Sept. 13, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Returning six letterwinners from last year's squad, Stanford's women's golf team begins its fall schedule poised to contend for a Pac-12 championship. Led by head coach Caroline O'Connor in her 17th year on The Farm, the team hopes to use the momentum from its eight top-10 finishes last season to start strong.
The Cardinal returns four of its top five stroke-average leaders including All-Pac-10 second-team selection Kristina Wong and All-Pac-10 honorable mention Sally Watson.
O'Connor is confident that the squad can depend on their leadership and competitive experience.
"They provide amazing stability, strong leadership and power at the top," she said. "To have them as the core knowing that they still have two years left, we're in a good place."
Wong posted five consecutive top-10 finishes highlighted by a second-place tie at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational. She tied Watson with a fourth-place finish at the Peg Barnard Invitational and posted another fourth-place finish at the Bruin-Wave Invitational. Wong led the team in stroke average last season after finishing second as a freshman.
"Kristina is a really solid, consistent performer and she had five top-10 finishes in a row," O'Connor said. "She's focused on being the best and elevating her play to put herself in a position to win. She's really ready to take that next step."
Watson carded five top-20 finishes, including four during a five-event run near the end of the season. Coming off a summer of international competition, O'Connor looks forward to Watson carrying that momentum into her junior season.
"She has more confidence in herself and her game than she's had in a long time," O'Connor said. "Sally can hit shots that a majority of tour players can't hit. Her shot making is so impressive, it's mind boggling at times and she's ready to break through."
The depth of the squad is a strength that the coaches hope to take advantage of. Seniors Lila Barton and Sydney Burlison will be counted on to provide veteran leadership. Sophomore Danielle Fraiser and freshman Mariko Tumangan will challenge for a spot in the lineup. O'Conner believes that team depth is emblematic of successful teams saying "this year we have seven athletes who can compete for five spots and that's what makes teams great."
A key contributor to that depth is Marissa Mar who played her way into the starting lineup after walking on last year. A pair of top-20 finishes and a 76.4-stroke average hint at what O'Connor anticipates will be a breakthrough season for the sophomore.
"Marissa showed unbelievable grit and determination and her game really improved as a freshman," O'Connor said. "She's a tenacious competitor and I'm confident she will pick up where she left off last spring."
O'Connor and assistant coach Kathryn Imrie have designed a fall schedule that will allow the Cardinal to compete on the course that will host the Pac-12 Championships.
While the Cardinal is prepared for a full season, O'Connor is intent on remaining focused on the task at hand.
"Right now the goal is one day at a time, one tournament at a time and to take care of business here and now," she said. "Our focus is on developing the athletes into players and leaders so that in May we're ready to go."