Arizona State women’s golf coach Missy Farr-Kaye is hoping her team learned from its experience when it competed in the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate tournament in the early spring.
That event, held at Hilton Head, South Carolina, was televised by the Golf Channel so players had to get accustomed to having their every move scrutinized. The Sun Devils finished third in that tournament with two individuals placing in the top six.
The atmosphere should be similar for the next six days as the No. 7 ASU squad competes with 23 others in the NCAA Championship event which begins Friday at Scottsdale’s Grayhawk Golf Club.
It will be the 37th championship appearance and fifth consecutive for ASU which last won a title in 2017. The event was not held in 2020 due to COVID.
“Our players got a chance to see what that is like when cameras are following your every move and you’re walking up the fairway and you can hear them talking about you,” the veteran coach said. “It can be a little unnerving if you’re not used to that.”
The Sun Devils are coming off a second-place finish behind Baylor at the Stillwater, Oklahoma Regional. They were third at the Pac-12 championship behind Stanford and Oregon, the top two teams in the country as well.
Stanford is led by reigning NCAA individual champion Rachel Heck, currently the third-ranked World Amateur, but the Cardinal sophomore has been battling a non-COVID sickness.
Rounding out the top five teams in the country are South Carolina, Wake Forest and San Jose State.
The event will consist of four rounds of stroke play, with the top eight advancing to match play quarterfinals on Tuesday.
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Last season ASU was seventh, advancing to match play where it lost a quarterfinal to Duke. Three of the five players that contributed to that finish are returning, seniors Alexandra Fosterling and Alessandra Fanali, and sophomore Ashley Menne. Menne, a local product out of Xavier Prep, placed fourth individually as a freshman, with her tournament highlighted by a 7-under 65 in the third round.
This year’s lineup is rounded out by freshmen Grace Summerhays and Calynne Rosholt. They have the unenviable tasks of stepping in for Olivia Mehaffey and Linn Grant, both of whom are now playing professionally.
Rosholt placed third at the Rucker tournament, the highest finish for the team.
Farr-Kaye says the younger players bring new enthusiasm.
“They’re talented, they’re tough and they just bring a different energy,” Farr-Kaye said. “I don’t think they look at this as pressure. They’re like, `We’re going to win right.’ “
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Farr-Kaye plays down the pressure that comes with playing for the national championship. She said the pressure lies more at the regional level where you have to place high enough to advance with ASU also bearing the possibility of hosting a national tournament it didn’t qualify for.
Ten of the top 30 ranked teams did not advance, the highest of those being No. 11 Florida. Among the others that did not qualify were No. 23 Arizona as well as defending national champion Mississippi.
The coach said she would like to see her team at least make the matchplay rounds.
“I just think that’s a great experience and it’s different. It’s not a format we see a lot so it would be great for our new players to experience that,” she said. “And it’s a whole different thing. Once you get into match play anything can happen.”
This is the second of three years the event is being hosted at Grayhawk. The men’s golf event begins two days after the women’s ends. Regional play for the men is taking place this week with ASU currently ranked fourth nationally.
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NCAA Women’s Golf Championships
Site: Grayhawk Golf Club, Scottsdale
Dates: Friday-Wednesday. Play starts at 6:30 a.m. the first three days and at 10 a.m. on Monday
Format: There will be four rounds of stroke play with the field cut to 15 teams after the third round. After the fourth, the field is trimmed to eight for match play with the quarterfinals and semifinals on Tuesday. The championship between the final two teams will be Wednesday.
Defending champion: Mississippi (Oklahoma State was runner-up)
Teams in the field: SEC – Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt; Pac-12 – Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC; Big 12 – Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU; ACC – Florida State, Virginia, Wake Forest; Big Ten – Michigan, Northwestern; Mountain West – San Jose State
TV: Portions aired on Golf Channel
Other notes: Among those qualifying as an individual is Emily Mahar of Virginia Tech, a product of Xavier Prep. She played in the event last year as well, along with her team. Others qualifying as individuals: Letizia Bagnoli, Florida Atlantic; Camryn Carreon, UTSA; Ruby Chou and Taglao Jeeravivitaporn, Iowa State; Marina Escobar, Florida; Jana Melichova, Old Dominion; Anna Morgan, Furman; Leila Raines, Michigan State; Viera Permata Rosada, Sam Houston; Chiara Tamburlini, Mississippi; Natalia Yoko, Augusta.
Reach the reporter at Michelle.Gardner@gannett.com or 602 444-4783. Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.
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