Nine for '19, No. 5: Impact players in the women's game
03 Sep 2019
by Julie Williams of AmateurGolf.com

Lei Ye (USGA/Steve Gibbons)
Lei Ye (USGA/Steve Gibbons)

With a new college golf season approaching, we present our “Nine for ‘19” series. In the countdown to the first major weekend of college competition, we take a look at the nine best storylines for the fall. Consider this your primer for one of our favorite parts of the game.

The beauty of college golf is it’s a team sport. One player can’t win a team championship, but an infusion of talent can certainly shape a team’s season. Here are the best incoming players for some of the nation’s top teams:

Erica Shepherd, Duke (freshman)

It seems like we’ve never really known a version of Shepherd who wasn’t decked out in Duke gear. Her arrival in Durham, N.C., has been in the cards since, oh, forever. Friend and mentor Leigh Anne (Hardin) Creavy, a former Duke All-American, was a big reason for that. The guiding theme of Shepherd’s preparation for college golf this summer was independence: Being able to make her own on-course decisions, manage her way around the course without anyone in her ear and confidently know her own swing.

Lei (Angelina) Ye, Stanford (freshman)

Stanford has been a dream for Ye since elementary school. As it turns out, lots of dreams came true for her in 2019 as she ended her junior golf career with the U.S. Girls’ Junior trophy. Ye, a native of Shanghai, China, has been quietly building since winning the 2018 Annika Intercollegiate. She finished in the top 10 at the Symetra Tour’s Florida’s Natural Charity Classic two months later, played the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open, made the cut in three subsequent pro events and qualified for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She’s the best up-and-comer you may not know.

Linn Grant, Arizona State (freshman)

Grant’s breakthrough moment (or perhaps her Google moment) came at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open when she was in the top 5 through 36 holes. The Swede finished an eventual 57th that week in Birmingham, Ala. Grant is also a former Ladies British Amateur Stroke Play champion (2017) and reached the semifinals at the Ladies British Amateur (match play) in June. Grant will be the much-needed fourth score on a short but tough Sun Devil roster.

Emma Spitz, UCLA (freshman)

UCLA has a big need for a scorer, what with Bethany Wu, Patty Tavatanakit and Lilia Vu leaving over the past nine months. Spitz, an Austrian and the 2018 Girls’ British Open Amateur champion, is one of the top players coming out of Europe. She also won consecutive Austrian Ladies Stroke Play titles in 2015 and ’16. Spitz’s time in Los Angeles could play out a lot like Bronte Law’s – the Englishwoman won the Annika Award while at UCLA and now plays professionally. Spitz will be part of a strong rebuilding class for the Bruins this fall.

Brooke Seay, Stanford (freshman)

Between Ye and Seay, Stanford has arguably the strongest freshman class of the fall. This player comes with experience beyond her years, having won the 2017 Annika Invitational for a start in that spring’s Symetra Tour season opener, where she finished top 30. She made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open later that year. Seay was a quarterfinalist in this summer’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, her sixth start in that event, and was runner-up at the SCGA Women’s Amateur the next week.

Isabella Fierro, Oklahoma State (freshman)

Here’s another vastly experienced player. Fierro’s resume includes the Mexican Women’s Amateur, South American Women’s Amateur and North & South Women’s Amateur titles – and that was just in 2017, when the Mexico native was 16 years old. Fierro, who played the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, counts Lorena Ochoa as a mentor.

Rachel Kuehn, Wake Forest (freshman)

Most recently, Kuehn represented the Dominican Republic (her mom, also a strong player, was born there before becoming a U.S. citizen) in the Pan American Games and finished 14th individually (future Wake Forest teammate Emilia Migliaccio took home gold). Kuehn was a 2017 Rolex All-American and North Carolina Junior Player of the Year.

Alexa Melton, Pepperdine (freshman)

Victories over the past year and a half include the AJGA’s ClubCorp Missions Hills Desert Junior, the SCGA Women’s Amateur and the Thunderbird International Junior, an AJGA Invitational. After competing primarily in junior-golf events, Melton is ready for the next step.

Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, South Carolina (freshman)

Internationally acclaimed players have frequently found a home – and success – at South Carolina, and Frenchwoman Roussin-Bouchard is the latest. The 19-year-old’s resume includes titles at the Italian International Ladies Amateur back in March, the Portuguese International Ladies Amateur in February, and the Grand Prix de ligue PACA Dames in February.

Caterina Don, Georgia (freshman)

Don’s last act before shipping out to Athens, Ga., was a third-place finish at the European Ladies’ Amateur. The Italian has competed all over Europe since her top-15 finish at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April. She joins a solid infusion of talent to the Bulldog roster that also includes Canadian Celeste Dao and Georgian Caroline Craig.

Must-mentions: Megan Furtney, Duke; Sophie Guo, Texas; Brianna Chacon, Oregon; Ty Akabane, UCLA; Caroline Curtis, Alabama

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