The spring semester is underway, and the Arizona State women’s golf team is preparing to tee it up once again in 2017.
The No. 14 Sun Devils opened the spring season with a win in a dual against Denver on Sunday at Superstition Mountain Golf Course. The Pioneers are ranked 49th in the county by Golfstat.
Head coach Missy Farr-Kaye says they were a good test for her squad to open the year.
“We’re back to our 20 hours and playing and practicing every week,” Farr-Kaye said. “I think there still might be a little bit of rust in some areas that you could see against Denver, but I think in a couple weeks, we’ll be back to be ready to compete again. I’m glad we competed in something competitive against a real good squad before the start of February.”
The one-day event was played less than 50 miles from Tempe and Farr-Kaye said the team enjoyed playing near home.
“We enjoyed playing near home at Superstition Mountain.” “It was a great drive down and we look forward to our first 54-hole tournament of the spring in two weeks.”
Junior Roberta Liti and sophomore Madison Kerley led the way for Arizona State with a pair of 67s, good for each of their lowest career rounds.
Fall 2016 Recap:
The Sun Devils finished the fall season on a high note, winning a hotly contested Pac-12 Preview in Kona, Hawaii where they defeated some of the nation's best teams. The then No. 16 Sun Devils and cross-state rival Arizona continuously traded places for the top spot throughout the final round.
Junior Sophia Zeeb says the Maroon and Gold were in sync because they had just competed in the ASU invitational at home before the Pac-12 Preview.
“We were really good on the course since we were playing back-to-back, coming off of a good finish at home,” said Zeeb. “We supported each other and that’s when we play best.”
Arizona State didn’t place outside of the top-10 in any of its fall tournaments; finishing second, ninth, tied for sixth, and first.
Farr-Kaye praised her team’s consistency throughout the spring, saying the team’s veterans led the way.
“We know our potential, but we played above and beyond this spring,” Farr-Kaye said. “Linnea (Strom) and Monica (Vaughn) did a great job as this team’s vets and I can’t say enough about what Olivia (Mahaffey) has already meant to this team. We really came together as one.”
Vaughn and Strom posted back-to-back top-10 finishes in the first two tournaments of the year to set the tone at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational and ANNIKA Intercollegiate. While the highly touted Mehaffey has started every tournament in her first year as a Sun Devil with a 72.33 average scoring average, fourth among qualifying freshman.
All three are in the top-20 in Golfweek’s individual rankings (Mehaffey at No. 4, Vaughn at No. 9, and Strom at No. 17). Giving the Sun Devils one of the strongest front three’s in the country.
Mehaffey (Ireland) and Strom (Sweden) also represented their countries in mid-September at the World Amateur Championships, each finishing in the top-25 of the 163-player field. Mehaffey and her Irish teammates finished third overall as a team to earn a bronze medal.
Both said it was an ‘amazing’ experience, while Farr-Kaye said she was excited for them.
“We were all so excited for them,” said Farr-Kaye. “It was unbelievable at the time.”
Spring 2017 Preview:
After Denver, the Sun Devils have five tournaments to prepare for the postseason, which kicks-off April 24 at the Pac-12 Championships in Tucson.
Arizona State’s addition of an assistant coach, which they were lacking in the fall, and playing three of their next six tournaments in Arizona will help them navigate to their ultimate goal of winning a National Championship.
“We have a relatively friendly schedule the rest of the way,” Farr Kaye said. “We always finish the year off playing one or two tournaments at friendly courses, but this season is very friendly. We have three of six, almost, at home in that they’re in Arizona and one or two more that are going to feel like we’re playing at Karsten because of how the courses is laid out and the conditions.”
For senior Monica Vaughn, spring 2017 will be her last semester with ASU golf.
“It’s gone by so fast and I feel like I’ve had so many good memories with this team,” Vaughn said. “Time just flies and I think this last season is going to be my best season yet here.”
When asked why this would be her best season, Vaughn said the team had great energy and they are all focused in on one goal: winning a National Championship.
Vaughn said this team is different from previous squads she has been a part of due to the amount of talent on the roster.
“We have some of the top players in the world right now,” Vaughn said. “I think what makes this season different is that this is one our greatest chances to win as a team right now.”
The team held its first official practice last Monday.
“It’s good to have everyone back,” junior Sophia Zeeb said. “Even though we do practice on our own, it’s still nice to ask others for a little match and just help each other out, be there to support each other.”
At practice was new assistant coach Michelle Estill, returning to her alma mater after time on the LPGA tour as well as with PING, Inc.
Estill and head coach Missy Farr-Kaye have a longstanding history, as they were teammates under legendary Sun Devil head coach Linda Vollstedt. The NCAA championship runner-up in 1986 earned a Bachelor's of Science in Business Management (1989) and was an Academic All-American.
Help us welcome back @TheSunDevils alum @EstillMichelle to Tempe! #SunDevil4Life #SunDevilFamily https://t.co/zVNDM6WDZe pic.twitter.com/SEMM0VZqKS— Sun Devil Golf (@SunDevilGolf) November 29, 2016
Farr Kaye said in November that she wasn’t concerned that there wasn’t an assistant coach behind her, but she insisted that “she was looking,” and it wouldn’t be long before she’d have some help.”
ASU's next competition will come on Feb, 12-15, at the Northrop Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, California.
Vaughn said the one thing she would like to do in California is enjoy the moment.
“I feel like so many tournaments have gone by where I maybe I and the team have just kind of put it past us and not really been right in the moment,” Vaughn said. “That’s what I want to work on this spring is enjoying all my time out there. These are once in a lifetime time experiences, I mean it’s pretty surreal looking back”