STANFORD, Calif. – Nearly a year has passed since freshman Mariah Stackhouse rocked the college golf world by shooting a 10-under-par 61 in the second round of the Peg Barnard Invitational at Stanford Golf Course.
She torched the layout with a 9-under 26 on the front nine, carding two eagles, and posted the lowest 18-hole score in NCAA women’s history, something LPGA Hall of Famers Patty Sheehan, Nancy Lopez, Juli Inkster, Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa never did.
“It’s still surreal,” said Anne Walker, the Mitch and Margot Milias Director of Women’s Golf.
Just last week, Walker was walking down the 18th hole at Stanford during a practice round for this weekend’s Peg Barnard Invitational with Stackhouse and freshman Jisoo Keel of British Columbia, and brought up the subject.
“I said, ‘Geez, you know Mariah shot 61 in the tournament last year.’ And Jissa said to Mariah, ‘You did?’ And we went through every shot. And Jisoo, who has won a couple professional tournaments and is a tremendous player, just looked at Mariah in shock.”
Needless to say, Stackhouse won the tournament and also led the Cardinal to the team title. She went on to earn first team All-America honors and led the squad with a 72.0 stroke average.
“It’s still an out-of-body experience,” Stackhouse said of the 61. “When I go back to that moment and relive it, it’s still amazing. Every tournament, somebody will bring it up. It’s nice to relive that feeling of complete peacefulness and control on the golf course. It was playing golf and staying out of my own way.”
Stackhouse hasn’t experienced the same feeling since, although her scoring average for 2013-14 is one and a half strokes lower. The 5-foot-3 dynamo from Riverdale, Ga., has improved her short game and course management, but knows she can’t force another low round.
“I’ve had some good rounds with a lot of birdies,” she said. “But I haven’t had that again. You can always have more birdies than bogeys and I kind of live by that in tournament play now. I think that’s kind of kept it in perspective and kept me from having some really big numbers. A lot of it has to do with the standards you set for yourself.”
Admittedly, Stackhouse felt pressure at the next event, the Cal Classic at Ruby Hill in Pleasanton, Calif. She played well, shooting 72-74, and helped Stanford win the second of three straight team titles.
“I’m not going to lie,” she admitted. “I definitely wanted to play well, because you don’t want to have a really good tournament like that and then come back and shoot some not-so-decent numbers.
“At the same time, I tried to make myself realize that the chance of me going out and shooting another 61 was probably not going to happen.”
One of the coolest acknowledgements Stackhouse received came from former Secretary of State George Shultz, a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He annually hosts a fundraiser for the men’s and women’s golf teams called the Shultz Cup, and then speaks at a dinner afterward. Last year, he recognized her 61 and requested her to play in his group this June.
“That was kind of like, ‘Wow!’ ’’ said Stackhouse.
Walker thinks Stackhouse can hold her own against any player in the country.
“I think she’s definitely in that mix any given week,” she said. “Right now, we’re looking at a USC team and a UCLA team loaded with (future) LPGA players and Mariah is giving them a run for their money.”
Stackhouse feels no added pressure this week to match last year’s record-breaking performance.
“It won’t be in the back of my mind because no course plays the same two times you play it,” she said. “At the same time, it’s our course and I know how to play it well, so I’m just going to do what I do in every tournament and give it my best. I’m just excited to give it another go.”