NORMAN, Okla. -- College golf’s spring season has arrived and once again the University of Oklahoma women look to be a contender in the national title race. The Sooners are No. 8 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and are coming off one of the most impressive performances in program history -- a dominating win at the Alamo Invitational in their last competition of the fall.
Several questions will be answered over the next few months and will ultimately tell the story of the 2014 Sooners. How will the four seniors who brought the program into the national spotlight end their careers? What’s next from Alexandra Kaui, the freshman who has already etched her name in OU’s record book? And will this talented squad be able to finish the season at the top of the college golf world?
Below are five storylines as the Sooners start their spring slate this Sunday through Tuesday (Feb. 9-11) at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. The 16-team tournament will be held at the 6,017-yard, par-71 Palos Verdes Golf Club and feature 11 squads ranked in Golfweek’s top 25 and seven ranked in the top 10.
1. Stellar Senior Class
Oklahoma’s 2014 senior class will go down as the best in program history. It will also look to go out with a bang. Emily Collins, Chirapat Jao-Javanil and Anne-Catherine Tanguay joined the OU program four years ago and the trio has already led the Sooners to eight tournament wins. Another senior, Tennessee transfer Kaitlyn Rohrback arrived at OU two years ago and is coming off a strong fall season. The quartet makes OU’s senior class arguably the best in the country.
Collins, Jao-Javanil and Tanguay have already tasted what it’s like to come close to a national team title, as they were on OU’s 2012 team that won the Big 12 Championship and finished in a program-tying-best sixth place at the NCAA Championships. Jao-Javanil won OU’s first-ever individual national championship that spring.
The senior class has also been a part of OU squads that posted the four lowest rounds and the three best 54-hole scores in program history. Individually, on top of Jao-Javanil’s national title, Collins and Tanguay tied for second at the 2013 NCAA Regionals. Jao-Javanil and Tanguay have combined for six individual tournament wins.
OU’s senior class has amassed numerous awards and their individual names are littered throughout the school’s records book. With five regular season tournaments and the NCAA postseason still remaining in their collegiate careers, the Sooner foursome has an opportunity to further establish itself as the best collective group of golfers to ever come through Norman.
2. Freshman Phenom
Freshman Alexandra Kaui wasted no time in impacting OU’s veteran lineup last fall. From Hawaii by way of Las Vegas, Nev., Kaui finished in the top 20 in all four of the team’s events and won the season-closing Alamo Invitational with a 54-hole 206, a program record at 10 under par. She posted a third-round 65 (-7) in that event, also a school record. Kaui was also named Big 12 Golfer of the Month for October.
Can Kaui build upon her incredible start? There’s no reason to think not. The first-year collegian is ranked 26th nationally by Golfweek/Sagarin, highest on the OU team. If Kaui plays as consistently well as she did in the fall, the Sooners could be major players on the national scene.
3. Drouin-Luttrell Leading the Way
Since arriving at Oklahoma in 2009, OU head coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell has presided over some of the best teams in program history, having logged the school’s top three single-season scoring averages of all-time. The fifth-year head coach has already directed her squads to eight wins and has led them to top-five finishes in 27 of 37 events (73%) over the last four years. The Saints-Anges, Quebec, native has watched her players produce 22 par-or-better team rounds since the start of the 2010-11 season. Last year’s squad finished with a No. 4 national ranking, the best in school annals.
As good as the Sooners have been in Drouin-Luttrell’s first four years, this year’s team has the chance to be the best in school history.
“It’s really special to see how far our team has come, especially with this group of seniors,” Drouin-Luttrell said. “I’m excited to see how much farther we can go this spring. I think we have a chance to do some exciting things in the next few months and finish pretty high at the end of the season.”
4. Sooners in the National Rankings
Illustrating the depth and strength of this year’s Sooners, four of the team’s five starters are ranked in the Golfweek/Sagarin top 100 individually and the other comes in at No. 101. Freshman Alexandra Kaui leads the way at No. 26 and is followed by seniors Anne-Catherine Tanguay at No. 58, Chirapat Jao-Javanil at No. 64 and Emily Collins at No. 81. Senior Kaitlyn Rohrback is ranked No. 101. Oklahoma is one of only four schools to have five players ranked in the top 101 nationally.
5. NCAAs in Oklahoma
If the Sooners can qualify for this spring’s NCAA Championships, they’ll have a built-in advantage. That’s because the four-round tournament will be played this year at the Tulsa Country Club, just a couple hours from Norman. In addition to playing numerous practice rounds on the 6,136-yard, par-70 track, OU competed there at the season-opening NCAA Fall Preview in September. The Sooners finished second in the highly competitive event, just four strokes behind defending national champion USC. The NCAA Championships will be held May 20-23.