From Phoenix, Arizona to Siena, Italy, Arizona State women’s golf spans 6,041 miles across the Atlantic in its internationally-dominated roster.
No two players on the reigning 2017 NCAA Champions come from the same country, as the roster is built with an Italian, Spaniard, German, Irish and an American. The team recently lost Swedish junior Linnea Strom, who made the decision in December to play professionally.
“Their commonalities are so strong,” head coach Missy Farr-Kaye said. “They are all elite athletes.”
Farr-Kaye’s recruiting strategy is find the best players regardless of geographic ties, which has taken her overseas over summer breaks.
Farr-Kaye, who graduated from ASU in 1990, said the game of collegiate women’s golf has evolved since when she was a championship player. While there were only about 15 solid golf programs when she played, now there are over 250 schools that sponsor NCAA Division I women’s golf.
“From that standpoint, it’s harder to get someone to move regionally,” Farr-Kaye said. “In Florida, they’ve got good weather, so they’re like why am I going to get on a plane for five hours when I can stay within a two-hour area.”
Farr-Kaye believes international players don’t have as much of a regional pull.
For freshman student-athlete Raquel Olmos Ros from Torreo-Pacheco, Spain, the legacy of ASU’s women’s golf program brought her on the 12-hour flight to Phoenix.
“I received an email from ASU, and I thought ‘wow ASU wants me on the team. Oh my God,’” Ros said.
Though the international students speak a variety of language and come from different European countries, senior student-athlete Roberta Liti from Italy said they share a similar playing style.
“The European culture is very similar,” Liti said. “I think we are used to playing in team competitions because we play a lot with our national team.”
The four European women on the roster all played for their country’s national team. Farr-Kaye said the global roster s encourages more international players to come play for ASU.
“Good players want their friends to join them,” Farr-Kaye said.
In November 2017, ASU signed Alessandra Fanali, who competed in the European team championship in 2016 and 2017. Fanali is from Fiuggi, Italy, 182 miles from Siena, Liti’s hometown.
The transition to move to the United States was an obvious difficulty for international students like Liti and Ros. Liti said it took her a few years to fully adjust to ASU and American culture, particularly with changes in the style of practice and competition.
“It’s a different culture. It’s a different environment,” Liti said. “But I think I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a player.”
Ros, who is now in her second semester at ASU, said the first few months were overwhelming, but Farr-Kaye and sophomore Olivia Mehaffey from Ireland helped her navigate the large campus, rigorous class and practice schedule and the normal adjustments to moving away from home.
“If you’re away from home, you’re away from home,” Farr-Kaye said.
Now in her second semester, Ros added: “I was like ‘wow. I know it all.’”
Ros reflected on the opportunities she has received from choosing ASU. At a Friday practice at Karsten Golf Course, she met one of her role models, Carlota Ciganda Machiñena, a Spanish professional golfer who plays on the LPGA tour.
“I saw her at the same place I was training,” Ros said. “I thought that’s the same. We are doing the same thing. I was like ‘oh yeah, I can do it.’”
“Raquel is working hard to live up to the history and the dynasty here,” Farr-Kaye said.
Farr-Kaye said experiences like that are why ASU is one of the top programs for women’s golf—the young women get the unique opportunities and tools to become professional golfers.
And while her players come from all over the world, they all share the same goal to play professional golf—which is what the ASU women’s golf is molding them to do.
ASU finished first in their dual versus Denver at the end of January. The Sun Devils’ first official tournament of 2018 was the Northrop Grumman Challenge in California where they finished fifth.