PHOENIX – Arizona State’s women’s golf team often performs best at home in Arizona. The three regular-season tournaments in the Grand Canyon state gave the Sun Devils some of their best finishes of the season, taking second place at the Match in the Desert in October, the Cactus Cup and their home tournament, the PING/ASU Invitational, in March.
However, when the Devils hosted the Pac-12 Women’s Championship last week in Phoenix, the in-state hot streak did not continue. The fifth-place finish for the 11th-ranked Arizona State squad found the Sun Devils finishing with a team scorecard of 7-under par, six strokes behind rival UArizona.
“We struggled this week and I think it was a little bit surprising. We played this golf course really well in the previous tournaments this spring,” coach Missy Farr-Kaye said after the tournament. “Now as we head further into the postseason, we got to clean up a few things, get better at a couple of things and execute a little better.”
The NCAA announced Wednesday that Arizona State will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina for the NC State-hosted Regional round, where the Sun Devils are seeded second behind Wake Forest. The top five finishing teams from each of the six regional sites will then move on to play at the National Championships in Scottsdale.
If Arizona State makes the cut, the team will have the opportunity to make its seventh straight appearance at Nationals and get back on the right track in their home state at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale.
“I think we always have nationals in the back of our minds when we’re playing for regionals just because we kind of know what we’re capable of and we know that we can qualify,” said Ashley Menne, a junior golfer for ASU who went to Xavier High in Phoenix.
“I’m looking forward to playing again at Grayhawk. I’ve grown up kind of in the Valley, so it’s one of those courses that I’ve played since I was like 10. Hopefully we can get it done at Grayhawk. … we just need a good couple of rounds in and make it into match play.”
Following a season in which they finished tied for ninth at the National Championships, Farr-Kaye knew the challenges that lay ahead for this year. The team’s two leaders, Alessandra Fanali and Alexandra Försterling, had graduated and moved on to pursue professional careers. But Farr-Kaye also knew who she had coming in. Three new freshmen who had all made names for themselves in junior golf came to Tempe in the fall from around the world.
Patience Rhodes, the No. 21 overall collegiate recruit, left England. Paula Schulz-Hanssen, the nation’s no. 2 ranked recruit, came from Germany. Beth Coulter, ranked no. 7 nationally, came from Ireland.
Despite finishing outside the top 10 in her previous tournaments, and an underwhelming team performance, Coulter finished second individually at the Pac-12 Championships with a score of 5-under par, seven strokes behind Stanford’s Rose Zhang. Coulter earned Pac-12 All-Conference honors, along with Schulz-Hanssen, as the highest-finishing Sun Devil since Olivia Mehaffy took home the individual title in 2019.
“It’s a big step up from junior golf into college golf. The feelings, the depth is just crazy and every week it’s a tough golf course,” Coulter said. “In the spring, we’ve kind of come into ourselves and I think it’s just all of us getting it together in one day and in one week. And I think we’re capable of affecting that.”
Another challenge in the beginning for a team with only one senior on the roster was finding the team’s leader.
“Everybody waits for the two seniors to just decide what they want, that are All-Americans. So they kind of get to have control of the team a little bit,” Farr-Kaye said. “This year has been a lot more rounded of who’s in charge.”
Menne is one player who has stepped up on the course and in the clubhouse. She has been one of the team’s most consistent performers with four top-10 tournament finishes this season, including a tie for first place at the Match in the Desert in January. Just this week, it was announced that Menne will participate in the 2023 Palmer Cup, which is an annual collegiate golf competition with teams representing the United States and international players.
Representing Her Country ??
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“I actually enjoy [being the team leader] a lot. I think I just get along pretty well with the girls and I have a good relationship with the coaches too,” Menne said. “With three new freshmen coming in, they’re all young and there’s so much fun and I think they bring the younger side out of everyone, especially me. I tend to be quite serious.”
Although the team hasn’t performed throughout the season as well as in years past, a few minor adjustments in technique and effective practice should set the Sun Devils up for success.
“We’re a little sloppy in areas that we can certainly get better at … be a little sharper with course management, course strategy, things like that,” Farr-Kaye said. “They’re extremely talented and they’re amazing.”