Feb. 7, 2009
BERKELEY - The No. 15 California Golden Bears open the spring portion of their schedule when they head to Southern California to play in the Northrup Grumann Regional Challenge in Rancho Palos Verdes. The first round action will take place on Monday, Feb. 9 with the 54-hole tournament wrapping up Wednesday, Feb. 11.
2009 Spring Season Preview
The California Golden Bears women's golf team has competed in nine straight NCAA Regionals and has advanced to 6 NCAA Championships, but it's the 2009 NCAA's that matters to this squad.
"This team is hungry," said head coach Nancy McDaniel. "Allie and Shannon know what it takes to get to Nationals and they are dedicated to getting back there and making some noise once we do get back there. I have full confidence in their leadership. I think it is their leadership that has taken us to a top-15 ranking this fall."
The Bears were the preseason No. 15 team, according to Golf Week, after finishing the 2008 season ranked No. 23. Coming into the spring, they have two players ranked in the top-100 individuals, sophomore Pia Halbig at No. 45 and Yocum at No. 86.
The Bears played a very solid spring schedule, winning their first two tournaments of the year. The Bears dominated at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic, at Ptarmagin Country Club in Fort Collins, Colo., their first tournament of the 2008 fall season. The team not only defended their 2007 title, they shattered records for the lowest 18 and 36 hole team scores, tied the lowest under-par team score for 54 holes, and had two golfers tie for the record for lowest individual rounds with Yocum and Goodman each shooting 5-under 67's. Yocum also repeated as the tournament medalist, making birdies on her last three holes to finish with an eight-under 208.
"It was a huge confidence builder for us to know we can go out and shoot those numbers," said McDaniel. "We played really free golf. We played with momentum. There was a confident air there you can't really put your finger on. It's when sports go right, when it all comes together at that one moment, it was incredible. Everywhere you turned there was someone hitting it close and rolling it in. It was the true definition of golf as a team sport with everyone feeding off the momentum."
The Bears followed up the success in Colorado with another victory, the 20th tournament victory in Cal history, with the first place finish at the Badger Invitational at the University Ridge Golf Course in Verona, Wisc., the first time since 2003 the Bears had won back-to-back tournaments. Halbig paced the Bears, finishing in fourth place with a three-over 219.
The Bears closed out the fall with a fourth-place finish at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational and finishing eighth at the Stanford Pepsi Intercollegiate.
"Our opener at Colorado State was proof-positive that these guys have worked really hard over the summer," said McDaniel. "They left the NCAA Regionals last spring with a pit in their stomach, knowing that they wanted to come back and prove themselves this year. That was all very evident when we got to Colorado State. They looked like a group of mature individuals who know what they want and how to get it."
Much of the hard work over the summer came from a team trip to Scotland last June. The team not only had the opportunity to play golf in the birthplace of the sport, they also played as individuals in the British Women's Open Amateur Golf Championship at North Berwick.
"The Scotland trip was the catalyst for how we came back this fall," said McDaniel. "The five players from our current roster who made the trip came back with new insight. They came back with different shots and so much creativity. To play in the wind, on different grasses, and to really play against the terrain changed their game, it really is a different game over there. You must be prepared with a multitude of shots. To play where golf was born was also a very special element. That really brought these five together. There is a real common thread there."
No one was more affected by the trip than Scotland native, junior Roseanne Niven. Playing in her homeland, Niven made it to the semi-finals of the match-play British Amateur, eventually falling in the semis to Arizona State's Anna Nordqvist. Niven followed up her success at the British by finishing second at the Irish Women's Open Strokeplay and then winning the Ladies' British Open Amateur Championship in August at Malone Golf Club near Belfast, Ireland.
"Rosie is gearing up to have a great spring. I just know it," said McDaniel. "She was playing with such self-assurance and a fiery attitude this summer. When she was over in Scotland, she was playing confidently and it gave her a whole different game. The summer is an indication of what we'll see from Rosie throughout her last year and a half here at Cal."
The team's veteran leadership comes from the senior tandem of Yocum and Goodman, both honorable mentions for All-Pac-10 last season, and both posting career-best 5-unders this spring in Colorado. Goodman comes into the spring ranked in the top-100.
"Allie came back this fall with fully prepared, fresh and ready to go, with a new lease on golf," said McDaniel. "She has so many new shots that she brought back from the Scotland trip. Her creativity will be key going into this spring. And her willingness to try new shots."
"Allie's enthusiasm has helped propel this team. The teams looks to her for motivation, feeding off her energy. Allie is not going to leave Cal without what she has her heart and her mind set on."
Yocum, a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection, comes into the spring riding the confidence of her solid play in the fall.
"Shannon had some great success at Colorado. More importantly, she was able to follow it up with some really solid play at the following three tournaments. She's playing more consistently than she ever has. We'll look to her for fire coming down the stretch."
The spring season opens at Palos Verdes, Yocum's home course.
"That is a truly special thing for Shannon to be able to go back and play her home course at the Invitational. Starting on her home course will get her off on the right foot."
Sophomore Pia Halbig led the team in the fall with a 71.7 average. Halbig, ranked in the top-50 by Golfweek, was a second team All-Pac-10 honoree last season. Halbig missed the first couple of weeks of school to compete at the 2008 World Amateur Team Championships as a member of the German national team.
"Pia didn't shoot a round in the 80's last year. She provided steady play, coming from a freshman, it was pretty amazing what she was able to do to step in. She is a consummate student-athlete in her ability to organize her time and keep her priorities straight."
Sophomore Andrea Waters rounds out the returners from last year's team. Waters played in just four tournaments prior to having to step it up for the team at the end of the season, playing both the Pac-10 Championships and the Regional. Waters posted the two lowest rounds and the lowest overall score of her collegiate career at the NCAA Regional.
"We think the world of Andrea. She brings this really special attitude. She shot 77 and counted last year at regionals. It really says something about her that she shot her two best collegiate rounds at regionals when we really needed her most."
The team also has three very talented newcomers, two of whom look to make an immediate impact on the team. Diane Kwon was named a Notable Newcomer by Golfweek. Kwon, a Bay Area local from Freemont, played nine rounds in the fall for the Bears, toughing through playing with an injured ankle.
"Diane brings complete and total laughter to the table. She breaks up a tense moment. On the flip side, she's coming at you with serious golf. I love the contrast in her. That she can be so entertaining, and then turn around and entertain you with her golf game."
Angela Villela is vying for the fifth spot in the lineup, with her strong, consistent play in the fall making a strong case for Villela. She averaged a 74.9 and posted up a pair of 72's in the final tournament of the fall at Stanford.
"Angie threw in a 69 in her second round of play at Colorado State, which helped us to that 15 under. She continued to play consistently. For a freshman to come in and play well from the get-go, says something about that person. For the spring, we're looking for her to bring more consistency and solid play to our team. She's not afraid of anything. She's not afraid to vie for the top spot on our team. She's someone who expects to be there in the end."
Joanne Lee, a sophomore transfer from USC, will redshirt this season, but looks to be a big part of the Bear's future. Lee has played in three US Opens (2006-08) and was an All-Pac-10 selection last year as a freshman.
"Our future looks really bright with these three new players. I am really excited to have those three kids. Their love of the game together seems very real. They are balanced. They all bring a real freshness to the game, a liveliness and playfulness that is fun to watch. They can do things that they don't even know how important it is that they can do them as a freshman. They're just an amazing group. I am very encouraged by them and I am very encouraged by our future."