No. 12 women’s golf falls short in season opener

A USC golfer traverses a course.
(Aylish Turner | Daily Trojan)

Ranked No. 12 in the Women’s Golf Coaches Association preseason poll, only behind fellow Pac-12 teams Stanford University (No. 1), University of Oregon (No. 3), UCLA (No. 5) and Arizona State University (No. 7), the USC women’s golf team fell short in its opening tournament of the 2022-2023 season at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational at the University of New Mexico Golf Course in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Trojans climbed all the way up to a tie at 2-over par for fifth place through 10 holes in the second round, but ended up shooting 17 strokes over par with a total score of 881 and an eighth place finish.

Unranked Ohio State University outlasted the field of teams by a whopping 10 strokes shooting 11-under par at 853 (283, 283, 287). The Buckeyes were fueled by the trio of senior Lauren Peter, senior Aneka Seumanutafa and redshirt junior Caley McGinty — shooting a combined 7-under par throughout the three rounds. 

Fifth-year head coach Justin Silverstein, an assistant coach for the 2013 NCAA champion USC women’s golf team and 2019 Pac-12 co-coach of the year, was critical of the team’s play this past weekend.

“It was a disappointing effort, top to bottom really; we had a couple bright spots, but it was unfortunately overshadowed by more poor play,” said Silverstein in an interview with the Daily Trojan.

However, Silverstein is not worried about the team’s performance, as the squad is looking to capitalize on its own mistakes.

“We’ve got a great group, very young and talented,” Silverstein said. “This is just kind of a bump in the road, but I think at the end of the year we’ll look at this as just an aberration and not necessarily the norm.”

Sophomore Xin (Cindy) Kou led the way for the Trojans, tying for 17th place in the individual portion of the event and totaling a score of 2-over par for the tournament. Kou started the first two rounds very strong, shooting even par, but dipped to 2 shots over for the third and final round. 

“Cindy has been working really, really hard this summer,” Silverstein said. “As a coach, I always appreciate people who come in with their game tidy, just looks good, like they put in the time and the effort to do all the little things well.”

Sophomore Amari Avery, one of eight golfers from the Pac-12 on the 2022-23 Preseason ANNIKA Award Watch List, tied for 23rd place at 3 strokes over par 219(72-71-76). After performing well throughout the first day, finishing with a respectable score of -1 after 36 holes, her performance dipped on the final 18 holes, totaling  +3 in the finale. 

“We’re expecting her to be in the player of the year race come Pac-12 regionals and nationals,” Silverstein said. “Her expectation is to win that award, my expectation of her is to win that award, you know that’s the neighborhood she lives in her golf game. This performance this week was not indicative of where her game is at; her game looks good.”

Avery was named a 2022 First Team All-American as a freshman last year and sits at No. 6 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. 

Freshman Catherine Park made her debut as a Trojan, shooting par in her final round of the tournament. Like Avery, she ended up tied for 23rd place shooting 3-over 219 (74, 73, 72). 

Park was the eighth-ranked senior in her high school class in the Golfweek Magazine rankings and played at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open.

Coach Silverstein highlighted the Trojans prowess when it came to putting.

“I actually do think we did a nice job on the greens. I think we putted better than we have at home,” Silverstein said. “Our speed control on the greens is getting better and that is something that tends to get better with more time spent … If we can get as good as I think we can in that area, we’re going to be able to compete with anybody in the country.”

USC will travel to Chicago for the Windy City Classic beginning Oct. 3. Last season, the Trojans finished in second-to-last place in the tournament. 

“This group is aware of what happened last year, and they don’t need any extra fuel,” Silverstein said. “If we need extra motivation to get to the golf course, we’re in bigger trouble in this sport.”