Sept. 6, 2000
Last May, the Pac-10 made collegiate golf history when every member of the conference qualified for the NCAA West Regional. On the Palouse, Washington State was making a little history of its own by playing its way into the postseason for the first time. This season the Cougars are out to prove it was no fluke.
"Anytime you have some success, expectations are raised," third year head coach Walt Williams said. "We raised the bar last year. We made it to the NCAA Regionals and had several top finishes in major, major events. We have some added expectation placed on us this year and I fully expect the women's team to step up to that and make the regionals again."
Williams will look to senior Jennifer Dodd to guide the young Cougar squad back to the postseason. The Honorable Mention All Pac-10 performer from a year ago may be college golf's best kept secret.
"I think she is a great player," Williams said. "The thing she improved last year wasn't mechanical or anything like that. She just got mentally tougher. She has a chance to play at the next level after this year if she wants to and I think she will be one of best players in the nation this year."
Dodd put herself in the spotlight with a fourth place finish at the Peg Barnard Collegiate in Stanford, Calif. last April. The Portland, Ore., Native followed that up by finishing 10th at the Pac-10 Championship and being the first Cougar woman to be honored on the all-conference team. Dodd will captain the team this year and has 18 career top 25 performances heading into her final campaign.
Junior Tasha Browner, who had the second best scoring average on the team last spring, returns with 22 events already under her belt and will combine with Dodd to give WSU a formidable 1-2 punch.
"She has progressed so fast and so far its amazing to me how well she played last spring," Williams, a Texas native, said. "She is a good player with a good work ethic and a great attitude."
Two sophomores returning battle-tested from last year's run to the West Regional are Donna Bell and Shanelle Roberts. The twosome played in all 13 events as true freshman in 1999-2000 and combined for four top 10 appearances.
"Donna got a lot of experience last year. Some good, some not so good and I think that can only help. She can be competitive when she is on her game and knowing that is going to make her better.
"Shanelle came in with a lot of expectation. She got an awful lot of experience in the heat of battle and that will help her down the road. She has excelled at every level and I think she will excel at this one," Williams said.
Redshirt junior Becky Greggain may be the leading candidate for the fifth spot on the team. The Clarkston, Wash., product played well at the Barnard Collegiate and Pac-10 Championship late last spring and was fourth on the team in scoring average. Sophomore Jackie Stevens has limited experience but played well in the summer and works as hard on her game as anybody on the roster, according to the coaching staff.
Williams returned from the recruiting trail with two exciting prospects that will also compete for a slot in the lineup. After winning four team state titles and one individual state title at Henderson High School in Nevada, Emily De'Ath will bring a wealth of high school and junior experience to the program. Nichole Hebner will concentrate on golf after a successful three-sport career at Bainbridge High School on the West Puget Sound.
"She (De'Ath) is just 17 now and is being thrown into the fire at an early age but she is going to be a very good player. She comes from one of the best high school programs in the nation.
"Nichole played on a state championship basketball team and is coming from an all sports type of background. She brings all that ability to the golf course and hits the ball further than any player on the team," Williams said.
Williams has assembled his best roster in three years talent-wise, but the loss of team captain Jenny Ballou left the Cougars with a huge void in the leadership role.
"We had great chemistry last year and the team really pulled together," Williams said. "It's going to be an adjustment period because Jenny was like a mother hen. She kept them rounded up and kept them doing the things they were supposed to be doing. There will be some adjustment but they are all very close and I think Jennifer Dodd is going to step right into that position and do fine."
The Cougars begin the fall season on Sept. 11 in Fort Collins, Colo., at the Ram Fall Classic.