No. 1 USC Returns To Action Locally, Seeking Eighth Straight Win

    Feb. 6, 2014

    The top-ranked USC women's golf team, the defending NCAA champion riding a school-record and national-long seven-tournament win streak, resumes the 2013-14 season after winter break at the annual Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge at the Palos Verdes (Calif.) G.C. Sunday through Tuesday (Feb. 9-11).

    The 54-hole event on the par 71, 6,017-yard course features 16 teams, 13 of which are ranked in the GolfWorld/WGCA Coaches Top 25 Poll, including eight in the top 11. In addition to out-of-town-host No. 24 Ohio State and the No. 1 Trojans, the field includes No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Duke, No. 7 Arizona State, No. 9 Arizona, No. 11 Washington, No. 14 Florida, No. 15 North Carolina, No. 18 Pepperdine, No. 22 Michigan State, Baylor, Texas and Wake Forest.

    Live results will be available at USC has won the event twice, claiming back-to-back wins in 2010 and 2011. Troy also won the 2008 Pac-10 title on the same course. The Trojans' lone medalist at the tournament was Irene Cho in 2006.

    USC won its first four events of the season, all in the fall, for the first time in school history and used a different lineup in each event. Not until the final win at the Pac-12 Preview did the Trojans feature the lineup they used during their postseason run to the title last spring, which included seniors Sophia Popov and Rachel Morris, junior Doris Chen and sophomore Annie Park and Kyung Kim.



    Kicking off spring action at the Northrop Grumman will be Popov, Chen, Park, Kim and freshman Karen Chung. Freshman Gabriela Then will play as an individual. The starting five is the same one that won the Stanford Intercollegiate earlier this year at 21-under par.

    The Trojans will also send four players to the 2014 Matador Invite to play as individuals Monday and Tuesday (Feb. 10-11). The quartet includes Morris and sophomores Victoria Morgan, Kim Santiago and Alexis Chai. Results will be available here.

    Troy, under the guidance of three-time national coach of the year Andrea Gaston, returns all five players from last year's team that won the NCAA team title by a record 21 strokes, four of them All-Americans. Gaston has also added a pair of top prep golfers that makes USC arguably the most talented team, from top to bottom, in the nation.

    USC's complete returning starting lineup features seniors Sophia Popov and Rachel Morris, junior Doris Chen and sophomores Annie Park and Kyung Kim. Park, Popov and Kim were WGCA All-American first teamers last year while Chen was second team. Morris earned All-Pac-12 honors. Added to the group are talented freshman Gabriella Then and Karen Chung, both of whom come to USC with distinguished junior careers.

    The Trojans finished the 2013 season by winning all three postseason events, sweeping the Pac-12, NCAA West Regional and NCAA Championships.

    USC's current seven-event win streak eclipsed the four consecutive wins it had to close the 2008 NCAA season. The Trojans have also won 11 of their last 12 events dating back to last season.

    Team Notes
    * USC finished fall play ranked No. 1 in the Golf World/WGCA women's Division I Coaches' poll, topping the rankings for the 11th time in a row, dating back to October, 2012 ... USC is ranked in the top 5 for the 19th time in a row and in the top 10 for the 63rd straight poll (dating back to November, 2006).
    * USC features four players ranked in's top 12, including No. 7 Sophia Popov, No. 10 Annie Park, No. 11 Karen Chung and No. 12 Kyung Kim. Doris Chen is No. 45.
    * USC set team records for lowest 18, 36 and 54 holes in its win at the 2013 Stanford Intercollegiate. Troy's second-round of 272 broke the school record of 275 set at the 2010 Idean Ihlanfeldt Invitational. The first and second rounds (276-272=548) was a 36-hole record while the 54-hole total (831) also set a new school standard.
    * USC has won its first two, three and four events this season for the first time in program history.
    * USC's final round of its first event this year and its first round of the third event (276) are tied for third lowest in school history.
    * USC boasted an NCAA-best 11 players on the LPGA Tour in 2013, including rising star Lizette Salas, the 2013 Solheim Cup team member who finished No. 15 on the 2013 money list. Other former Trojans in the top 125 of this year's money list included Irene Cho (52), Candie Kung (54), Nicole Castrale (59), Dewi Claire Schreefel (66), Jennifer Rosales (68), Lisa McCloskey (78), Belen Mozo (81), Paola Moreno (82), Jennifer Song (108) and Veronica Felibert (118).

    Player Notes

    Sophia Popov
    * Senior Sophia Popov is USC's career leader in rounds in the 60s with 19 (including three season).
    * Popov led Trojan golfers with a 70.56 stroke average (with at least nine rounds played) in fall play and had two top 3 finishes and three in the top 17.
    * Popov's 207 (66-67-74) that left her second at the Stanford Intercollegiate tied her for seventh-best in school history while her opening round tied a collegiate best.
    * She tied for third at the Pac-12 Preview at 6-under 213 (70-72-71). * Popov is a three-time All-American and looking to become only USC women's golf's second four-time selection. Current PGA star Lizette Salas was the first.

