May 5, 2016
The title defense for the 2015 national champion No. 9 Stanford women’s golf team will begin in earnest on Thursday as the team prepares to take part in the NCAA Regionals at the Stanford Golf Course.
It hasn’t been a perfect season for the Cardinal, despite the fact that they returned every player from a team that toppled Baylor in dramatic fashion in the NCAA Championships last year. After winning two of its first three events, Stanford has finished on top in just one of its last seven, as the team has struggled to find consistency week in and week out. That title-winning squad has even been broken up, with freshman Sierra Kersten replacing struggling junior Quirine Eijkenboom at the Pac-12 Championships and scheduled to start for the team this week.
Right now, however, all of that will be in the rearview mirror as the group focuses on ensuring it gets its chance at topping the nation for the second time in program history.
The Cardinal must finish in the top six at regionals in order to qualify for the NCAA Championships in Eugene at the end of May, an achievement that may prove difficult in the reasonably deep field scheduled to head to Palo Alto this week. Stanford will be pitted against No. 2 USC, No. 12 Arkansas and four other top-25 programs during the tournament in addition to 11 other unranked competitors that will also be eyeing their shots at reaching the championships.
The Cardinal should take comfort in the fact that they have almost always proved a force to reckon with on their home course, as the team did not finish worse than second at the two events it hosted this year. Senior Mariah Stackhouse holds the women’s course record after she posted a 10-under 61 during her freshman season, and the Cardinal already proved themselves against top competition at home when they crushed the Trojans and No. 1 UCLA at home earlier this season.
Stackhouse figures to be Stanford’s x-factor during the team’s end-of-season events. Though she lacks the consistency of nationally ninth-ranked teammate and senior Lauren Kim, Stackhouse can play as well as anyone in collegiate golf and frequently has on big stages. Should the 2014 All-American find her swing over the course of the next few days, it’s hard to imagine how anyone else will be able to keep up.
Stanford has increasingly counted on Shannon Aubert to move the team up the leaderboard this season as well, and the sophomore has obliged by posting a number of top-15 scores and earning a top-60 national ranking of her own. Aubert and junior Casey Danielson, who posted one of the team’s best scores of the year at the Stanford Golf Course with a 2-under 69, will likely round out Stanford’s counted scores, with Kersten’s figure also available for insurance purposes.
The event could be the last for the team’s seniors, Stackhouse and Kim, who will need to qualify as part of the team or as individuals to continue their Stanford careers. Both are likely to be remembered as having some of the top careers in Cardinal history, and each will hope to say goodbye to her home course with one more spectacular round.
The first Cardinal players will tee off at 9:20 a.m. on Thursday at the Stanford Golf Course, with live scoring available on Golfstat.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.