Stanford could still be the heavy favorite for the NCAA women’s title.
Down from two of his usual starters for the foreseeable future, the new Cardinal, led by megastar Rose Zhang, swept the titles Tuesday at Juli Inkster Collegiate. Zhang birdied on three of his final four holes to win his ninth career college tournament by two strokes, tying Andrea Lee’s school record, as Stanford beat the USC Pac-12 by five strokes.
Five of Zhang’s varsity victories have come this season as the second is a heavy favorite to win her second consecutive Annika Award, which is awarded to women’s golf Division I player of the year. She shot 5 under 67 in the final round to finish at 11 under, two ahead of San Jose State’s Kajsa Arewfjall.
Sadie Englemann (T-3) and Megha Ganne (T-9) added the top 10 for Stanford, which for the third straight event was without Brooke Seay (concussion) and Rachel Heck (shoulder). Heck hasn’t played since Stanford’s home event in the fall as she battles thoracic outlet syndrome.
Heck told GolfChannel.com last week that she was unsure if she could return to action this spring, while Stanford head coach Anne Walker added that Heck’s return was ” in the air”. She already retired from the Augusta National Women’s Amateur within weeks. And then on Monday, Heck underwent surgery to remove his upper rib.
“I’ll be back on the course as soon as possible,” Heck said Tuesday after a successful procedure, “but in the meantime I’m going to focus on getting back to health and strength.”
With Stanford missing two key pieces, it brought other top teams into the NCAA title conversation, including Wake Forest, who have won four times this season (five times if you count their six-shot victory over Stanford). in the stroke play game of the Stephens Cup); Oregon, winner of the Cardinal at Palos Verdes earlier this spring; and even LSU, which captured the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate last week.
But Walker said last week that his team still had a lot to fight for, and Tuesday’s top-ranked Cardinal proved it. They’re not going anywhere.
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