The image of the NCAA championship trophy is rather simple.
The trophy dons hardwood and gold, giving the sense of hard work, perseverance, and excellence. Alongside a standard shape, it gives a sense of clean-cut dominance.
Dominance is exactly what Arizona State women’s golf team achieved during the 1990s.
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In a span of 10 years, the Sun Devils captured six national championships. In addition to their most recent one in 2009, ASU currently holds the NCAA record for most women’s golf team titles with seven.
Like any successful sports team, a great team comes with great players. Also an NCAA record, the winner of the women’s golf individual championship was a Sun Devil five times.
Arguably the best NCAA women’s golf coach in history, Linda Vollstedt was at the helm of the program during the majority of its success. Vollstedt was the head coach of six national titles and coached four individual champions.
After four top-four finishes in the mid- to late-‘80s, Arizona State found itself hoisting up its first title in 1990.
“It’s really difficult to win just one. We were right up there but it took a while until we finally won a national championship and that was a remarkable year. After you win one, you always want to win more. You never know if it’s going to happen, and when we won again in ’93, that was fantastic,” Vollstedt said.
With how recruiting works and ASU finding itself near the top year after year, Vollstedt had a feeling they could snag another. Although she probably didn’t realize she’d be the backbone of six of them.
“Then we won again in ’94 and ’95. I think the key to all of that really was being able to recruit new and good players,” Vollstedt said. “I think the players that won national championships understood what it took, so they were really good mentors for the new players coming in as freshmen.”
The remarkable third year of ASU’s record-breaking “three-peat” may sometimes go under-celebrated.
Although there is no official NCAA record, 1995 was a perfect season for the Sun Devils. They were undefeated and flexed their mastery all year, taking top team honors in eight tournaments essentially going 155-0-1. An ASU golfer took top individual honors in all but one team tournament. A prime example of their dominance is when they won the NCAA title by a whopping 26 strokes.
Hardwork pays off in ASU’s success as it does in any type of success.
“I think what happens is when you train so hard to get to the top and you look back on it, student-athletes begin to realize ‘Oh, that’s why coach asked us to do so many of those things that we didn’t quite understand at the time.’ It was always a package deal,” Vollstedt said, referring to her instruction to eat well, have positive thoughts, keep up with classwork, and work harder than anybody else.
“And I think when they do all those things and then you win a national championship, they can look back at it and go ‘Wow, it was all worth it.’”
It seems as if some of Vollstedt’s formula for success is just as simple as the look of the title trophy.