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Gary Putnik | NCAA.com | February 8, 2022

Stanford women's golf and its stacked roster has its eyes on one thing — a championship

Watch the final hole: Stanford's Rachel Heck clinches 2021 NCAA individual title

Stanford women’s golf has been arguably the most consistent program in the sport for years. Although the Cardinal haven’t been able to get over the hump for the NCAA Division I women’s golf team championship since 2015, it's always been close to winning the big one. 

Last season, the Cardinal were upset by Arizona in the semifinals of the match-play portion of the NCAA championship. That marked the fifth time since 2015 that Stanford finished in the top-5 at the NCAA championships. 

This year Stanford enters its spring season with six players in the Women’s Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR). No. 1 freshman Rose Zhang, No. 3 and reigning individual champion sophomore Rachel Heck, No. 19 Angelina Ye, No. 21 Aline Krauter, No. 42 Carolina Sturdza and No. 71 Brooke Seay all sit in the WAGR top-100. 

2022 POSTSEASON: Check out the 2022 postseason schedule and sites for DI women's golf

“That collection of experiences is very broad. I think that's one of our assets and one of our strengths is a program is not just that everyone's got great experience,” head coach Anne Walker said. “But those experiences are so diverse that we can learn from each other and be stronger together.”

The Cardinal’s depth has been the key to their success so far. The team won all four of the events it participated in this past fall. During that fall, Walker’s team used four different combinations of her 10 players.

“I think that's the first time in my career that we've ever had an undefeated fall season. There's a ton of great teams out there this year. I think, you know, everyone's all aware from being ranked number one in some polls all the way down to 15 to 20. There's great teams,” Walker said. “And so we need to be in our best game and we're trying to do that to be prepared for the spring.”


 
Just as the team dominated the fall, Rose Zhang did as well. She played in three collegiate events and the Spirit International, winning all four. With her first three events being wins she becomes the first male or female Stanford golfer to go three for three to start a collegiate career. 

“I didn't really think much of you know, placing first in every single event that I played. I loved the team bonding that my teammates and just being able to be a part of that team really helped me just try to contribute as much as I could,” Zhang said.

These kinds of performances aren’t new for Zhang. She entered 2021 at No. 1 on the WAGR rankings at 17 years old and stepped up on some of the biggest stages. 

In the spring, she competed at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. After the first 36 holes, she was tied for the lead at one under with LSU’s Ingrid Lindblad. She finished the tournament at one over after posting a 75 in round three to finish tied for third alongside her future-teammate Rachel Heck. Events like that helped prepare her for the collegiate game where she’d see similar talent.

RECORD BROKEN: Find out how Arkansas' Brooke Matthews broke the 54-hole scoring record 

“It was just an amazing moment and that kind of translated over to collegiate golf because I knew what it felt like to play under pressure, Zhang said. ”Continuing from there, I was just able to play my own game and stick to what I needed to do.”

Zhang’s most significant result so far at Stanford was her -16 at the Stanford Intercollegiate in October. That performance tied Rachel Heck’s 54-hole scoring record from the 2021 Fresno State Classic. 

In addition to Rose, Stanford is also returning the best player from 2021 — Rachel Heck. She is not only the 2021 NCAA individual champion, she won the ANIKA Award, the Pac-12 Golfer of the Year, the Ping/WGCA Player of the Year and more. 

Even though she had one of the best years in NCAA golf history in 2021, she isn’t feeling the pressure to do it all over again in ‘22. 

“It would definitely be easy to let the pressure get in my head, and I’m not going to lie and that I don’t let it at all,” Heck said. “I think having my teammates and coaches to ground me and keep me focused on what’s important has been huge for me.”

Not only are Zhang and Heck threats whenever they step on a course, but the rest of this team can also perform as well. In the fall, the Cardinal had 15 top-25 finishes. Senior Aline Krauter was another who had a great fall. In four events, Krauter finished tied for sixth, tied for seventh twice and tied for eight. She has also stepped up as a leader on this team. She’s also been able to give some perspective to her younger teammates that this roster can leave its mark on the program’s history. 

HISTORY: Here's the entire history of the DI women's golf championship

“It goes by really quick and those opportunities actually are pretty rare and what we have this year is special, you know, I think it could easily be argued it's a once in a lifetime for all these kids,” Walker said. “When Aline is sharing her thoughts you're listening and you're believing.”

Although golf is typically an individual sport, college golf is a bit different with the team aspect being added to the usual individual. This year, Stanford will send six golfers to the ANWA — Rachel Heck, Aline Krauter, Brooke Seay, Caroline Sturdza, Angelina Ye and Rose Zhang. 

“We truly love practicing together and motivating each other,” Heck said. “No matter what time of year it is or what season is coming up, we’re all together. We’re a team.”

The competition doesn’t end once they step off the course. Rachel Heck and Caroline Sturdza have been battling regularly in table tennis matches after practice. According to Heck, she has been on the winning side more often than not. 

Stanford opens the 2022 spring season with the Lamkin Invitational at The Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, California on Feb. 14 and 15. Prior to the start of the season, Stanford sat at No. 1 in the WGCA Coaches Poll. 

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