    Kyung Kim
    * Sophomore Kyung Kim, who led USC with six rounds in the 60s last year, became the first Trojan since Dewi Claire Schreefel in the fall of 2007 to go under 70 in all three rounds of an event by taking first at the 2013 Fall Preview at 6-under 204 (69-69-66). Her three-round total is tied for the second lowest in school history, joining Schreefel's 204 at the aforementioned 2007 event (also a Fall Preview).
    * Kim extended her streak of rounds in the 60s to five in a row with a 69 and a 68 at the Windy Collegiate Championship (a USC record to start the season as well as at any point during the season).
    * Kim, who was named Pac-12 Women's Golfer of the Month for September for her efforts in the season's first two events, led USC with six rounds in the 60s last year and just one off it this year after four events.

    Annie Park
    * Sophomore Annie Park, the 2013 WGCA and Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Year and the 2013 Honda Sports Award winner for golf, has maintained her strong play from last year and boasts a 70.64 stroke average in 11 rounds and finished fall action with a pair of top 3 finishes. Her four rounds in the 60s are second on the team. * She posted a season-best second-place at the Pac-12 Preview with a 7-under 212 (69-72-71) which followed a tie for third at the Stanford Intercollegiate at 5-under 208 (74-70-64). * Park's final-round 64 at the Stanford Intercollegiate is tied for USC's second-lowest round ever. * Park was in the mix for a top 10 finish at the Windy City Collegiate, but signed for an incorrect card and was disqualified.

    Doris Chen
    * Junior Doris Chen, a two-time All-American, posted three top 13 finishes in the fall, highlighted by a second-place finish at the Pac-12 Preview at 7-under 212 (69-72-71). * She also tied for ninth at the Windy City Collegiate Championship at 3-over 216 (71-75-70) and tied for 13th at the Stanford Intercollegiate at even 213 (70-68-75). * Her two rounds in the 60s in fall play doubled her career total to four.

    Karen Chung
    * Freshman Karen Chung only saw action in two fall events, but made them count with a pair of top 6 finishes, churning out three rounds in the 60s in six tries. * She claimed sixth at the Windy City Collegiate Championship at 1-over 214 (73-69-72) and tied for third at the Stanford Intercollegiate at 5-under 208 (69-67-72).

    Rachel Morris
    * Senior Rachel Morris is rounding into shape after getting healthy over the summer. * She played in two fall events and was part of USC's team win at the Pac-12 Preview.

    Gabriella Then
    * Freshman Gabriella Then posted a trio of top 40 finishes in her first collegiate fall session, highlighted by a 23rd at the Dale McNamara Fall Preview at 6-over 216 (71-73-72).

    2013-14 Event Recaps

    Dale McNamara Fall Preview
    Sophomore Kyung Kim won her second career individual title with three straight rounds in the 60s while senior Sophia Popov joined her under par in the final round to lead the No. 1 and defending NCAA champion USC women's golf team to a come-from-behind victory at the 2013 Fall Preview to open the 2013-14 season. The Trojans, who finished the 2012-13 season by winning their final three events (all in the postseason), extended their victory streak to four with a combined 8-over 848 (288-284-276) thanks in part to a 4-under final round that helped them erase a three-stroke second-round deficit. USC also won four events in a row to close out the 2008 season, which culminated with Troy's second NCAA team title. The win is also USC's seventh in its last eight starts dating back to last year. Oklahoma took second at 12-over 852 with Oklahoma State third (855) and Alabama and Duke tied for fourth (856). Kim, who led USC with six rounds in the 60s last year, became the first Trojan since Dewi Claire Schreefel in the fall of 2007 to go under 70 in all three rounds of an event, taking first at 6-under 204 (69-69-66). Her three-round total is tied for the second lowest in school history, joining Schreefel's 204 at the aforementioned 2007 event (also a Fall Preview). Kim, who won last year at the Stanford Intercollegiate, was 1-over through seven holes in her final round before a birdie on 8 gave her a par front 9. She then birdied four holes on the back 9 without a bogey to get to 4-under for the day, tying her second-best round as a Trojan.

    Windy City Collegiate Championship
    The No. 1 USC women's golf team overcame strong winds and a scorecard DQ to not only win its school-record fifth consecutive tournament but open a season with two straight wins for the first time as it captured the 2013 Windy City Collegiate Championship at the Northmoor C.C. in Highland Park, Ill. The Trojans' five-event win streak that includes the 2013 national championship snaps the previous record of four that closed the 2008 season with an NCAA title. USC has also won eight of its past nine events. USC, led by sophomore Kyung Kim's 3-under 210 (69-68-73) which was good for a tie for second, finished at 1-over 853 (284-278-291), two better than Oklahoma (855) and four better than both Arizona and Stanford (857). The Trojans had built a 10-stroke lead midway through the final round and still led by eight as play finished. But sophomore Annie Park mistakenly signed for an incorrect card, disqualifying her 1-under round and forcing the Trojans to use their low round, which was a 5-over. Fortunately for the Trojans, Kim birdied two of her final three holes while junior Doris Chen and freshman Gabriella Then - whose 5-over was included in USC's final tally - both birded 18 to provide the necessary padding for the win.

