Rose Zhang (L), Rachel Heck, Megha Ganne
When Tiger Woods arrived at Stanford in the fall of 1994, he was already well-known in the golf world.
Prior to stepping foot on the Stanford campus in the fall of 1994, Woods had won three U.S. Junior titles and a U.S. Amateur championship and now with Tiger in tow, the 1994-95 Cardinal was being touted as the greatest college golf team of all time.
Though Stanford didn't win a national championship in the two years (1994-96) he spent at Stanford, Woods won 11 of the 26 he entered, including the 1996 NCAA individual championship at the Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.
The one tournament that is still talked about during Tiger's two-year stay on The Farm was one he didn't win - or even finish.
Over 2,000 fans flocked to Stanford Golf Course for the 1995 U.S. Intercollegiate to get a glimpse of the most heralded prodigy in the sport's history.
Anticipating the large turnout, Stanford's head coach, the late Wally Goodwin, pleaded with athletic department officials to take necessary measures to ensure crowd control. His request fell on deaf ears so Goodwin took it upon himself to order "Quiet Please" paddles and recruited an army of volunteers to manage the large crowd. The open field near the second hole was used for overflow parking.
As Goodwin anticipated, more than 2,000 fans found their way to Stanford Golf Course for Saturday's round to witness the Tiger phenomenon. The consensus was that the crowd was the largest ever for a round of college golf, whose gallery usually consisted of family and friends.
Though Woods was forced to withdraw from the tournament after 11 holes on Saturday due to a strained shoulder, similar scenes would play out at other tournament venues such as the Western Intercollegiate at Pasatiempo and various conference and regional championship events during his two-year stay at Stanford.
Fast forward nearly 30 years in time and another story is unfolding on The Farm involving Stanford's women's team, which will host the annual Stanford Intercollegiate this weekend.
• • • • •
Boasting a roster consisting of the last two ANNIKA Award winners and NCAA individual champions in Rose Zhang
and Rachel Heck
, who are ranked first and third in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), and freshman Megha Ganne
, who played in the final group of the 2021 U.S. Women's Open
along with glue players who could play at the top of just about any lineup in the country, Stanford's talent-ladened lineup is an embarrassment of riches.
Some even go as far as tabbing Stanford women's golf as being the most dominant team in collegiate athletics today and one that eventually surpasses some of the great golf dynasties of all time.
"Nothing since Tiger was at Stanford is equal to what's going on there now with the women's team," said Mark Soltau, longtime Bay Area golf journalist who covered Woods' college career for the San Francisco Examiner.
"Taking everything into account, they are arguably the most talented team in college history."
Although it might fall short of matching Tigermania in the mid-90s, fans in the saturated Bay Area sports market have an opportunity to catch perhaps a piece of history unfolding in their own backyard this weekend.
The top-ranked Cardinal women's team and its celebrated triumvirate of Zhang, Heck and Ganne will make their home debut this weekend at the Stanford Intercollegiate where seven teams listed inside the Golfweek/Sagarin Top-25 rankings are in the field, including No. 8 Texas, No. 10 Virginia, No. 11 USC, No. 13 Arizona State, No. 15 Florida and No. 17 San Jose State.
Zhang, who has been the top-ranked female amateur in the world for 110 weeks and counting, has five individual wins in her 12 full-field events, including this year's Carmel Cup, where she set the Pebble Beach women's competitive record with a second-round 63. Last October, she became the first Stanford golfer, man or woman, to win her first three collegiate starts. Her fourth win of the season came at the NCAA Championships when she captured the women's individual title.
Like Woods, Zhang had her share of success before stepping onto the Stanford campus last fall, winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2020 before closing out her junior career by capturing the Rolex Girls Junior Championship in 2021.
She is one of four Cardinal golfers ranked in the world’s top 40 amateurs along with Heck (No. 3), Ganne (No. 26) and Brooke Seay
(37). Junior Sadie Englemann
is currently ranked 161st.
Seven of Heck's eight victories came during her freshman season when she won the NCAA individual championship
and the ANNIKA Award
as the top player in collegiate golf. Career win No. 8 came at the Gunrock Invitational
last March when she outdueled Zhang to win with an 18-under par score of 198.
Ganne, who is currently listed at 26th in WAGR, introduced herself to the Bay Area well before she arrived at Stanford this fall. As a 17-year-old high school junior, Ganne fired an opening round of 4-under par 67 to tie for the first-round lead of the 76th U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco
. She hung around the leaderboard all weekend and played in the final grouping on Sunday with Lexi Thompson and eventual champion Yuka Saso.
In her collegiate debut, Ganne finished second to Zhang at the Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach.
The Cardinal has picked up right where it left off last season when its second national championship under head coach Anne Walker by capturing its first two full-field events of the fall including the prestigious Stephens Cup
last week at Seminole Golf Club with a resounding match play victory over No. 2 Wake Forest.
• • • • •
In addition to Stanford's strong starting five, the field packs plenty of star power with eight players residing in the top-50 of the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
USC's Amari Avery
, who has won four events in her short collegiate career, is ranked fifth in WAGR while Bohyun Park
of Texas is 25th. Virginia's Amanda Sambach
, medalist at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate
to start the season, checks in at 44th while Florida's Annabell Fuller
, a three-time Curtis Cup member for Great Britain and Ireland, is ranked 50th.
Seven players in the field -- Avery, Ganne, Heck, Park, Sambach, Seay and Zhang -- are listed on the preseason watch list for the ANNIKA Award, honors the player of the year in college women’s golf, as selected by college golfers, coaches and members of the college golf media.
• • • • •
Last year, Stanford ran away with the team title, finishing at 28-under 824 to claim a 22-stroke victory over San Jose State, which closed with a fine round of 6-under 278 on Sunday to finish 6-under 846 for the tournament. Stanford's 28-under team total of 824 also matches a school record for 54-hole event, set last season at the NCAA Stanford Regional.
Zhang claimed medalist honors with a score of 16-under 197, four strokes clear of Sara Kouskova of Texas at 12-under 201.The win marked Zhang's third consecutive victory to start her collegiate career.