In what is increasingly becoming the Year of the Freshman in women’s college golf, it’s starting to look like Southern California might have a Fab Four of freshmen standouts.
Led by Jennifer Chang, a freshman from Cary, N.C., the Trojans rolled to a 10-shot victory over an elite field in the Silverado Showdown, which concluded Tuesday at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif.
Chang shared the individual title with another talented freshman, UCLA’s Patty Tavatanakit of Thailand, each landing on 8-under-par 208 over the 6,202-yard, par-72 Silverado layout.
Southern Cal began the week ranked eighth by Golfstat, but moved up to No. 6 after its latest triumph, its third straight tournament victory and fifth of the season.
I never got around to recapping the Trojans’ last win as they claimed a 5-0 victory over Texas in the match-play final of the SDSU March Mayhem at the Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. the week before Easter. It was valuable match-play experience with the NCAA Championship and its match-play format looming on the horizon.
And the Trojans blanked a Texas team that fell from No. 6 to No. 7 after finishing seventh in the Silverado Showdown. The Longhorns were without reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Sophia Schubert, a senior from Oak Ridge, Tenn. who was teeing it up in the LPGA’s ANA Inspiration that week.
Southern Cal’s opening round of 2-over 290 put it in front on a Silverado course that played tough. The Trojans then carded a 1-under 287 in Monday’s second round before finishing up with a 6-under 282 that gave them a 5-under 859 total.
It was an all-Pac-12 top five at Silverado with upstart California, No. 38 in the latest Golfstat rankings, posting a final round of 3-under 285 to grab runnerup honors at 5-over 869.
Three other Pac-12 powers were another shot behind California in a tie for third at 6-over 870, including No. 1 UCLA, No. 4 Stanford and Arizona, which started the week ranked 13th, but moved into the top 10 at No. 9 after its strong showing in the Silverado Showdown.
Arizona finished strong with a 5-under 283. Stanford, which had surged into the lead with the best team round of the tournament, a 7-under 281, in Monday’s second round, fell back in the final round with a 7-over 295. UCLA finished up with a solid even-par 288.
No. 14 Northwestern, which fell to Arizona State in the Final Match at the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms last spring, was two shots behind the Pac-12 trio, the Wildcats finishing alone in sixth at 8-over 872 after a final round of 4-under 284.
Texas was two shots behind Northwestern in seventh place at 10-over 874 after a final round of 4-over 292. No. 21 Purdue bounced back from an opening-round 303 by posting a 2-over 290 in the second round before finishing up with a 4-over 292 to end up in eighth at 21-over 885.
Reigning national champion Arizona State, playing with just four players, was two shots behind the Boilermakers in ninth in the elite 17-team field at 23-over 887. The No. 11 Sun Devils struggled in the opening round with a 309, but rebounded with a 3-under 285 before finishing up with a 5-over 293.
Chang opened up with a sizzling 6-under 66 at Silverado and added an even-par 72 before finishing up with a 2-under 70 to reach 8-under 208.
Backing up Chang was the veteran of Andrea Gaston’s team, Allisen Corpuz, a sophomore from Honolulu, Hawaii who was in the group tied for 15th at 2-over 218. Corpuz struggled in the opening round with a 78 before improving with a 1-over 73 in the second round. But she ripped off a sparkling 5-under 67 in the final round, her career low, that was the low round of the day for the Trojans and sparked their rally past Stanford to the team crown.
After that, it was three more freshmen.
Alyaa Abdulghany of Newport Beach, Calif. and Amelia Garvey of New Zealand were in the group tied for 19th at 4-over 220, Abdulghany carding a steady even-par 72 in the final round and Garvey finishing up with a 1-over 73.
Another import from Down Under, Aussie Gabi Ruffels, finished in the group tie for 40th at 223, although her 2-under 70 in Monday’s second round was the best round of the day for the Trojans. It’s what happens when good teams get on a roll, they get key contributions from all five players.
Tavatanakit, No. 18 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) trailed Chang by five shots after an opening round of 1-under 71, but made up those five shots with a 3-under 69 in Monday’s second round and a closing 4-under 68 to also reach 8-under 208.
California’s Jiyoon Jang, a sophomore from Rancho Mirage, Calif., and Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan, a junior from the Philippines, were a shot behind the co-champions in a tie for third at 7-under 209. Jang opened with a 4-under 68 and added rounds of 71 and 70 to get to 7-under. After opening with a 1-under 71, Pagdanganan ripped off a pair of 3-under 69s.
Tavatanakit’s teammate Lilia Vu, a junior from Fountain Valley, Calif. and the No. 1 player in the Women’s WAGR, headed a group of four players tied for fifth at 3-under 213. Vu finished strong, firing a 4-under 68 in the final round to get to 3-under.
A couple of opponents from the 2016 Curtis Cup Match, Stanford’s Mika Liu, a freshman from Beverly Hills, Calif. who still had a year of high school left when she represented the United States in international competition, and Arizona State’s Olivia Mehaffey, a sophomore from Ireland and a member of the winning Great Britain & Ireland squad on home turf at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club in suburban Dublin, were also in the group tied for fifth at 213.
Liu was tied for the lead with Chang after two rounds after opening with a 68 and adding a 70 in the second round. But she fell back with a 3-over 75 in the final round. Mehaffey, No. 15 in the Women’s WAGR, sandwiched a 3-under 69 with a pair of even-par 72s.
The final member of that talented foursome tied for fifth was Texas’ Schubert, No. 20 in the Women’s (WAGR) who was such an impressive winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur at San Diego Country Club last summer. Schubert got into contention for the individual title with a 4-under 68 in Monday’s second before finishing up with a 1-over 73.
Purdue, a favorite team of the blog since the days when former Chichester standout Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion, was a ’Boiler, was led by Inez Wanamarta, a freshman from Indonesia, and Micaela Farah, a sophomore from Peru, both of whom were in the group tied for 19th at 4-over 220.
Wanamarta struggled in the opening round with a 77 before firing a 4-under 68 in the middle round. She finished up with a 3-over 75. After struggling in the opening round with a 78, Farah posted rounds of 72 and 70.
Marta Martin, a senior from Spain, finished in the group tied for 28th at 221 after a final-round 74. Ida Ayu Indira Melati Putri, a junior from Indonesia, finished in the group tied for 45th at 224 after a final-round 73.
Rounding out the Purdue lineup was Covadonga SanJuan, a junior from Spain who finished in the group tied for 71st at 231 after a final-round 77.