Feb. 3, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -- -
Stanford's women's golf team will open its spring campaign on Sunday at the Wildcat Invitational which will be held at The Golf Club at Vistoso in Oro Valley, Ariz.
In addition to Stanford, the 14-team field also includes top-ranked and defending NCAA champion UCLA, No. 9 Arizona State, No. 24 Arizona along with Colorado, Denver, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Northern Arizona, North Texas, Oregon State, Portland State, San Diego State and Washington State.
Stanford will tee off at 8:45 a.m. on Sunday and will be grouped with Arizona State and New Mexico State.
The teams will play 18 holes each day, wrapping up play on Tuesday.
Stanford finished fourth out of 15 teams in this event last season with a 54-hole score of 901 (+37), 26 strokes behind first place Arizona. Kristina Wong tied for second with a two-under score of 214, two strokes behind medalist Isabelle Boineau of Arizona.
Head coach Caroline O'Connor is looking for solid performances across the board from her team in hopes of building momentum and confidence to set the stage for a successful spring campaign.
"It will be important for our confidence to go out and put three good numbers on the board," said O'Connor. "It would be fantastic to go out and win it, but we are hoping to put ourselves in position to do something special on the final day."
O'Connor, now in her 17th season at the helm of the Stanford program, is expected to start a lineup consisting of (in order) sophomore Marissa Mar, junior Sally Watson, freshman Mariko Tumangen, senior Lila Barton and junior Kristina Wong.
Watson's season started on a high note, as she captured the WSU Cougar Cup in September, sinking a 40-foot putt on the final hole to seal her first 54-hole tournament victory. After struggling in her next two events at the Stanford Intercollegiate and SEC/Pac-12 Challenge, Watson regained form to finish seventh at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational to close out the fall.
"Sally is back in her old form," said O"Connor. "She is playing as well as I've ever seen her play. She enters the Wildcat really firing on all cylinders both physically and mentally."
Watson will play in the No. 2 position behind Mar, who posted a 73.9 stroke average in three fall events. O'Connor has been pleased with Mar's improved consistency during the fall and in recent qualifying rounds.
"She is so athletic and talented that she can go out and really shoot some low numbers. Last year, she had some ups and downs, typical for a freshman, but she is becoming more imaginative in her shot making and the way she is managing her game. It's all part of the maturation process."
Tumangen, a product of San Jose's Presentation High School, will play in the No. 3 position behind Mar and Watson. She posted a top-10 finish in her first collegiate outing at the WSU Cougar Cup, where she tied for eighth with 10-over score of 226.
"Mariko's physical skills are outstanding," said O'Connor. "She also has a great fight about her. It's fantastic to see a freshman come in and have an immediate impact."
Barton will hold down the No. 4 position, followed by Wong.
Wong, who led the Cardinal in stroke average last year and tied for fifth at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational to close out the fall season, has struggled with her swing since returning from winter break, according to O'Connor.
"Her hard work for the last three weeks is really starting to pay off," said O'Connor. "We went back and watched a lot of video from October of 2010 when she was really at the top of her game and we did a little analysis. She's worked hard to regain that form and I think returning to a course where she had some success last season will really help her mentally.
"The great thing about Kristina is she is a fighter, no matter where she is in the lineup."
Following the Wildcat Invitational, Stanford will return to action at the Peg Barnard Invitational, Feb. 18-19 at Stanford Golf Course...the remainder of the spring schedule will include stops at the Bruin-Wave Invitational (March 5-6), the PING-ASU Invitational (March 30-April 1) and the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate at Half Moon Bay (April 16-17)...the Pac-12 Championships are scheduled for April 27-29 at the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Wash....senior Sydney Burlison, sidelined for much of the season with a high ankle sprain, is expected to start hitting drivers next week in her rehab process...O'Connor indicated it was a possibility she would be available for the Bruin-Wave Invitational in early March...sophomore Danielle Frasier is sidelined with a wrist injury.