USC women’s golf unable to capture gold in defending Icon Invitational title

Even with a strong showing from the Trojans, they had to settle for third place out of a field of 16.

Kou follows through on a drive.

After winning the Icon Invitational in Houston, Texas, last year, USC head coach Justin Silverstein felt confident going into this year’s tournament, but this year’s turnout was not up to last year’s par.

Coming off a strong performance at the Therese Hession Regional Challenge, the No. 11 Trojans started off the first round strong, shooting 22 under par with a total team score of 274, starting them in first place. A notable performance in the first round came from sophomore Cindy Kou shooting 65, seven under par.

The momentum soon shifted, and USC lost steam going into the next 18 holes with a 280 team score. Silverstein believes the weather contributed to the Trojans’ struggles.

“We made a lot more birdies in the first round, and I think part of it was that the wind changed,” Silverstein said. “Secondarily we didn’t have anyone get hot, especially in the third round.”

Silverstein added no one was able to get hot on the second day. Only sophomore Amari Avery was able to stay on track in the second round with 5 under par. The third round ended the worst out of the three with a total team score of 288. USC’s great start was unable to keep it ahead of first place No. 1o’s Texas A&M’s dominance and a surprising second place North Texas, which consistently shot 280 for all three rounds.

Although the Trojans putted well throughout the invitational, Silverstein thinks their biggest flaw was their wedge game and getting the ball on the green.

“I think the wedge game and short iron game needs to be sharper. It’s something we’ve been working really hard on at practice,” Silverstein said.

The Trojans have little time to rest, as they have three days and two practices until they are on a flight for their next event at the Juli Inkster at Meadow Club Invitational in Fairfax, California.

“We’ll continue doing our putting stuff — it seems to be working well — and just keep hammering away at the wedge and short iron play,” Silverstein said.

Silverstein still has high confidence in his team’s ability and thinks USC has been playing some great golf. He believes he’s seen a lot of great performances in matches and at practice; the Trojans just need to put everything together.

“Expectation is that any tournament we play in we can win. We think any five of our eight that we play are good enough to win,” Silverstein said. “We’ve been working really hard, and it’s going to be rewarded in the long term.”

As the Trojans refocus for next week, some players are going to need to step up, as standout Kou will be traveling to Singapore to represent China in the Asian Pacific Amateur Championship. Silverstein expects to see a strong showing from Avery, who is USC’s highest-scoring player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Junior Brianna Navarro also will be expected to get back into the swing of things.

“I think the Meadow Club where we are heading fits her game nicely. I think [Navarro] is prime to put up a good performance,” Silverstein said. “If Amari and Bri can get going in the right direction, I think we’ll be just fine without Cindy.”

USC women’s golf still has confidence and high hopes of capturing its first tournament win of the spring season at the Juli Inkster at Meadow Club Invitational Monday, March 6 and Tuesday, March 7.