Husky Women's Golf Season Preview
Feb. 13, 2012
SEATTLE - After missing out on competing at the NCAA Championship in four consecutive seasons, the Husky women's golf team made a triumphant return to the NCAA's in 2011 with a 16th-place finish. With the taste of playing in the championship still fresh, Coach Mary Lou Mulflur is confident that she has a squad solid enough to make a repeat appearance in the event and even improve on their finish.
Yes, the Huskies lost three members from their NCAA lineup - graduated senior stalwarts Anya Alvarez and Karinn Dickinson, plus sophomore A Ram Choi, who is redshirting - but there is a lot to be optimistic about. Mulflur has sophomore Kelli Bowers and senior Sadena Parks back, plus a trio of freshmen that make up perhaps the best group of newcomers to ever don the purple and gold.
A strong fall has the Huskies rated ninth in Golfstat.com's head-to-head rankings and 14th in Golfweek.com's rankings. A lot of that had to do with the emergence of the Huskies three freshmen.
SooBin Kim and Jennifer Yang - high school teammates at Gleneagle Secondary School in Coquitlam, B.C. - emerged from the fall as the No. 1 and 2 options in the Husky lineup. Kim averaged a team-best 72.60 per round score and had three top-10 finishes, including earning medalist honors in her very first collegiate tournament, the Cougar Cup. She will begin the spring as the Huskies highest rated player by Golfweek.com -- earning a spot as the 33rd ranked collegiate player.
Yang was second in per round average at 74.14 and tallied a pair of top-10's, including a third-place finish at the Huskies own event, the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational at Sahalee Country Club. She'll start the spring just outside the top 100 players at 107.
The Canadians have been friends for a long time and were a natural pair of aces on the recruiting front that Mulflur was happy to draw into the Huskies' fold.
"We were after both of them, they were both on our radar for a while," Mulflur remembers about the recruiting process. "They were kind of a 1 and 1a ... we wanted both of them.
"They were clearly two of the best players in British Columbia that year, and the fact that they were good friends, I don't know if that helped. But, I think that if you asked them that they would both say that they chose the best situation for them, and really enjoy having each other around."
The third freshman the Huskies will count heavily on is Cyd Okino, who was fourth on the team in scoring this fall and had a fifth place finish at the Cougar Cup. She has been a golf prodigy since a very young age and qualified for the U.S. Women's Open as a 14-year old. Okino committed to play for Washington before her sophomore year at Punahou High School in Honolulu, Hawai'i and, fortunately for the Huskies, has never wavered on her decision.
"She committed way ahead of time," Mulflur recalls of the recruitment of Okino. "She was really the first early recruit I offered with the changes in recruiting. She is just great."
"She has that typical hang loose attitude and is definitely an islander. But, she comes with a really good work ethic and has a genuine compassion for others."
Despite the Huskies dependence on youth, the team had an impressive fall season and displayed a maturity that has belied its age. The freshmen arguably adjusted better to their first taste of college golf better than expected.
"We have a really talented freshman class that just got on the horse and kept going," Mulflur says about what keyed her teams' success in the fall. "They weren't intimidated by anyone or any tournament, they gave it all they had, they played the whole time for us and that speaks volumes in their maturity to handle whatever came their way."
And Mulflur believes that the best is still yet to come this season from the youngsters.
"I honestly think there is a lot of upside left for those three freshmen," says Mulflur. "They didn't really scratch the surface on how good they can be. They were all good at times and they all more than did their jobs, but I don't think we saw the best of all three of them at the same time."
If the Husky freshmen are the gas that drives the car, the veterans are the oil that keeps the engine running smoothly. Parks and Bowers can fall back on their NCAA experience to help teach and nurture the younger Dawgs.
Out of the gate this spring, the lineup will have to make do without the services of Parks. She will sit out at least the first couple of events to concentrate on working towards graduation. Parks will be missed as she had a stellar fall and was probably one of Mulflur's most improved golfers from the fall to the spring.
"She has really worked on her short game, not just chipping, but her wedge shots," says Mulflur about the senior from Bethel, Wash. who is ranked 110th in Golfweek.com's ratings. "I've told Sadena that if she keeps improving her wedges and putting that she is going to make millions of dollars. Everyone out there can hit the ball. It comes down to wedges and putting."
Until Parks returns to action, the Huskies will have to rely on veteran leadership from Bowers. On the course, the sophomore from Chelan, Wash. made huge strides as a freshman, evidenced by her team-best 26th-place finish at the NCAA Championship. Bowers is considered the Huskies top athlete, earning all-state recognition in volleyball and basketball while in high school. Now that all her focus is concentrated on golf, she is starting to even flourish more in her chosen sport.
"I think she plays her best when she is an athlete, if that makes sense," says Mulflur. "Instead of being too technical or mechanical, she just focuses on being athletic and doing what feels natural.
"She has worked really hard on her putting this winter and made a few little changes to get her stroke a little more comfortable. I think that if she can remain confident with her putting, she will play a lot better.
Until Parks returns, junior Brittany Tallman will be asked to help Bowers by providing a veteran presence. So far she has shown in practice she is more than ready to step up her game and help round out to the UW lineup.
"Brittany looks good, she looks really solid with her swing and with her it's just letting her find ways to relax and play. When she does that she is really good," Mulflur said of the junior from Issaquah, Wash.
With a mix-and-match lineup, Mulflur is pleased with how her squad has gelled. So far, the dynamic between the upperclassmen and underclassmen has worked out for both parties.
"They get along really well," Mulflur says about the Huskies hierarchy. "The older players really made an effort to take care of the younger ones.
"I think our retreat in the fall really helped, we could just kind of get to know each other a little bit, because that is a lot of freshman to bring in - four on a team our size. They can all laugh with each other; they take care of each other. I don't have to worry about who rooms with who or any of that stuff. They are very good to each other."
If the Huskies can keep their chemistry intact and play well on the course, Muflur knows there is no reason to believe that her team can't have success. And after 29 years on the job, it makes coming to the office still a fun adventure.
"I still love getting up to go to work and this group makes it really enjoyable. They are just fun to be around and that make it easier on everyone," she says.
"I have really enjoyed this year so far and I love what I do; I can't imagine doing anything else."