Talented field awaits Cal women’s golf at PING ASU Invitational

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Less than a week after battling the best in San Diego, the Cal women’s golf team will return south for a rematch against three of the top four teams in the country at the PING ASU Invitational in Tempe, Ariz. The three-day, 54-hole tournament, beginning on Friday, will feature seven prestigious Pac-12 opponents, including No. 2 UCLA, No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Arizona State, No. 8 Arizona and No. 9 Washington.

Add No. 10 Oklahoma and eastern powerhouses No. 3 Duke and No. 11 Vanderbilt to the mix, and this weekend’s 15-team field is shaping up to be one of the toughest Cal has competed against this season.

“We’re looking forward to getting back out there with the field getting more and more challenging,” said head coach Nancy McDaniel. “Which is exactly what we’re working towards with the NCAA (championships) coming in May.”

Fortunately for the Bears, the par-72, 6223-yard course at ASU Karsten Golf Course is a familiar one where the Bears have competed in their last four seasons.

Cal will send Nicola Rossler, Hannah Suh, Carly Childs, Jo Ee Kok and Morgan Thompson to compete in the familiar territory this weekend. All four teammates — with the exception of junior Kok — competed in the same tournament last season, in which Cal finished 16th overall.

Rossler, the Bears’ only senior, and arguably one of the most consistent finishers throughout Cal’s up-and-down season, will be looking to continue with her steady play on a course she has played on for the last four years. Rossler is coming off of a successful performance at the SDSU Farms Invitational where she tied with teammate Suh for 19th individually.

“She (Rossler) just does her thing; she’s so consistent, so hard working,” McDaniel said. “I don’t really have to think about her, which is a good thing for a player.”

The Bears will need Rossler to be on top of her game to even have a chance to beat nine of the top 20 teams in the nation, including tough UCLA and Stanford teams that have bested the Bears in all their tournament matchups this season. Rival Stanford has dominated the Bears in five tournaments this season, including taking two first-place finishes and tying for second in another over the Bears.

A golf-friendly forecast is expected in Tempe this weekend with dry, warm temperatures reaching the high 70s and low 80s. For the golf teams, this means fast greens and holes that lend themselves well to long drives.

“Usually with the drier weather, the course can play a little shorter,” McDaniel said. “It’s a place where we can shoot some scores and feel really good about our game.”

The PING ASU Invitational will be the end to a tough three-week, three-tournament stretch for the Bears, in which they traveled more than 3500 miles between different tournaments. In the midst of the season, the Bears were forced to balance several days of missed classwork with constant travel and practices.

“Its not just the putting or the driving or the iron play. It’s the organization off the golf course so that they can come with a clear mind to the golf course,” said McDaniel. “I have to give this team a lot of accolades for the time management they have and time away they endure.”

Christine Menchaca covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected]