Winter break is over, classes are back in session and it’s time for more college golf. Here is an in-depth preview of the spring season for the Power 5 conferences and top mid-majors in women’s college golf:
Championship info: April 13-16, Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, North Carolina
Recent champions: Wake Forest (2022), Duke (2021), Wake Forest (2019), Duke (2018), Duke (2017), Virginia (2016), Virginia (2015), Duke (2014)
Team rankings: Wake Forest (2), Florida State (10), Virginia (12), Duke (17), Clemson (36), North Carolina (39), Miami (44), North Carolina State (45), Virginia Tech (61), Louisville (68), Notre Dame (82), Boston College (99)
Midseason All-Conference Team: Rachel Kuehn, Sr., Wake Forest (5); Lottie Woad, Fr., Florida State (7); Charlotte Heath, Jr., Florida State (15); Carolina Lopez-Chacarra, Soph., Wake Forest (17); Carmen Griffiths, Soph., Louisville (21)
What to watch: If there’s any team that can stack up against Stanford, it’s Wake Forest, which topped the Cardinal by six shots in the 54-hole stroke-play portion of the Stephens Cup before Stanford returned the favor in the championship match, 4-1. Stanford, though, is just one hurdle for the Demon Deacons when it comes to the NCAA Championship; Wake has missed the 54-hole cut at Grayhawk each of the past two seasons. The Demon Deacons won three times in total during the fall while adding a pair of runner-up finishes. Senior Rachel Kuehn won the individual title at Seminole and wasn’t worse than T-12 in five starts, though Wake put three golfers on the fall’s final Annika Award watch list for a reason – sophomore Carolina Chacarra and senior Lauren Walsh each had two top-4s, as did graduate student Emilia Migliaccio. Don’t be surprised either if freshman Anne-Sterre den Dunnen supplants Mimi Rhodes (just one fall top-30) as the No. 5 before the spring is over. … Florida State has had to replace All-Americans such as Frida Kinhult and Beatrice Wallin over the last few years, so making up for the loss of Jacqui Putrino, who transferred to Oklahoma State after playing three tournaments for the Seminoles in the fall, shouldn’t be a huge deal. Sophomore Kaylah Williams is likely first up to do so, but Florida State can afford itself some time to figure things out as its top four is as good as anyone in the country not named Stanford or Wake Forest. Freshman Lottie Woad won once and never finished outside the top 10 in four fall starts while seniors Charlotte Heath and Amelia Williamson, and junior Alice Hodge have plenty of postseason experience. While the Seminoles still don’t have an ACC title to their credit, they’ve finished runner-up each of the past five seasons. … Virginia was two rounds away from opening the fall with wins at the Annika Intercollegiate and Mercedes-Benz Collegiate, but each time the Cavaliers coughed up 36-hole leads to finish third. Add a seventh at the Windy City Collegiate and sixth at Stanford’s home event and Virginia likely enters the spring with something to prove. Having sophomore Amanda Sambach and junior Jennifer Cleary (one win, five combined top-13s) atop the lineup should keep the Cavaliers in the conversation for an ACC title if not an NCAA crown. … Duke played the second toughest fall schedule in the nation, so a third and three other top-5s isn’t terrible. However, the Blue Devils entered the break with a sour taste in their mouths thanks to a 13th at the Landfall Tradition, where Duke finished 40 shots back of winner San Jose State and didn’t place a single golfer in the top 30. Junior Phoebe Brinker has probably dethroned senior Erica Shepherd as Duke’s No. 1, but a bigger concern is the back end of the lineup, where sophomore Rylie Heflin had just two of 15 rounds of par or better and senior Megan Furtney averaged 80 in one event. … Clemson failed to build off a runner-up at the Cougar Classic by not breaking the top five in any of its final four fall tournaments. There is balance on this roster (senior Savannah Grewal and sophomores Chloe Holder and Melena Barrientos are all ranked between Nos. 122 and 130), but a true workhorse is missing. … Seniors Kayla Smith and Krista Junkkari (two wins and five top-10s combined) were each more than two shots better than any other player on North Carolina’s roster, which explains the volatility – the Tar Heels won the Ivy Intercollegiate and had two other top-3s, but they also bookended their fall with a 16th and T-14. … First-year head coach Janice Olivencia has Miami in regional territory after the fall, but the job has just been made tougher after sophomore Nataliya Guseva (No. 77 in Golfstat) turned pro after qualifying for Q-Series.
