Glory Yang is confident in the UCLA women’s golf team’s chances for success this season.
She’s not the only one.
For the second time in the last three years, Golfweek had the Bruins as the top-ranked team heading into the fall season, although the website’s latest preseason rankings moved them down to number two.
“I feel very confident,” said Yang, one of only two seniors on the team. “I feel comfortable about this season and know that (my teammates) are really good players.”
The Bruins are led by 12th-year coach Carrie Forsyth and lost only one player from last year in Sydnee Michaels, who graduated and now plays professionally on the LPGA Tour.
“It feels a lot better because last year we had four players going out and four players coming in, and we had total uncertainty about how we were going to win together,” Yang said.
“But this year it’s a lot different … coming into the season and knowing people.”
This year’s team features three players in the top 50 of GolfWeek’s individual rankings: No. 7 Stephanie Kono, No. 25 Tiffany Lua and No. 49 Brianna Do.
Kono, a junior, is the standout on the Bruins’ top-ranked roster.
A two-time First-Team All-American, Kono led the Bruins in top-10 finishes, rounds under par and rounds under 70 last year.
She also displayed an affinity for clutch performances when she nailed a 50-foot putt on the last hole of the PING/ASU Invitational to secure first place for herself and the Bruins in the tournament.
Lua returns for her sophomore season and will likely improve on last year’s success when she earned Second-Team All-America honors by both the NCGA and Golfweek. Her stroke average of 73.1 is the second lowest of any returning player behind Kono.
Do, an all-conference junior, was UCLA’s most improved player last season. She saw her number of starts increase from three to 11 and improved her scoring average to 74, more than three strokes lower than her average as a freshman.
This year, the entire roster’s prospects look improved from last season.
“I truly believe we improved a lot … and there is going to be more competition between each other,” said Yang, who is ranked No. 80 by Golfweek.
“We practice a lot, and I saw in the qualifying a lot of improvement in every aspect of our game.”
Redshirt sophomore Lee Lopez and redshirt freshman Ariana Patterson will now be able to compete for the Bruins after sitting out last season to redshirt.
Lopez, a transfer from Long Beach State, was named Big West Freshman of the Year in 2009.
Last year, the Bruins stumbled at the NCAA Championship and finished in sixth place.
This year, being a top-ranked team means that any finish short of a national championship will be disappointing.
But before the Bruins can begin to think about the NCAA Championship at Traditions Golf Course in College Station, Texas in May, they must first compete in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
Immediately following the Bruins in the Golfweek’s rankings are fellow Pac-10 teams No. 3 USC, No. 4 Arizona, No. 12 California and No. 11 Stanford.
Yang said that playing in such a competitive conference is beneficial to the Bruins.
“Sometimes it’s a wake-up call that we need to practice more on different parts of our game,” Yang said.
“At the same time it gives us confidence that we have a great chance of winning all the time.”
With a talented roster and a positive mindset, there’s no reason the Bruins can’t do just that.