SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Looking to continue the momentum of one of the best seasons in program history, the Santa Clara women's golf team will attempt to dethrone 12-time defending champion Pepperdine and win its first West Coast Conference Golf Championship when the tournament begins Monday at the 6,083-yard, par-72 Olympic Course at the Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash.
In the 17-year history of the event only Pepperdine and San Francisco have been winners with the Waves capturing the crown 15 times overall, including the last 12. USF won the inaugural event in 1997 and again in 2001. The Broncos have never finished higher than third in the tournament's history and look to improve on their fourth place standing from a year ago.
"Overall I'm real happy with the spring season," said head coach Krystal Kelly. "The team has come together really well and were putting together a lot of really good scores."
The Broncos put together their fourth-best score of the season with a final round 296 at last week's Cowgirl Classic to capture second place in the 20-team event. Santa Clara won two team titles outright and tied for a third while also placing among the top-5 in three other events this season.
"I'm so proud of my team," Kelly said after last week's finish. "They played with so much heart. I think this week was a good confidence builder going into conference."
All five golf playing school's will compete in the tournament with Pepperdine once again the heavy favorite. The Waves enter with a ranking of No. 15 in the latest Golfstat.com poll while the Broncos come in at 90th. Gonzaga enters ranked 48th with San Francisco at No. 92 and BYU at No. 109.
The Broncos were teamed with Pepperdine at the Anuenue Spring Break Classic at the end of March and a few things caught the eye of Coach Kelly. "The one thing we noticed that is different is they are a little bit more consistent than we are, so that's one thing we've been talking about a little more is making those five-six footers (putts) under pressure and those 20 footers they make a little bit more than we do. Just really short game and course management, but I think we have a good shot at playing well and giving them a run."
Kelly also believes the Waves took notice of her team. "They realize we are a good team and we can do it. I think they do realize we can put some really good rounds together and it's not that far-fetched. We beat Colorado and they were ranked 49th, that was pretty cool for the girls. It's not always about ranking but it gave them a lot of confidence that we are a good team and we can play good golf."
Santa Clara will be paired with San Francisco and the squads are scheduled to tee off from the 10th hole at 9:40 a.m. The Broncos lineup will feature senior Taylor Camany, junior Kaci McCartan, sophomores Meghan Shain and Monique Riley, and freshman Annie Freman.
Freman carded a career-best 69 in the final round of the Cowgirl Classic to make up five shots and tie for first with a pair of golfers. It was the WCC-high third individual title for Freman and also tied her for the program record, which was established by Miki Ueoka in 2008-09.
A top candidate for Freshman of the Year honors, Freman has played all 28 rounds in 10 events this year and has been the team's top finisher eight times with eight top-10 placements. She leads the team with a 74.00 stroke average and has scored at or below par nine times.
McCartan has also competed in every round this season and has played her best golf. She claimed her first career individual title winning the Boise State Classic during the fall and has four top-10 finishes while ranking second on the team with a 76.36 stroke average.
With the tournament contested at the Gold Mountain Golf Club for a second straight year, Kelly plans on using course knowledge to the team's advantage. "We know the greens a little bit better," she said. "We are more familiar with the golf course than we were last year and experience always helps. We're really excited to go up there and play some good golf."
Name: West Coast Conference Championship
Dates (Site): Monday-Wednesday, April 14-16 (Bremerton, Wash.)
Host: West Coast Conference
Tournament Field (Rank*):
BYU (109), Gonzaga (48), Pepperdine (15), San Francisco (92), Santa Clara (90)
Details: A single 18-hole round will be played each day for a total of 54 holes. Monday's first round will begin with threesomes teeing off from the 10th hole starting at 8:30 a.m.
Course: Gold Mountain Golf Club Olympic Course
Yardage / Par: 6,083 yards / Par 72
Course Website: www.goldmountaingolf.com
Course Address: 7263 W. Belfair Valley Road, Bremerton, WA 98312
Course Number: (360) 415-5432
Live Stats: www.golfstat.com
*Rankings according to Golfstat.com as of 4/9/14