Pick to win: Wake Forest
Championship info: April 21-23, Fox Chapel Golf Club, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Recent champions: Michigan (2022), Michigan State (2021), Ohio State (2019), Michigan State (2018), Michigan State (2017), Northwestern/Ohio State (2016), Northwestern/Ohio State (2015), Michigan State/Ohio State (2014)
Team rankings: Michigan (29), Ohio State (35), Northwestern (37), Michigan State (43), Maryland (46), Nebraska (47), Purdue (48), Illinois (59), Wisconsin (64), Minnesota (65), Penn State (72), Rutgers (112), Indiana (114), Iowa (120)
Midseason All-Conference Team: Crystal Wang, Sr., Illinois (14); Patricie Mackova, Jr., Maryland (33); Kelly Sim, Sr., Northwestern (51); Momo Sugiyama, Soph., Purdue (55); Aneka Seumanutafa, Sr., Ohio State (80)
What to watch: After winning four times and never missing a start in 43 events, Michigan senior Ashley Lau decided to forego her final semester and enter Q-Series back in November. “I knew I had to chase my dream,” Lau said. Lau’s departure means the Wolverines will have to bounce back from a disappointing fall without their top player. Michigan struggled to finish out tournaments in the fall, shooting over 300 in three different final rounds, while it placed eighth or worse three times and nothing better than T-5 in five events. That said, the Wolverines are still probably the team to beat in the Big Ten, but that’s contingent on if senior Hailey Borja and junior Monet Chun step back up after combining for only three top-10s in the fall. Freshman Lauren Sung will have a bigger role, too, with Lau gone. … If Michigan can’t overcome Lau turning pro, then Ohio State is best poised to win the league. The Buckeyes received a huge boost with Oklahoma State transfer Caley McGinty eligible to compete this season. McGinty hasn’t had the type of results that she did for the Cowgirls and Kent State prior to that, but her four top-25s, including a T-6 as Ohio State opened its fall with a win at the Dick McGuire Invitational, are a great complement to senior Aneka Seumanutafa and her three top-20s. Senior Lauren Peter added a team-best two top-10s. … Northwestern has advanced to the NCAA Championship just once since finishing runner-up to NCAA champion Arizona State in 2017, and even with the increase to 30 teams at nationals, the Wildcats have their work cut out for them to end that drought. Northwestern didn’t finish better than T-5 in four fall events, and their star, senior Kelly Sim, had trouble contending, too. However, while Sim posted no top-10s, she did crack the top 15 in every start. If the Wildcats can get some consistency behind Sim, they can win the Big Ten and possibly sneak into Grayhawk after losing a regional playoff last spring. … Michigan State knows what Michigan is feeling as the Spartans also lost their No. 1 to the pros this winter; senior Valery Plata tied for third at Q-Series to earn full LPGA status. Plata also left a huge hole in Michigan State’s lineup. Junior Valentina Rossi and sophomore Brooke Biermann joined Plata with a sub-74 scoring average in the fall, but the Spartans had four players rotating in and out of that fifth spot, and none of them recorded a top-40 finish. A last-place finish at a tough Windy City event and now the loss of Plata probably means a second straight season ending at regionals. … Maryland finished sixth at Big Tens and didn’t make a regional last season in Kelly Hovland’s first season as head coach. The Terps are a little better this season, posting a couple runner-up finishes and having a legitimate one-two punch in junior Patricie Mackova and freshman Nicha Kanpai (No. 87 in Golfstat). … Since 2009, Nebraska has made just one NCAA regional (2021), but in the first year under new head coach Jeanne Sutherland, the Huskers are in position to add a second. It wasn’t a tough schedule (76th toughest per the Sagarins), but at least Nebraska built some confidence with a win and two seconds in five events. Whether that translates to Fox Chapel in April, though, remains to be seen. … Purdue made a surprise run to Grayhawk last spring and made it count, finishing 12th. The Boilermakers returned five players who logged at least one round at nationals (four now that Sifat Sigoo left the team after the fall), though their best player in the fall was sophomore Momo Sugiyama, a transfer from Hawaii. Sugiyama needs some help, and Purdue didn’t finish better than 10th as a team in four fall events, but at least this squad was tested by the 18th toughest fall slate in the nation. … Senior Crystal Wang had four top-8s and nothing worse than T-13 in five fall starts for Illinois.
