Cyclones Prepare For Big 12 Championship
AMES, Iowa – Iowa State’s track record at the Big 12 Championships under head coach Christie Martens has been remarkable in recent years.
The Cyclones have finished in the top-four the last four seasons, including a third-place showing last year, their best finish since the Big 12 was formed in 1996-97.
Iowa State, ranked No. 24 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, will try to improve its positioning at this year’s Big 12 Championship, April 25-27 at the University of Texas Golf Club in Austin, Texas.
The Cyclones will have familiarity with the course, finishing fourth in the strong 18-team field at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational in October. Martens is hoping their prior success will benefit her squad.
“I think confidence is so huge at this time of the year and I think feeling familiar with the surroundings, knowing where you are going, knowing the course and everything about the area, it makes a huge difference,” Martens said. “Everyone had a really good feeling about the course. They just really liked it. I think that really helps. Conditions will be quite a bit different. It’s going to be more firm and fast than in the fall. It’ll play a little differently, but I think just having that positive experience from the past is going to help us to hopefully play our best.”
ISU shot a 2-under 862 (291-282-289) tally at the par-72, 6,143-yard layout in October. Sophomore Cajsa Persson led the way by tying for fifth with a school-record 54-hole 210 score (69-69-72).
Persson, who was an All-Big 12 performer in her rookie season, is one of four Cyclone golfers averaging under 74.00 strokes per round. The “core four” – Persson, Sasikarn On-iam, Prima Thammaraks, Chonlada Chayanun- are all ranked in the nation’s top-125, have multiple sub-70 rounds and multiple top-10 finishes.
Their consistency and ability to go low at any tournament has Martens excited for the postseason.
“I think that’s the exciting thing is that even as good as they can play, their bad rounds have gotten a lot better,” said Martens. “I think that’s why they’ve improved so much and why their stroke averages have gotten so much lower because now they can manage their games to a point where even if they’re not hitting great shots, they can still find a way to get up and down and still make par if they’re not hitting it inside 15 feet for birdie.”
On-iam and Thammaraks, who both hail from Bangkok, Thailand, will be playing in their final Big 12 Championship. The seniors have had outstanding careers and been cornerstones to ISU’s success. On-iam leads the team in stroke average (73.27) and her career 75.04 scoring clip is the best in school history. On-iam became the first Cyclone in six years to claim medalist honors at a tournament, tying for first at the Hurricane Invitational. She is the highest-rated Cyclone, ranking 84th nationally in Golfweek’s individual rankings.
Thammaraks is close behind On-iam in season and career scoring average, posting a 73.91 season scoring clip and a career stroke average of 75.15.
The contributions made by the seniors won’t be forgotten.
“They’ve been such a huge part of our program's success,” Martens said. “I think every day, ‘How are we going to replace these two?’ They’ve done so much to really elevate our program to the next level and now our players have to keep getting better and it’s a lot because of where they started and kind of what they’ve done for the program. I think that’s the exciting part though. They have established excellence and brought us to a level where there is something to strive for each year.”
The Cyclones have already locked up their record-setting fifth-straight NCAA Regional berth. A strong showing at the Big 12 Championship will only improve their seed.
The tournament, as always, will feature some of the best teams and players in the nation. The Cyclones are among six teams ranked in the Golfweek top-50. Oklahoma is ranked highest (No. 13), followed by defending champion Oklahoma State (No. 15) and Iowa State (No. 24).
A strong showing at the conference tournament will help the Cyclones improve their confidence in trying to achieve their ultimate goal of making the NCAA finals.
“Regionals are exciting and great,” Martens said. “It’s always a goal to make the postseason. We have two seniors in our lineup that really want to get to the next level and that’s a big part of the legacy they want to leave.”
To follow live stats of the 2014 Big 12 Women’s Golf Championship, go to golfstat.com.