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A Season To Remember

Jun 17, 2022

The expectations were sky-high for Stanford women's golf entering the 2021-22 season. The Cardinal was coming off a strong, albeit shortened, spring 2021 season that saw freshman Rachel Heck win the individual NCAA title and every major national award. Oh, and welcome to campus world No. 1-ranked amateur Rose Zhang, a player many thought should and would turn pro before entering college. But the allure of the college experience, especially at Stanford, brought Zhang to campus and kickstarted a magical season. But it wasn't a season that was without challenges.

Despite featuring a roster that included six players ranked inside the World Amateur Golf Rankings Top 75 on any given week, the Cardinal was forced to play many different lineups throughout the course of the season.
Junior Brooke Seay missed the season-opening Molly Intercollegiate and the Windy City Collegiate the next week. Heck missed The Molly and the Pac-12 Preview in the fall. In fact, four Cardinal missed the Pac-12 Preview – Heck, Zhang, Rebecca Becht and Caroline Sturdza – to play in the Spirit International. Despite all of the lineup uncertainty, the Cardinal won four times in four tries during the fall. Bring on the chase for a perfect season!
Zhang was everything she was expected to be from the moment she stepped on campus, winning each of her first three starts. She was the first Stanford golfer – man or woman – to accomplish that feat. That's right, not even Tiger Woods.
The spring would bring its own set of challenges, including local rival San Jose State besting Stanford twice in a three-tournament stretch to begin the spring. By the way, the Spartans were legit. The Cardinal was also challenged by Pac-12 foe Oregon, who arguably had the best spring in the country. The Ducks won their first Pac-12 Championship on their home course.
In its first six spring tournaments, the unbeatable Cardinal won just once. However, that one win was memorable. Record setting. Inspiring. Playing in the Gunrock Invitational at Del Paso Country Club, the Cardinal set an NCAA record with a 54-hole score of 50-under (814). That tournament featured rounds of 23-, 11- and 16-under as Heck set a new school record at 18-under to claim her second straight victory, and eighth of her career in less than one full calendar year.
Despite an imperfect spring, Stanford traveled to NCAA Championships and Grayhawk Golf Club as the No. 1 seed with a target on its back. The Cardinal played with No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 LSU each of the first two days, firing rounds of 1-over 289 and 4-over 292. With the challenging test that the Raptor Course offered, Stanford led after each of the four days of stroke play.
Most memorable from stroke play was Zhang's individual title, as she shot 6-under 282 to claim Stanford's second straight NCAA individual title and her fourth win of the spring. She set a new NCAA record – besting Heck's 69.72 scoring average from the 2021 season – with an average of 69.68.

For the second straight season, the Cardinal was the No. 1 seed entering match play. Great, right? Well, not exactly, as no 1-seed has ever won the NCAA Championship in the six previous years since match play was introduced in the women's championship. The Cardinal set out looking to change that. Stanford was prepared, however, as the only program to have made NCAA match play in all seven years of its existence. Next closest is USC with five.
At the turn in the quarterfinal match against No. 8 Georgia, Stanford trailed 1-2-2. Brooke Seay, who trailed by one at the turn, won holes 11, 12, 13 and 15 to flip her match and win 3&2. Anchor Aline Krauter, Stanford's steady senior, led her match by two holes at the turn and held on for a 2&1 victory. Heck claimed Stanford's third point, as her birdie on No. 18 gave her a 2-up victory. The first test of match play: passed.
Next up was No. 5 seed Auburn, who had defeated No. 4 seed UCLA with a strong 3-2, come-from-behind victory in the quarterfinal. It would be Grayhawk's toughest test yet, playing a second round in the same day in the 100+-degree heat of Scottsdale, Ariz. Zhang, who had lost her morning match, was dominant in the afternoon, winning each of the first four holes, five of the first seven and six of the first 10 to claim a dominant 5&4 victory. Krauter and Seay claimed Stanford's other two points, but it wasn't without drama, Heck, who went out second for the Cardinal lost on No. 18 and Englemann was defeated 4&3. Krauter won her match, 2&1, on No. 17, just moments before Seay's six-foot birdie putt on No. 18 dropped to break the tie and advance Stanford to the national championship match.
The National Championship match was held on Wednesday, May 25, and featured the No. 1 Cardinal and No. 2 Ducks. Not only the two best teams in the Pac-12 Conference all season, but far and away the two best teams in the country. The true national champion would be decided on the course, as the two teams would play their fifth round together in six days.
Stanford jumped out to a fast start in the match, as the Cardinal won hole No. 1 in three matches and tied it in the other two. Seay, who led off the match for the Cardinal, was up by three strokes at the turn, Krauter, who went out second, was up six holes after just eight. In those two matches, eight of the nine wins came with pars, and neither Seay nor Krauter dropped a hole on the front nine.
Englemann and Heck's matches were both tight throughout the front nine, as one hole was the difference at the turn for both. Zhang, much like Tuesday afternoon, won the first three holes and led by three at the turn.

