Lee Anchors Lineup as Youthful Bears Prove Too Green to Reach NCAA National Championships

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The season ended early for the Cal women's golf team at the NCAA West Regionals, an 11th place finish dropping them out of the top eight that moved on to the NCAA Championships after the final round.

Some get a shot at redemption next year. One will not.

Roseanne Niven, the team's only senior, has not been to nationals in the duration of her Cal career. The school's last appearance came in 2005; she and her team missed this year's cut by just six strokes.

"With regionals, it's only ever ecstasy or utter devastation and the difference can be just one single stroke," Niven said. "It always comes down to one or two strokes and over a 54-hole tournament for four players, six strokes is nothing."

As the Bears look toward next season, her leadership and personality will be hard to replace.

"(Niven) can be really focused but at the same time turn around and make little one-liners that keeps everyone laughing," coach Nancy McDaniel said. "She brings a seriously fun attitude to the course and you can always rely on her."

But while the team will be without Niven's services next season, three sophomores - Emily Childs, Joanne Lee, and Daniela Holmqvist - were regulars in Cal's starting line-up this season, providing a strong core to build on and continue to grow around.

Lee - a former USC golfer - came into her own in the strongest possible way in her first spring at Cal, frequently leading the way on the scorecards after sitting out last season due to NCAA regulations.

"Lee has been a real rock for us this spring," McDaniel said.

She led the team to a first place finish at the Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational in San Jose, Cali. and was instrumental in the team's strong start in the Pac-10 Championship in Eugene, Ore.

"At Pac-10s the first day, it just seemed like everything fell into place where I'd just hit the ball and it would be right next to the pin," said Lee, who paced the Bears to a sixth-place finish after ending the second round in third. "I'd be like, 'All right, this is cool' and I was just really relaxed and calm on the course."

In a game like golf where there is a lot of downtime in between each hole, that kind of attitude helps prevent players from getting in their own heads and stressing themselves out.

"I went in (the season) taking everything one shot at a time," Lee said. "I figured that if I was less worried about my score and just enjoying my time talking to players and relaxing on the course it would really help me play well."

Lee attributed her outstanding performance to focused practices and rigorous workouts.

Assistant coach Anna Temple kept the players supplied with stat sheets complete with percentages outlining what they had to work on in practice.

While Lee's strong play didn't yield an appearance at nationals, the team is well-stocked for the future.

The empty spot on the roster that Niven leaves will also be filled next season by junior Pia Halbig's German teammate Nicola Rossler, keeping Cal's international player count at four.

"The camaraderie between (Halbig and Rossler) was really important in bringing her to Cal," McDaniel said. "The fact that they will get to play together here for a season is really special."

Rossler and Halbig played together on the German team that won the 2009 European Amateur Team Championship. As a sixteen-year-old, Rossler was a member of the European Team that won the PING Junior Solheim Cup in 2007.

The addition of Rossler as a freshman contributes to the potential for growth on the team due to their youth, one of the most prominent reasons Cal's performance should only improve.

"We have a lot of time to practice and get what we need to get done over summer," Lee said. "I'm expecting to make it to nationals next year."

Tags: CAL WOMEN'S GOLF, NANCY MCDANIEL, JOANNE LEE


Contact Byron Atashian at [email protected]



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