted by a tie for eighth at The Gold Rush following a tie for 11th at the Icon Invitational. She has a stroke average of 74.47 with five rounds of par or better.
* USC's two-event win streak at the Icon Invitational and The Gold Rush is its first since winning the Silverado Showdown and Pac-12 Championship last April.
* Justin Silverstein has now led the Trojans to 16 wins in his three-plus years as Head Coach.
* Amari Avery is the first Trojan to win twice in a season since Allisen Corpuz did it last year.
USC posted a pair of top 5 finishes in four tournaments in fall action, closing with a second at the Pac-12 Preview in Hawaii. Freshman Xin (Cindy) Kou led the Trojans with a stroke average of 71.58, four rounds in the 60s (all 68s), top 10 finishes (three), top 15s (four), rounds under par (seven) and rounds of par or better (eight). Kou debuted with a third-place finish at the ANNIKA Invitational, followed it with a tie for fifth at the Windy City Collegiate, tied for 15th at the Stanford Intercollegiate and tied for 10th at the Pac-12 Preview.
Amari Avery Joins Trojans
Amari Avery, a four-time Rolex All-American and the No. 2 ranked prep senior in Golfweek's rankings, joins the Trojans as a 2022 spring semester freshman and will immediately compete for playing time. Avery, who is from Riverside, Calif., and was homeschooled, has already played on some of the game's biggest stages, including the 2021 Augusta National Women's Amateur and at the 2021 Women's U.S. Open. Her resume also includes medalist honors at the 2019 California Women's Amateur, a 3-0 record playing for the 2021 U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team and playing in the 2021 LPGA Founder's Cup.
USC is coming off of a five-win 2020-21 season, the third time in the last four seasons with at least that many victories and the eighth time in nine years with three or more wins.
The Trojans kicked off the 2020-21 season with a dominating 26-stroke win at the Lamkin San Diego Invitational, followed it with a four-stroke win at the Sun Devil Winter Classic against an all Pac-12 field and next won The Gold Rush by 34 strokes. USC closed the regular-season with win No. 4 at the Silverado Showdown, a five-stroke come-from-behind victory and then opened the post-season with a wire-to-wire Pac-12 title, winning by five strokes. Fifth-year senior Allisen Corpuz won at Lamkin and The Gold Rush and posted four other top fours.
USC brings back a lot of talent in its five returners, including two - Malia Nam and Brianna Navarrosa - who played in the 2021 Augusta National Women's Amateur.
Navarrosa posted four top 20 finishes, highlighted by a career-best second at the Fresno State Classic at 10-under 206 (68-70-68). She tied for 20th at the Pac-12 Championships, bouncing back from an opening 80 with a 69 and a 73.
Nam posted a pair of third-place finishes - one at the 2021 Pac-12 Championships - among three top 18s. She had three rounds in the 60s.
Katherine Muzi saw action in five events as a junior, registering two top 16 finishes, including a seventh at the Lamkin San Diego Invitational.
Christine Wang, as a true freshman, played in two events, while sophomore Olivia Yun did not see action last year.
USC has three freshmen this year in Rolex All-Americans Xin (Cindy), Kou Jiarui (Joyce) Jin - both from Beijing before moving to the states - and spring semester addition Amari Avery as well as sophomore transfer and fellow Rolex All-American Michaela Morard (she played at Alabama as a true freshman).
Kou, a 2020 AJGA Rolex first teamer ranked third nationally, has won 11 career AJGA events, tied for seventh most all time among female golfers. Jin has dominated the Southern California Junior PGA Tour since 2017, winning eight tournaments among 15 top 3 finishes. Avery was a four-time Rolex All-American and the No. 2 ranked prep senior in Golfweek's rankings. Morard represented the U.S. at the 2019 Junior Solheim Cup (where she teamed with her new teammates Navarrosa and Wang), the 2019 Toyota Junior World Cup and at the 2018 World Junior Girls. She is also a two-time AJGA Wyndham Cup team member. She also played in the 2021 Augusta National Women's Amateur.