Feb. 17, 2006
BERKELEY, Calif. - Coming off two top five national finishes, California looks to be among the teams in contention for the 2006 NCAA title.
The Golden Bears have made six straight NCAA Championships appearances and have one NCAA individual champion noted in their record books. Sarah Huarte claimed the 2004 NCAA title and has gone on to a career on the Futures Tour. Cal greats Vikki Laing, Ria Quiazon and Anna Temple have also advanced to professional playing careers.
With a notable history to draw upon, the future looks even brighter for the Bears today.
"There's a standard that has been set in the past," said Cal head coach Nancy McDaniel, who enters her 11th season as the founding coach of the Golden Bear program. "Everyone knows they have to work really hard to get the team in position to qualify for NCAAs and to be playing for a national championship. We have a great plan in place going into the spring."
Cal returns four of the five players who contributed to last year's fifth-place showing at the NCAA Championships. That group includes two senior All-Americans in Sofie Andersson and Sophia Sheridan, along with junior Mika Takayama and sophomore Enu Chung. All four of those golfers boast international playing experience.
Andersson is ranked No. 27 nationally after the fall and has been ranked as high as No. 16 during her career. She led the Bears in three of four fall tournaments, carries a 73.8 scoring average into the spring and looks to earn her third All-America honor. The product of Angelholm, Sweden, owns a career scoring average of 74.5, which is on pace to break Huarte's current record of 75.1 (2000-04).
"Sofie is an incredible team player," said McDaniel, the 2003 NGCA, Golfweek and LPGA Coach of the Year. "Sofie is prepared to lead this team. With each competition, she raises the standard of excellence for Cal golf."
Sheridan, who won the 2006 Mexico Amateur in January, is Cal's top returner from last year's NCAA Championships. A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, Sheridan tied for 16th at the 2005 NCAAs after winning the NCAA West Regional for her first collegiate victory. Her stroke average dropped from 76.2 as a freshman to 75.0 as a sophomore to 74.7 as a junior, and she looks forward to a strong spring after posting a 77.0 average in the fall.
"Coming off a Mexican Amateur title, Sophia will confidently lead this team," McDaniel said. "Sophia's enthusiasm is ingrained in this program. She inspires a love for the game."
Takayama has performed well for the Bears since returning to school after taking 2003-04 off to play in Japan. The native of Alameda, Calif., led
Cal at the 2005 Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational, tying for 12th, and is a co-captain with junior Danielle Nash this spring. As a freshman in 2002-03, Takayama received honorable mention All-Pac-10 on the strength of five top 25 results.
"Mika came back a much more confident player in the fall," McDaniel said. "She was striking the ball better than ever and her strategy improved so much. Mika displays a savvy presence on and off the course."
Chung is coming off a solid freshman season, which she capped with a tie for 27th place at the NCAA Championships. After arriving in Berkeley from Auckland, New Zealand, in January with the distinction of being her country's No. 1 amateur player, Chung recorded a 75.8 stroke average. Her best finish was 13th at the Pac-10 Championships.
"Enu's biggest improvement has been on the academic side, which has allowed her to have more flexibility with her golf," McDaniel said. "She took the summer off so that she could take some classes at Cal, allowing her to come back with a rejuvenated attitude towards golf. Only a very talented player can take a summer off. I anticipate that she will continue to challenge for a top spot in our lineup."
Nash, from Roseville, Calif., competed in three competitions as a sophomore and looks to earn a spot on Cal's travel squad this season. She fired her collegiate-low round of even-par 72 at the Stanford Intercollegiate as a freshman.
"Danielle has only just begun to tap her potential," McDaniel said. "She gives the team balance and insight and is a great listener."
Sophomore Jen Sanders, who traveled to Asia with Takayama last summer on the NCAA All-Star team, continues to make strides towards being a consistent member of Cal's starting lineup. Sanders, who hails from Placentia Calif., tied for 26th at the 2005 Spartan Invitational for her best performance in a Cal uniform and earned the team's Most Improved Player award.
"Jen has worked hard on her swing," McDaniel said. "She's putting in the time necessary to earn her spot in the lineup. She's made strides towards always being positive on the course, which will help her challenge her teammates in the spring."
Freshmen Allison Goodman (San Diego, Calif.) and Shannon Yocum (Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.) each saw action in three of four fall competitions. Goodman tied for 18th at the Kent Youel Invitational and carded a collegiate-low round of one-over 73 in the final round of the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational.
"Allison is feisty on the course in a laid back sort of way," McDaniel said. "She's never going to let you down. When she was out of the lineup, I was impressed that she fought hard to get herself back in it."
Yocum shot her low round of the fall - plus two, 75 - at the Dick McGuire Invitational. As a prep, she helped Peninsula High School to the 2002 and 2003 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) titles.
"Shannon is poised in all aspects of her life," McDaniel said. "She represents Cal with a presence that will undoubtedly lead her to great success with the Bears."
If McDaniel can continue to successfully blend the veterans and newcomers, Cal should build on its status as one of the top golf programs in the country.