Although finishing one stroke shy of a national championship last season was a disappointing ending for the USC women’s golf team, the upcoming season is already off to a good start.
Despite losing two All-Americans in Jennifer Song and Belen Mozo, the Women of Troy have been ranked No. 1 by the preseason Golf World coaches’ poll. The ranking is not unfamiliar territory to the team, which has been in and out of the No. 1 spot throughout the decade. USC won the NCAA championship in 2003 and 2008, and has finished in the top four in six of the last eight seasons.
The Women of Troy will be led by three-time All-American senior Lizette Salas and the lone remnant from the 2008 championship roster. Salas had four top-six finishes last year and was the 2009 Pac-10 Player of the Year. Coming into this year, she needs only five more rounds in the 60s to tie Song for the USC women’s record for most rounds in the 60s (15).
Also returning are junior Inah Park and sophomore Cyna Rodriguez, both members of last season’s national runners-up roster.
The Women of Troy will also count on incoming transfer Lisa McCloskey, a junior from Pepperdine. McCloskey is a two-time All-American with three career collegiate victories that bring instant experience to the young team.
Joining McCloskey in the incoming class are freshmen Rachel Morris and Sophia Popov, both coming off impressive amateur wins this summer. Morris captured the Pacific Northwest Amateur title, and Popov won the International European Ladies Amateur Championship.
Probably the most improbable contributor to this year’s team will be freshman Pearl Jin, a 15-year-old, who at age 12 became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Amateur history. She finished the stroke play portion of the event in 18th place and advanced to the second-round of the match-play where she lost to another 12-year-old.
What might be her most amazing feat is the fact that she made a hole-in-one in 2006 on a 256-yard par 4. Jin skipped three grades to enter college this fall, becoming just the third female golfer in history to enter college at 15 years of age.
However, Jin’s status is uncertain for the upcoming season, as she suffers from osteochondritis dissecans, more commonly known as “Little League elbow,” which is a bone bruise. The only treatment is rest though no known cure exists.
This young team will be led by coach Andrea Gaston, entering her 15th year with the Women of Troy.
The team earned nine of 33 first-place votes in the poll, just enough to finish ahead of Pac-10 rival UCLA and defending national champion Purdue. Rounding out the top 10 are Alabama, Duke, Auburn, Arizona, Wake Forest, Virginia and Vanderbilt.