Freshman Marianne Li represents Cal at NCAA Championships

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Phillip Downey/File

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The No. 16 Cal women’s golf team has found itself a new standout player — freshman Marianne Li — who will lead them in the near future. But for now, Li will close out her season by competing in the 2016 NCAA Championships as an individual.

The biggest event in women’s collegiate golf is set to take place May 20 to 25 at the Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon. On the par-72 course, 24 teams and 12 individuals will be competing for the ultimate prize of being named NCAA Champion. The tournament is set for 54-holes of stroke play during the first three days. The top 15 teams, along with nine individuals not on an advancing team, will move on for one additional day of stroke play. The fourth day will determine the top eight teams that will move on toward match play to crown a team victorious. In the individual competition, the top nine players will move on to a 72-hole stroke play to determine who will be crowned champion.

Among those 12 individuals is Li, the 2016 Shoal Creek Regional tri-champion who is coming off an outstanding performance. During the NCAA Regionals in Shoal Creek, Alabama, Li shot a four-over 220 (74-72-74). This display would leave her in a three-way first place tie with Florida State’s Matilda Castren and Northwestern’s Janet Mao. This victory gave Li the first win of her Cal career while it made her the first individual from Cal since 2005 to qualify to championships. Along with the accomplishment, she added another accolade to her career by being named to the Division I Shoal Creek All-Region team.

One aspect that is overshadowed from Li’s qualities is her durability, as she partook in all 11 tournaments Cal competed in this season. What makes that so impressive is she is doing this as a true freshman, showing a glimpse of what she could become from the very first competition. At the CSU Ptarmigan, Li wore the gold and blue for the first time and provided the Bears with a top-10 finish. In the two-day tournament, Li shot at par to end the first day following a one shot under on the second day, concluding the 54 holes with a 76 to walk away with a seventh place finish (72-71-76=219, +3).   This was the beginning of a solid season, as Li would go on to finish in the top five in three of the 10 remaining tournaments Cal participated in.

Li has shown promise to be the next player to take the torch and lead Cal to new heights. She continues her journey this week in what could be more than just an appearance. If Li can have a consistent tournament like she did in Regionals, it could end up being a tournament full of surprises. Anything can happen as she did the improbable by winning a high-caliber competition.

Li is set to face tough competition in the 11 other individuals vying for the individual title. But for Cal, the future starts now for Li as she is the one to take the Bears to the next step.

Oscar Oxlaj covers women’s golf. Contact him at [email protected]