Pick to win: Ohio State
Championship info: April 21-23, Dallas Athletic Club, Dallas
Recent champions: Texas (2022), Oklahoma State (2021), Texas (2019), Texas (2018), Texas (2017), Oklahoma State (2016), Baylor (2015), Oklahoma (2014)
Team rankings: Texas (7), Oklahoma State (18), Iowa State (23), Baylor (24), TCU (30), Texas Tech (32), Oklahoma (52), Kansas (58), Kansas State (97)
Midseason All-Conference Team: Karissa Chul-Ak-Sorn, Fr., Iowa State (13); Sera Hasegawa, Soph., Baylor (19); Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, Jr., Oklahoma State (26); Lois Lau, Jr., TCU (29); Caitlyn Macnab, Soph., TCU (31)
What to watch: Texas lost some talent from last year’s team, notably Sara Kouskova and Brigitte Thibault to graduation and Ashleigh Park to Oregon. But the Longhorns are arguably better now. They posted runner-up finishes at the Annika and MoMorial and had a different player top-7 in each of their four fall tournaments. Junior Bentley Cotton (No. 48 in Golfstat) paced Texas in the fall, but sophomore Bohyun Park, senior Sophie Guo and freshman Cindy Hsu also are ranked in the top 100. Plus, freshman Angelo Heo tied for fourth at Stanford in her first college start. Texas is aiming for a fifth Big 12 title in its last six tries and seventh straight trip to nationals. … Oklahoma State bounced back from a ninth at Illinois’ event to win its fall finale, the Jim West Challenge, and it’s no coincidence that junior Rina Tatematsu notched her best finish of the fall in that tournament, a T-11. The former All-American is barely ranked in the top 200 of Golfstat, and if Oklahoma State is going to make it to a third straight NCAA Championship, it needs Tatematsu to play well alongside junior Maddison Hinson Tolchard, sophomore Clemence Martin and senior Han-Hsuan Yu, who combined for five top-7s in the fall. … What a story this would be: Iowa State hasn’t played an NCAA Championship since 2014, and it’s not finished better than ninth at regionals in its last seven trips. But more than five years after alum Celia Barquin Arozamena was murdered while playing golf near campus, the Cyclones are a top-25 program – and despite just six players on their roster, they are for real. They played the 26rd toughest fall schedule and capped the fall with an impressive T-2 at the Stanford Intercollegiate, just seven shots back of the winning Cardinal. Freshman Karissa Chul-Ak-Sorn, one of three Thais on the roster, led the way with three top-10s, including a runner-up at the Schooner Fall Classic. … The safety blanket that was All-American Gurleen Kaur is gone, but Baylor has hung tough – a couple top-5s in three fall events and seven different players with top-10s, including sophomore Sera Hasegawa, who had two to go along with eight of nine rounds at par or better. … It was an up-and-down fall for TCU, though the Horned Frogs finished strong with a runner-up at the Battle of Beach, where they beat Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State among others. The other good news is the top of the lineup is strong – junior Lois Lau and sophomore Caitlyn Macnab combined for eight top-14s while Macnab won the Schooner to open the fall.
Pick to win: Texas
Championship info: April 17-19, Papago Golf Club, Tempe, Arizona
Recent champions: Oregon (2022), USC (2021), USC (2019), UCLA (2018), UCLA (2017), USC (2016), Arizona (2015), Stanford (2014)
Team rankings: Stanford (1), Oregon (5), Arizona (13), Arizona State (15), USC (21), UCLA (22), Cal (49), Oregon State (57), Colorado (71), Washington (79), Washington State (86)
Midseason All-Conference Team: Rose Zhang, Soph., Stanford (1); Zoe Campos, Soph., UCLA (9); Ashleigh Park, Jr., Oregon (10); Sadie Englemann, Jr., Stanford (20); Caroline Canales, Soph., UCLA (34)
What to watch: The Pac-12 may no longer be the deepest conference in women’s college golf, but at the top, there is no better league. It helps, of course, that Stanford is an all-time team. The Cardinal are the reigning NCAA champions and returned Annika Award winner and NCAA individual champ Rose Zhang for a second season, and they may be better than they were a season ago. Stanford won four times in as many fall starts, though many will point out that Wake Forest clipped them by seven shots in 54 holes of stroke play at the Stephens Cup. That’s really the only knock as Zhang has won three times, junior Rachel Heck has been more consistent (T-3 at Seminole, nothing worse than T-22) and fellow junior Sadie Englemann has broken out (four top-13s) and earned herself a place on the Annika watch list. One of the craziest stats in the sport is that Stanford hasn’t won a Pac-12 title since 2014. But expect the Cardinal to tear up Papago this spring before making a strong run at an NCAA repeat. … Give Oregon head coach Derek Radley credit; after the Ducks’ national runner-up showing and the subsequent departures of two starters, one to graduation and one to the pros early, Oregon has barely lost a beat. Its sixth at the Annika was its worst finish, and it capped the fall with back-to-back seconds, including at the Pac-12 Preview without No. 1 player Cynthia Lu. Lu flirted with Q-Series last November before deciding to return to school. She had three top-12s in as many fall starts, but the big story last semester was Texas transfer Ashleigh Park, who had four top-12s, including two runner-up showings. Balance is again a strength (four players in Golfstat’s top 81), though senior Ching-Tzu Chen (No. 149) likely needs to improve this spring if the Ducks want to give Stanford a run again at Grayhawk. … After a down year following the midseason departures of All-America sisters Yu-Sang Hou and Vivian Hou, Arizona is right back among the nation’s elite. Throw out a poor final round at the Windy City, where the Wildcats dropped from T-4 to T-9, and they were third or better four times. Aside from senior Gile Bite Starkute (three top-10s), this is a young team with mostly sophomores and freshmen, though it’s one with perhaps more potential than most. Sophomore Lilas Pinthier and Carolina Melgrati each had three top-20s in the fall with Pinthier’s all being T-12 or better. … Playing a top-10 schedule, Arizona State had a couple fourths (Windy City, Pac-12 Preview) and then two finishes of eighth or worse (Annika, Stanford). Junior Ashley Menne (No. 71 in Golfstat) capped her fall with a T-4 at the Pac-12 Preview, her third top-20 of the fall but the Sun Devils have struggled to find a No. 5, especially with freshman Paula Schulz-Hanssen not cracking the top 30 in three tries. Surprisingly, this year’s Pac-12 Championship host hasn’t won a conference title since 2009. … Don’t expect USC to stay ranked outside the top 20 for long. While the Trojans were fifth or worse four times in the fall, they also showed their ceiling with a win at the Windy City, where sophomore Amari Avery won individually. Also, just five teams beat more top-25 schools than USC did in the fall. Avery only had one other top-10 while sophomore Cindy Kou and senior Brianna Navarrosa had one top-10 apiece. All three are likely to outperform this spring, and there are a bunch of wild cards on the roster, too – senior Malia Nam, freshman Joyce Jin and UCLA transfer Ty Akabane, if she can get her waiver to compete this spring approved by the NCAA. … Even with Akabane transferring, UCLA can still field a dangerous starting five, led by sophomore Zoe Campos, who found the form that made her an elite junior player with top-6s in both fall stroke-play starts. Sophomore Caroline Canales had a pair of top-4s, and fellow sophomore Alessia Nobilio was good, just not great – one top-10s among three top-21s. If Nobilio is better and senior Annabel Wilson (three finishes outside the top 20, two of them T-45 or worse) can right the ship, UCLA can be a top-10 team.
