Women’s golf swings into the new season

Stanford women’s golf had a strong start to the fall season and 2023-24 campaign. The team, which held the top spot in the Golfweek preseason rankings, is expected to compete again for the national championship this spring.

On the seven-women roster, seniors Rachel Heck and Sadie Englemann, juniors Caroline Sturdza and Yu Wen Lu, sophomores Megha Ganne and Kelly Xu and graduate student Brooke Seay are all returning from last season’s NCAA semifinal unit.

Heck, the 2021 individual NCAA champion, is coming off a semifinal finish in this summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. Englemann was awarded 2023 All-Pac-12 honors, while Ganne was named 2023 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Heck, Englemann and Seay were all members of the Cardinal 2021 NCAA championship team. The sole freshman team member, Paula Martin Sampedro already has shown immense promise in her nascent college career, with top-10 finishes in the team’s first two tournaments. 

In September’s Carmel Cup, played at the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links in Monterey, Calif., the Cardinal women won the tournament for the second consecutive season. The team’s 22-under par score bested Arkansas by eight strokes and Texas A&M by 12 strokes in the eight-team field. Ganne won the individual competition, marking her first collegiate tournament win. She was the second straight Stanford woman to win this event, after former world No. 1 amateur Rose Zhang took last year’s individual title. Ganne shot an impressive 5-under-par 67 final round to finish at 15-under par, four strokes ahead of the 48-woman field. Her total score of 201 tied for the fifth-lowest 54-hole score in Stanford history. In her collegiate debut, Sampedro also lodged a top-10 finish, tying for sixth place at 11-under par. 

In last week’s Stephens Cup, played at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas, Stanford held the lead in the seven-team event as the second and final round unfolded, but fell into third place after both Wake Forest and Texas surged ahead and into the championship round. In the third place match, the Cardinal bested South Carolina 4-1 with Sturdza, Xu, Ganne and Sampedro winning their matches. Sturdza never trailed in her match with world No. 15 ranked amateur, Hannah Darling, winning 2&1. Xu was able to pull ahead late in her match to win handily, 4&3. Ganne came from behind to win on the 18th hole, 1up and Sampedro birdied the 17th hole to win 2&1. The sole South Carolina point came when Englemann fell behind early and never recovered, losing her match 6&4. 

The previous day, Sampedro starred in the individual competition, taking fourth place in the 39-player field. In the final round, Sampedro charged into a tie for the lead entering the back nine. Displaying her consistent game and solid putting, she scored five front-nine birdies for an outward score of 31. But her hopes were dashed by three bogeys on the back nine, yielding a still impressive fourth place finish, four strokes behind Texas’s Lauren Kim.

Sampedro said that she was pleased with the outcome in only her second collegiate event: “I’m very happy with that and getting some experience being on the top of the leaderboard.”

“I proved to myself that I could be there competing against the best college golfers in the country, even though I’m a freshman, so I’m excited for what’s to come,” Sampedro said.

The tournaments thus far have shown that the strengths of this year’s team are its depth and balance, and that it has adapted after Zhang’s departure.

“Like any organization when you have one part of the organization leave — and certainly, in our case, Rose played a lot of great golf so she was a very integral part of our championship teams — it creates an opportunity for someone else to fill that spot or for the all the pieces of the organization to take a little bit of a shift and find new roles” said women’s golf head coach Anne Waler.

“With Rose’s departure, that’s what we’ve seen. We’ve seen players take the opportunity with Megha Ganne winning her first tournament, Paula Sampedro, our freshman, this week stepping up and finishing fourth,” Waler added. “We’re seeing all of our players move into a position where they’re willing to take that leadership spot … We have a deep roster, but every kid on that roster can be the star of our team on any given day. And that’s a really fun culture to be a part of.”

This week, Friday through Sunday, the Cardinal will host the Stanford Intercollegiate, a tournament the team has won the last two seasons. The Stanford women are eagerly awaiting this event for multiple reasons. “We love playing at home,” Walker said. “We have a beautiful golf course here, one of the best in the country. And so to welcome 20 teams to campus and host them here, we’re very excited.”

As it did at last year’s Stanford Intercollegiate, the team will highlight breast cancer awareness and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “We just want people to know that as much as we’re out here competing for our own selves, we’re also competing for all the women out there that we know have fought breast cancer, are fighting breast cancer [and] who will fight breast cancer,” Walker said. “It’s important that we use our platform — to use it as a vehicle for good and for us, given that we’re hosting here in the month of October and we have 120 women who are going to be on site, that we can help them advocate for their own health. And yes, we’re trying to do more with our spot here at Stanford.” 

Stanford will tee off on Friday at approximately 11:30 a.m. and on Saturday at about 8 a.m.

Originally posted 2023-10-17 07:02:53.