Over the course of the last three tournaments, USC narrowly missed a big tournament victory, but there was hope this one would be different. Coming off a second-place finish at the Juli Inkster at Meadow Club Invitational, the Trojans were hungry for gold and had high hopes going into the PING/ASU Invitational in Phoenix, Arizona. With competition like No. 5 Oregon, No. 6 Mississippi State and No. 8 Texas, it set up to be a difficult three days on the links. But if No. 13 USC could put everything together, then it could finally achieve victory.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, they only placed 1oth out 17, with a total of 883. With 11 top-5o teams in the country at the invitational, USC had a long weekend ahead of them, but after a lot of success in the last three tournaments, this is a disappointment for the Trojans.
The competition was very even for much of the tournament with each of the teams scoring close to each other. It was so close that USC only made the top 10 by five strokes and was behind the teams tied for eighth — Michigan State and Oregon State — by one stroke.
It was clear the competitors were all struggling on this course, which will also host the Pac-12 Championship. Only two teams were able to go under par: Northwestern and Arizona State.
“It’s deceptively tight,” assistant coach Tiffany Joh said. “It is really well bunkered on this course. We are normally a very good driving team, and that’s what got us this week.”
No. 11 ASU was one of the favorites on its home course, but the unlikely winner, No. 24 Northwestern, was able to pull off the upset by shooting 18 under par. Wildcat graduate student Kelly Sim also tied for first with a total score of 206.
USC’s crucial error came in the first round of the tournament. The Trojans started off slow, with their first round being the worst of the three. This round ended with all five women shooting over par for a total of 301.
USC was able to catch steam in the later rounds, improving in each of the next two rounds. The second round saw junior Christine Wang shoot even par and three other Trojans shoot one under par. USC finished the second round in 11th place with a score of 292 for the round. It was able to ride its momentum into the third round to overtake Cal and Washington for 10th place, shooting a squad total of 290, the Trojans’ best score of the event.
While the outcome was not what the Trojans were wishing for, there were positives to come out of it. All five women shot close to each other, closing within four strokes. Freshman Catherine Park continued to impress, leading the squad for the entirety of the tournament.
“She’s only a freshman, but she’s already putting up really solid results, and I don’t think we have even scratched the surface with her,” Joh said.
Wang also had a great showing, especially in the third round, which allowed her to tie Park as the team’s top scorer. In the last tournament, her totals were sporadic and very inconsistent. Wang did not let history repeat itself and kept all her scores within three strokes of each other.
On the other hand, the usual top players underperformed. Sophomore Cindy Kou, recently coming off the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, shot seven over in the first round, was only one under par in the third round and finished as the third-highest scorer for the team. Junior Brianna Navarrosa played similarly to Kou. Both shot one under par in the third round and six under par in the second round. Usual top placer sophomore Amari Avery recorded the worst score for USC, never shooting under or equal to par.
“Disappointed in the result, but we learned a lot as a team,” Joh said. “The takeaway is there are some things we need to tighten up on in the next couple weeks before we play the conference championship there.”
The quest for a tournament win continues for the Trojans on April 4-6 at the Silverado Showdown, USC’s last invitational of the year, in Napa, California.