Feb. 21, 2002
BERKELEY - After making its first NCAA appearance in 2001, the California women's golf team looks to contend for the national title this season.
"It has become real to them after competing in an NCAA Championship just what they're capable of," said Nancy McDaniel, who is in her seventh season at Cal. "Their actions in the off-season showed that they want to be contending in May and that they have a realistic view of what it'll take to get there."
The Golden Bears return four of the five golfers that helped lead them to a 19th-place finish at NCAAs last season. The Bears earned the final bid to nationals from the NCAA Central Regional with an eighth-place finish. The six overall returnees from last year and three talented transfers are expected to continue Cal's rise on the national scene.
Cal is on pace to shatter the school-record team stroke average of 306.2 set in 1999-00. Through 11 rounds in the fall, the Bears are averaging 300.9 per round. The highlight of the fall was the Bears repeating as team champions at the Oregon State Invitational with school records for 18 (286), 36 (584) and 54 (882) holes. The OSU field included national powers Stanford and Arizona.
In recognition of the Bears accomplishments last season, Cal head coach Nancy McDaniel was honored as the 2001 Pac-10 Women's Golf Coach of the Year. Cal finished sixth at the Pac-10 Championship with a school record score of 891 at the event. This is 102 strokes better than the 993 the Bears shot at the 1996 Pac-10 meet, Cal's inaugural season for women's golf.
Anne Walker is the only senior on the Bears roster this year. After a disappointing junior season, Walker has re-emerged as the Bears top golfer as she was in her first two seasons. She posted a team-low stroke average in the fall of 74.3, which is on pace to break teammate Vikki Laing's school record of 76.0 for a season. One of two Cal golfers with Scottish national team experience, Walker tied teammate Sarah Huarte for second at the Oregon State Invitational with a 54-hole school-best score of 215.
"Anne turned around the program," said McDaniel. "She was not afraid to set the standard at a higher level. She hasn't always been at the top of her game, but at those times, her leadership has always been incredible."
Laing, one of five Cal juniors, has picked up where she left off last season. She posted a fall average of 74.5, the second-best on the team. In 2001, the honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection led the Bears at the Pac-10 Championship (4th), the NCAA Central Regional (8th) and the NCAA Championship (T44th).
"Vikki is starting to put her experience to work in college," said McDaniel, of her other Scottish golfer. "She's emerged as a consistent leader, and I'm confident that she'll continue to elevate her game this spring."
Junior Ria Quiazon also has been a regular contributor in the Bears lineup. She is coming off two top 20 performances in the fall. Her first-round score of 68 at the Oregon State Invitational was a Cal record.
"The fall showed glimpses of Ria's abilities," said McDaniel. "I'm looking forward to what she has to bring to the table this spring. She has a lot to offer this team on and off the golf course."
Two other redshirt juniors, Amber Reilly and Christine Romer, provide depth to the team. Reilly competed in two events during the fall and in seven as a sophomore. Romer participated in four events last year with a best finish of eighth at the Bay Area Classic.
The final junior is Rosalin Chung, who transferred to Cal after competing two seasons at Mt. SAC in Walnut, Calif. She was a two-time all-conference and all-regional selection in junior college and will challenge for playing time this spring.
Huarte, one of three Cal sophomores, had an immediate impact on the team as a freshman in 2000-01. An honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick, Huarte led the Bears three times last season - at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational (T19th), Pioneer Classic (6th) and the PING/ASU Invitational (T20th).
"Sarah is solid," said McDaniel. "She's always going to be there grinding it out. She's relentless. She learned a lot last spring, especially at the end of the spring when she wasn't playing very well. She used those experiences to play better throughout the fall."
The other Cal sophomores - Anna Temple and Claire Dury - are talented transfers. Dury, who enrolled at Cal this spring, is a member of New Zealand's national team and is ranked No. 2 in her country. Temple, a Berkeley product, played her freshman season at Wisconsin before transferring to Cal. She competed in three of the four fall competitions for the Bears.
If Cal's fall performances are any indication, McDaniel will have the Bears not just competing at NCAAs this spring but also contending for a national championship. As an added bonus, the 2001 NCAAs are hosted by McDaniel's alma mater, Washington.
"We have been working extremely hard and feel in control of our destiny" said McDaniel. "Everyone is fully committed and expects good things to happen this year."