Seay secured the first Stanford point with a 4&3 win on No. 15. Oregon never was within three holes in that match on the back nine, and Seay extended her lead to five holes before closing it out. 3-0 in match play for the underrated junior. Two points away.

Krauter also won on No. 15 with a 5&3 victory. After leading by six holes at the turn, Krauter lost holes No. 10, 11, and 12 before sticking her tee shot on the par 3 13th to six feet and making birdie to steal momentum back. 3-0 in match play for the overlooked senior. One point away.

The last point is always the toughest. Englemann led by two holes after No. 10, No. 12 and No. 14, but lost at No. 15 and No. 17 to face a tie heading to No. 18. Heck struggled to make up ground on Pac-12 champion Heather Lin, trailing by one hole from No. 8 through No. 13, before dropping two straight to face a three-down with three to play situation. First point to Oregon with a 3&2 victory.

They say diamonds are formed with pressure, but is that the case with roses, too? Just a day after celebrating her 19th birthday, and two days after winning the NCAA title, freshman Rose Zhang dropped No. 13 and No. 14 and led by just one hole with four to play. But in typical Rose fashion, she'd win No. 15 and tie No. 16 to lead by two with two to play.
With Englemann teeing off at No. 18 and Zhang at No. 17, the Cardinal needed just one more match. Englemann got par at the par 5 18th, but her opponent Brianna Chacon birdied to claim the match and tie the overall ledger at two wins apiece. It all came down to Zhang's match at No. 17.  
Zhang made par and her opponent did not, giving Stanford it's second national championship in program history and its first since 2015, the first year of match play.


1300 words in and we haven't even mentioned Margot and Mitch Milias Director of Women's Golf Anne Walker, who was named the WGCA National Coach of the Year for the second time in her career. Walker, along with assistant coach Maddie Sheils, deserve a ton of credit for recruiting this world-class roster and building a phenomenal culture. In a sport that is traditionally played individually, building a strong team culture like the Cardinal has is no easy task. In 10 seasons at Stanford, Walker has guided the Cardinal to two national titles and has qualified for match play all seven years. She's had at least one first-team All-American in all 10 years and has had multiple All-Americans in each of the last nine seasons.
This year's All-Americans? First team, Rose Zhang, and second teamers Aline Krauter and Brooke Seay.
In no particular order, Zhang was also named: ANNIKA Award winner, WGCA Player and Freshman of the Year, Pac-12 Golfer and Freshman of the Year, and the Honda Sport Award for Golf winner.
In addition to the three All-Americans, Rachel Heck joined the trio as the four Cardinal on the All-Pac-12 team in 2021-22. Heck missed Stanford's first tournament of the season and then played one competitive round from April 2-May 20 due to illness, but then proceeded to play all seven rounds (in six days) at NCAA Championships to help Stanford to the title. Amazing resiliency from the sophomore.
In addition to All-America honors, Krauter was named the LPGA's Dinah Short Trophy Award winner, given to the senior golfer who best exemplifies leadership, golf, academics and community service. She joined Casey Danielson (2017) as Stanford's second winner of that award.
For Seay, in addition to her All-America honors, she was honored as Stanford women's golf's first Elite 90 Award winner, given to the student-athlete at each championship site with the highest GPA. Seay holds a 4.0 in human biology. At Stanford.
What's next for the Cardinal? 2021-22 will be hard to top, that's for sure. Stanford loses Krauter and Calista Reyes, but welcomes a talented freshman class in Megha Ganne and Kelly Xu. Zhang announced recently that she intends to skip Q-Series in the fall and play for Stanford during her sophomore season. None of us can ever be certain what the future holds, but you'll want to follow this team for many years to come. Don't miss out on the likes of having Rose Zhang, Rachel Heck, Brooke Seay, Megha Ganne and many others on The Farm. Next year's Stanford Intercollegiate will be Friday, Oct. 21 – Sunday, Oct. 23. Make your plans to attend now and get ready for another exciting season of Stanford women's golf in 2022-23.