Pick to win: Stanford
Championship info: April 12-16, Greystone Golf Club, Birmingham, Alabama
Recent champions: LSU (2022), Auburn (2021), Ole Miss (2019), Arkansas (2018), Florida (2017), Alabama (2016), Texas A&M (2015), Vanderbilt (2014)
Team rankings: South Carolina (4), Texas A&M (6), Ole Miss (8), LSU (9), Mississippi State (11), Auburn (14), Vanderbilt (19), Arkansas (25), Florida (26), Kentucky (31), Tennessee (38), Georgia (40), Alabama (41), Missouri (91)
Midseason All-Conference Team: Andrea Lignell, Sr., Ole Miss (2); Hannah Darling, Soph., South Carolina (3); Ingrid Lindblad, Sr., LSU (4); Jenny Bae, Sr., Georgia (5); Julia Lopez Ramirez, Soph., Mississippi State (11)
What to watch: The toughest fall schedule was played by … South Carolina. So, even though the Gamecocks didn’t win, not finishing worse than fourth might as well count as a couple wins. Sophomore Hannah Darling should be a first-team All-American again this season after piling up four top-6 finishes in the fall. Senior Mathilde Claisse added a pair of top-10s while senior Justine Fournand and sophomore Louise Rydqvist joined her in the top 75 of Golfstat. If USC transfer Katherine Muzi (no top-20s in four events) can rein things in, South Carolina not only has the chops to win the SEC for the first time since 2002, but also make NCAA match play for the first time and, along with Wake, give Stanford something to think about. … That said, the SEC is anybody’s game because of match play. And Texas A&M has some good experience under their belts after advancing to the NCAA semifinals last spring in head coach Gerrod Chadwell’s first season. Plus, the Aggies are really good, winning twice and adding a runner-up in the fall. Junior Jennie Park led the team with three top-10s and she also was second at the Mexican Amateur this winter. Senior Hailee Cooper’s 72.8 scoring average was second behind Park (71.6) as she had a couple top-10s. Sophomore Blanca Fernandez Garcia-Poggio, though sixth on the team in scoring, won the East Lake Cup title and added some strength in the offseason. And junior Zoe Slaughter could be better than all three this spring as she is coming off four top-15s in the fall and has shown up this semester a much better putter and wedge player. … After a hectic year, Ole Miss is back, and a lot of it has to do with senior Andrea Lignell, who went first-second-first-third in the fall. The Rebels, as a team, mirrored those results. The steadiness of senior Chiara Tamburlini (three top-10s) and a healthier Ellen Hume (two top-13s) have Ole Miss in great position to win a bunch this spring. A more consistent No. 5 wouldn’t hurt, though. … LSU senior Ingrid Lindblad’s career numbers are eye-popping – 10 wins and 27 top-10s in 33 events; 70.33 scoring average, including a 68.78 so far this season. The Tigers know what they have atop the lineup, and if it weren’t for Rose Zhang, Lindblad would be talked about a lot more. But she can’t do it alone. Throw out an easy fall opener at Tulane, where the Tigers won with Lindblad resting, and Lindblad’s LSU teammates combined for just two top-10s. Seniors Latanna Stone and Carla Tejedo should be fine, but head coach Garrett Runion has as many as seven options for the final two lineup spots and has gotten little production so far. LSU may have two wins to its credit, but it also has beaten just 18 top-50 programs to date; for comparison, Wake Forest has 44. If the Tigers want to do better than ninth and 11th the past two years at Grayhawk, they need better play at the back end. … Head coach Charlie Ewing is building something special at Mississippi State, which got back to nationals last season for the first time since 2014. Four players are still here from that lineup, including sophomore Julia Lopez Ramirez, who won the Blessings event among her four top-5s. Ewing has also been impressed by the freshmen, Izzy Pelot (two T-11’s) and Surapa Janthamunee (72.6 scoring average in two events, second on team). Six players on the roster had at least one top-15. … After placing 10th at the Annika, Auburn got a little better each time out before winning the East Lake Cup with a 5-0 drubbing of Texas A&M. Senior Megan Schofill was the only Tiger to notch a top-10 in the fall, though she had two of them, including a win at the Mason Rudolph. Other teams are probably deeper – Auburn doesn’t have another top-100 player – but as evidenced by their postseason