Sept. 19, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - First-year Margot and Mitch Milias Director of Women's Golf Anne Walker defined her vision for Stanford's women's golf program long before arriving on campus this fall. Joining the Cardinal after four years at UC Davis, where she led the Aggies' to a pair of Big West Conference titles and two NCAA tournaments, the three-time Big West Coach of the Year studied some of the most successful leaders in Stanford history to help shape her rebuilding strategy for a program that hasn't finished better than fifth in its conference since 2001.
"I've read a ton about Tara VanDerveer and Jim Harbaugh since I was hired," said Walker. "I wanted to understand how they came here and turned programs around. They were tough and they went blue-collar, and this season is huge in setting the direction and values for this program for years to come."
Walker's first task was identifying goals for a program she believes can be successful on the national stage in the near future.
"Within five years we want to win some conference championships with the ultimate goal being an NCAA championship," said Walker. "In the immediate future, Assistant Coach Kathryn Imrie and I want to get to the core of the program and really peel back the layers and get to the center and build it up from there. We're going to look at the values of the program and what's important to us as well as the university and alumni as we rebuild."
The team returns it's best performers from a year ago, giving Walker and Imrie a solid foundation in addition to two incoming freshmen with the potential to make an immediate impact on the program.
"We've got a really good core, a foundation to work with, but certain things have to change," said Imrie. "A lot of it is getting back to having fun. There was a lot of pressure on the girls to perform and it's tough to perform at a high level when you're aware of that. Anne has some great ideas for this program, and it's how we hope to bring out the best in the team. We know the ability is there."
Seniors Sally Watson
and Kristina Wong
should provide veteran leadership at the top of the lineup. Watson, an honorable mention all-conference selection the past two seasons and a second team All-Pac-10 selection as a freshman, lead the Cardinal in stroke average last season. She posted six top-10 finishes, including an impressive victory at the WSU Cougar Cup, where she recovered from an opening round 79 with rounds of 71 and 70 and sunk a 40-foot putt on her final hole to clinch the tournament.
Currently travelling with the Scottish national team to compete in the 2012 Women's World Amateur Team Championship in Antaya, Turkey, Watson added to her career achievements this summer by finishing first at the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship qualifying at Carnoustie Links.
Wong tailed off a bit last season after being selected second-team All-Pac-10 her first two years on The Farm. She tied for fifth at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational, but couldn't crack the top-30 the rest of the year. Still, the coaches are confident in her ability to have a strong senior season. Imrie notes that Wong has shown "signs of greatness in the past" and is "excited to see her play to her potential on a consistent basis."
Sophomore Mariko Tumangan and junior Marissa Mar trailed only Watson in stroke average a year ago. Tumangan posted three top-ten finishes and left her mark in the Stanford Golf Course record book in September, shooting a women's course record 63. An honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection as a freshman, Tumangan is in position to contend regularly throughout the season.
Mar also carded three top-ten finishes a year ago, highlighted by a tie for third at the PING/ASU Invitational. Balancing a demanding degree program with the time constraints typical of a student-athlete will be a challenge for Mar, and one the coaches believe she can handle while realizing her potential on the golf course.
Danielle Frasier has battled injuries throughout her Stanford career. The junior could be a major contributor if she is able to stay healthy. With extensive international experience, including two stints with the U.S. Junior World Championship team, Walker and Imrie are excited to see her compete on a regular basis.
Joining the team this season are freshmen Mariah Stackhouse and Lauren Kim. Golfweek.com ranked both players as top-ten high school prospects last year. Stackhouse was recognized earlier this month as one of the Top 50 Players to Watch for the 2012-13 college season by Golf World magazine. The Riverdale, Ga. native has won 97 junior tournaments in 188 starts, including back-to-back Georgia Women's Amateur Championships in 2008 and '09 as well as the 2009 PGA Georgia Women's Open title.
"Mariah Stackhouse was one of the top junior golfers in the country last year," said Imrie. "She's going to get a lot of publicity wherever she goes. She's very smart and it will be interesting to see how she performs coming in. She's strong, her short game is excellent, and her course management is getting better. She'll contend for a starting spot right away."
Kim hails from Los Altos, Ca. The 2009 California State Junior Girls Amateur champion, she also won three American Junior Golf Association events and qualified for the 2009 and '10 U.S. Women's Amateur Championships.
"Lauren is on the rise," said Walker. "She became known as a prodigy when she was 13 or 14 and got a lot of attention and tailed off for a few years. She played well this summer, playing with more maturity and enjoyment. We're excited to have her."
As the program begins a new chapter in it's history, Walker is ready to lead the Cardinal back into national title contention. As the track record of the legendary coaches she's studied indicate, that could happen sooner than you think.