Coming off a 10th-place finish at last year's NCAA Championships, the Arizona State women’s golf team is confident it will again be competing at the end of the year with several key returners and a stellar freshman joining the team.
The Sun Devils have opened practices this season focusing on team bonding both on and off the course, hoping that staying loose and having fun will help take them to the next level this season.
"We have a great group of girls," says head coach Missy Farr-Kaye. "They have some great goals that I am really hoping they reach. My mindset is if they’re stressing out about their school work, their personal lives, and golf on top of that, then we’re going to have a less successful season. I just want them to relax while also improving."
Farr-Kaye is doing her best to prepare her players through individual meetings. These meetings may consist of anything from the golfer’s health, to what their class schedule is like, to even things as common as how much sleep they are getting at night.
"She's a lot more than just a coach or a mentor or a role model, she is like a second mother to me," sophomore Linnea Strom says. "We all feel like we are her kids."
After having been around golf for essentially her entire life, and having over 16 years of coaching experience, Farr-Kaye is open to new techniques and exercises. One of these new techniques, meditation, has helped keep the team much looser, according to Farr-Kaye.
"The stress that they’re under is immense,” she says. “Much of it is self-induced.”
Every Friday is now known as "Fun Friday," where each player and coach on the team participates in meditation in which no outside distractions are allowed.
"I've really tried to do the preparations for this the best I can with my swing, putting, and overall technique," says Strom. "I did that pretty much all summer with a Swedish trainer."
Vaughn, Strom, and Mehaffey are all ranked within the top-20 of the women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings. With some of the world’s best golf talent at dispense for ASU women’s golf, expectations within the team are very high.
"Our main goal is win a national championship," Vaughn says. "Our preseason ranking just came out and we're No. 2 behind UCLA, and we 100 percent deserve to be there."
Even though a high ranking is exciting to see at the beginning of the year, Farr-Kaye said she doesn’t want her players focusing on it and wants their mentality to be on one tournament at a time.
"There’s preseason rankings, educated guesses, and we’ve talked about it as a team, but now the work begins," she says. "Now we have to go earn it. We’re flattered to have it, but those kinds of things make you relax and think about the end of the season, which is not what we need before our first tournament."
The Sun Devils began their season on Monday, when they headed to Albuquerque for the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational.
Through the first round, Monica Vaughn posted the second lowest round of her career (67) as Arizona State sat in fourth place after 18 holes. Her fellow teammates rallied around her to propel the Sun Devils to second at the end of play on Monday.
"I am very pleased with how we competed today," said Farr-Kaye. "Monica posted one of her best collegiate rounds in the morning and was supported well by the entire team. I look forward to tomorrow to see what this team can accomplish together."
In a hotly contested battle for the top spot, the maroon and gold, Baylor, and Oklahoma State each held the lead at one point throughout day one. The Baylor currently hold the lead, 12 under par, while the Sun Devils are at 10 under par.
Strom and Mehaffey are not with the rest of the Sun Devils in Albuquerque. They are in Mexico set to compete in theInternational Golf Association's World Amateur Team Championships, which starts Wednesday.
Over 50 countries will be represented and each will compete for their home country – Strom for Sweden and Mehaffey for Ireland.
"We’re very fortunate to have Linnea [Strom] and Olivia [Mehaffey] and we’re excited for them to go represent their countries," Farr-Kaye said. "This is one of the biggest things you can do in your careers, to be named to one of those teams. We’re also excited to get them back in the lineup."