comebacks in recent years, few rosters have the grit that this group of Tigers have. … Behind senior Celina Sattelkau and freshmen Lynn Lim and Tillie Claggett (four top-5s total), Vanderbilt won once and placed third twice more after a last-place finish at the eight-team Carmel Cup to kick off the fall. Not that it was the hardest schedule (49th per the Sagarins). … Speaking of schedules, Arkansas had the third toughest, so two sevenths, a fifth and a third wasn’t too shabby. We knew this team would have some nice depth, but we didn’t know that junior Miriam Ayora (No. 49 in Golfstat) would lead the way with three top-13s, more than she had in her first two seasons combined. You could also argue that the Razorbacks can get a lot better; senior Kajal Mistry had just one top-20 in the fall after seven last season, and junior Cory Lopez is finally playing again after missing eight months due to injury. … In what sounds like a sitcom, Fuller and Filler (Annabell and Maisie) were the standouts for Florida in the fall as each posted sub-73 scoring averages and three top-25s in what was a top-10 schedule in terms of difficulty. Still, the Gators are likely disappointed with how they finished the fall – 12th at Windy City, T-13 at Stanford. It’s been four years since Florida last made it to nationals. … Kentucky was a popular dark horse entering the fall, so its current ranking (No. 31) may be a little underwhelming, especially considering the Wildcats won twice, both wins against strong fields at the Illini and Tar Heel. Senior Jensen Castle and junior Laney Frye, each top 50 in Golfstat, had nice falls with five combined top-10s, including Castle’s win at the Tar Heel. Don’t count out Kentucky to win the SEC. … After getting to match play last spring at Grayhawk and giving Stanford a battle, Georgia was better than ninth just once last fall. The Bulldogs have always been more of an April/May team, but still; considering senior Jenny Bae, who decided to remain in school instead of playing Q-Series, is ranked fifth in Golfstat with four top-10s, the rest of the Georgia squad has a lot of work to do. Aside from Bae, there was one top-25 finish by a Bulldog in the fall.
Pick to win: Texas A&M
Top teams: San Jose State (3), SMU (16), Kent State (20), Houston (27), UCF (28), Tulsa (33), Pepperdine (34), College of Charleston (42), Denver (50)
Top players: Tunrada Piddon, Sr., UCF (8); Emma Schimpf, Soph., College of Charleston (22); Mackenzie Lee, Fr., SMU (23); Carla Bernat, Soph., Tulane (24); Antonia Malate, Sr., San Jose State; Natali Saint Germain, Fr., Houston (32); Victoria Gailey, Sr., Nevada (36); Kajsa Arwefjall, Sr., San Jose State (43)
What to watch: San Jose State made a surprise run to the NCAA quarterfinals last season, but after losing Inkster Award winner Natasha Andrea Oon to graduation, the big question was if head coach Dana Dormann and her squad could sustain. So far, they’ve done more than that, finishing the fall ranked third in the nation. Seniors Antonia Malate and Kajsa Arwefjall combined for five top-10s in four events while junior Louisa Carlbom joined Arwefjall in winning individually. Malate later won the Patriot All-America this winter, and the Spartans will add New Zealand’s Darae Chung, who at one point was ranked No. 251 in WAGR, this spring. … SMU’s 2022 recruiting class, Mackenzie Lee and Michelle Zhang, have hit the ground sprinting – Lee has four top-10s in five starts, Zhang two; neither have finished worse than T-23 – and the Mustangs, searching for their first NCAA berth since 1992, won once and finished second three times in the fall. … Kent State failed to reach nationals last season for the first time since 2016, but behind senior Mayka Hoogeboom, who won twice individually in the fall, the Golden Flashes are a decent bet to get back to Grayhawk. … Like SMU, Houston has two stud freshmen, and Natalie Saint Germain and Moa Svedenskiold, who each posted three fall top-10s. However, the concern is that no other Cougars player notched a top-15, so there’s room for the back end of that lineup to step up. … UCF has battled some consistency issues so far this season, but senior Tunrada Piddon has been immune as she won the Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate to go along with two more top-10s in four fall starts. The Knights are flushed with talent, however, so the upside is there for a nice spring jump up the rankings.