ATLANTA -- The weather hasn't been anything to write home about, but for Stanford senior Mariah Stackhouse, it's just nice being back home.
Stackhouse, who defeated Baylor's Hayley Davis on the 19th hole to clinch the 2015 NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship for the Cardinal, grew up in nearby Riverdale, not far from the location of this week's East Lake Cup featuring all four semifinalists from last spring.
"Whenever I get to come back and play in Georgia, it’s special," Stackhouse said. "So it’s just really nice to be back on home turf. Both of my parents were able to come out, which is awesome. A lot of people that I’ve grown up with are here and I saw a lot of little girls out today to come and watch me play."
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It's been a particularly rainy fall in Georgia, and East Lake Golf Club has seen its share, with more than two inches of rain falling on the course all day Sunday and Monday morning. But despite some sogginess, the collegiate golfers present for the two-day, match-play event are excited by the idea of being able to play the same course that hosted the PGA Tour Championship six weeks ago.
"I think the course is playing fantastic, considering the amount of rain we’ve had in the last two days," Stackhouse said. "I’m very impressed at how they were able to drain it out. Those greens are still rolling very quickly.
"On a couple of my chip shots, I’m still getting a lot of release and that’s pretty incredible considering the downpour that we saw."
Stackhouse's heroics in the NCAA championship match haven't gone unnoticed, particuarly by her Cardinal teammates. For one thing, the matches were televised live for the first time, so the sport was introduced to a wider audience.
"I always joke with the team and say I love (playing in front of the cameras)," Stackhouse said. "It’s an opportunity to hit a good shot and to be seen, so that’s kind of the way I look at it. I joke about it just to make sure that takes the pressure off.
"If people are watching golf they know golf is hard and if any pressure comes it comes from – oh, I want to play good – but I mean it’s golf, so it’s a hard game. It’s not like you’re going to do something crazy and people are going to say, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ But I really enjoy it and I think that for college golf to be given this kind of spotlight is huge."
At the same time, Stackhouse watched with interest as Jordan Spieth won the FedExCup here, and it's something her Stanford teammates use not only as a learning tool, but as added motivation.
"They’ve been showing a couple of the reruns from Jordan every now and then so we’ve talked about it, just like his clutchness and coming through," she said. "Another thing we talked about was watching those guys play out here, you really saw how challenging the course was.
"So I think it was definitely nice to be able to see them compete and then just to know that you’re watching guys like Jordan -- and know that if you bring in high quality golf and you’re prepared, it doesn’t matter how hard the course is. You can give it a good go. So I think that helped us to get in the mindset of ‘work hard, play hard’ and then you can have a good time."