The Bruins are back and better than before – at least from a numbers standpoint.
No. 5 UCLA women’s golf will tee off its 2019 fall season at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, on Monday. The Bruins added five freshmen to their roster after finishing last year’s NCAA tournament with just six players available.
“The new blood on our team has been really refreshing … The chemistry has been fantastic so far,” said coach Carrie Forsyth. “I’m really excited about this group – they’re really special.”
The tournament will be held at Royal Golf Club, a par-72 course with a 6,410-yard layout. Nine of the 11 other teams in the field are ranked, including five inside the top-10. UCLA has competed in the tournament every year since it started in 2013, and finished second in both 2017 and 2018.
The Bruins’ starting lineup will include senior Clare Legaspi, sophomores Simar Singh and Mariel Galdiano, and freshmen Ty Akabane and Emma Spitz. Galdiano said she has been working toward being a leader on the team to integrate the new members.
“I’d say my role on the team has stepped up to being a role model for the younger freshmen,” Galdiano said. “(The freshmen) are fun and excited and really hard working.”
Despite her lack of collegiate golf experience, Spitz is currently ranked No. 14 in the Women’s Amateur Golf Ranking after performances at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship and the AIG Women’s British Open in 2019.
Legaspi said the talent of the incomers will help push everyone to compete harder for a spot in the starting lineup.
“Even though I’m a senior, I feel like I can learn a lot from the freshmen since a lot of them played team events during their junior careers,” Legaspi said. “There’s definitely some competitiveness between everybody because there’s a lot of really good players and you never know who can make the traveling team.”
After Lilia Vu went professional midseason last year, the Bruins had only six players – two of which were walk-ons – competing for five starting spots and four match scores. Forsyth said the lack of competition was a disadvantage for the team dynamic.
“Without the depth, there wasn’t enough competition among the players at home to push them,” Forsyth said. “The only qualifying was between our last two players, while the other four were so secure in their positions that they never had that type of pressure. I don’t think that’s a good thing because part of being successful in our sport is that you have to prove yourself.”
This year’s deeper roster will tee off Monday at 7:20 a.m.