    Stanford Intercollegiate
    The No. 1 USC women's golf team extended school records for most consecutive wins (six) and victories to start a season (three) as the defending NCAA champion dominated a strong field with three finishers in the top 5 to defend its title at the 2013 Stanford Intercollegiate at the Stanford (Calif.) G.C. The Trojans, led by senior Sophia Popov's 6-under 207 (66-67-74), also set school records for lowest 18-, 36- and 54-hole totals along the way, finishing today at 21-under 831 (276-272-283). USC's second round was a school-record, as was the total from the first two rounds (548) and the final tally of 831. USC held off a strong effort from rival and second-ranked UCLA, which finished second at 16-under 836 (288-268-280). The Bruins' second-round was four better than Troy's school-record setting 272 on Saturday. Washington was third at 1-under 851 while host Stanford was 3-over 855. USC, featuring its third different starting five in as many events, has now won 10 of its past 11 starts. Popov, seeking her school record sixth individual title, fell a stroke short of first but tied her collegiate best at 207, tied for seventh-best in school history. Her two opening rounds extended her Trojan career record of rounds in the 60s to 19. Sophomore Annie Park (74-70-64) and freshman Karen Chung (69-67-72) tied for third at 5-under 207. Park's final round was one off the school record, set by Kyung Kim (63) last season. Park's collegiate best featured a 4-under front nine with two birdies and an eagle on the par 4 9th hole and three more birdies on the back 9 without a bogey on the day. Chung, with three rounds in the 60s in her first two events, was 2-over on her front nine but came home at 1-under. Her tie for third complemented her tie for sixth in her debut in USC's previous event. Junior Doris Chen tied for 13th at even 213 (70-68-75) while Kim, who posted a pair of top 2 finishes to open the season, tied for 23rd at 3-over 216 (71-72-73). It was Chen's second straight top 13 finish as well.

    Pac-12 Preview
    Sophomore Annie Park and senior Sophia Popov each fired final round 2-under 71s to lead the No. 1 USC women's golf team to a come-from-behind victory as the Trojans extended their school-record win streak to seven on the final day of the Pac-12 Preview at the Nanea G.C. in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, on Nov. 5. The Trojans, whose four consecutive wins to start the season is also a school record, finished at a combined 15-under 861 (284-288-289), leapfrogging second-round leader Washington and second-place UCLA. The Bruins finished a stroke back of the Trojans at 14-under 862 while the Huskies took third at 7-under 869. USC's lineup of Park, Popov, senior Rachel Morris, junior Doris Chen and sophomore Kyung Kim marked the first time this season Head Coach Andrea Gaston employed the same starting five that won the 2013 NCAA title.

    More notes on this year's team and last year's remarkable season

    Annie Park was the 2013 WGCA National and Freshman Player of the Year, the Pac-12 Player of the Year and won the Honda Sports Award for Women's Golf. She won four individual titles, including postseason wins at the NCAA, NCAA Regional and Pac-12 Championships. She was just the second NCAA woman to sweep conference, regional and NCAA titles in the same season.

    Senior Sophia Popov earned WGCA All-American and Pac-12 first team honors last year. A three-time All-American, she won her school-record-tying fifth tournament as a junior, one of seven top 10 finishes, which included six of her final seven starts.

    Junior Doris Chen was a WGCA All-American second teamer last year with four top 10 finishes. This summer, she was a finalist at the U.S. Public Links, a semifinalist at the U.S. Amateur and made the cut at the U.S. Open.

    Sophomore Kyung Kim earned WGCA All-American first team honors as a freshman. She had one win among her six top 10 finishes and led the team with six rounds in the 60s, including a school-record 63.

    Senior Rachel Morris earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors after her best season as a Trojan, which included seven top 22 finishes in her final eight events, including a stretch of three top 10s in a row. One of two Trojans to play every round last season, she also earned Pac-12 All-Academic first team notice.

    Sophomore Kim Santiago played in seven events as a freshman, three as a starter, and was part of USC's win at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Sophomore Victoria Morgan joined the team midway through the season last year and provided solid depth in the lineup. Sophomore Ellie Chai, who only recently overcame a long-time shoulder injury, played twice as a freshman last season.

    Freshman Gabriella Then enters USC fresh off winning the prestigious U.S. Girls' Junior title in July and also played in the U.S. Open. She and fellow top recruit Karen Chung, a Public Links quarterfinalist this year who has represented the U.S. at the Jr. Ryder Cup, will help give USC as tough a lineup as any in the nation.

    Andrea Gaston earned her third WGCA National Coach of the Year honor and her second Pac-12 Coach of the Year award. She led USC to a school-record seven wins this year, including collecting USC's fourth conference title, its NCAA record ninth regional title and the program's third NCAA title.

    Golf Digest recently published its annual "50 Top Players To Watch" and it featured Park at No. 2, Popov at No. 3, Kim at No. 9 and Chen and Then among the field of No. 11-50.

    The Trojans finished the NCAA Championships last year at 19-under 1133 (284-276-285-288), shattering the previous NCAA Championship record for most strokes under par, which was previously four (UCLA, 2004).

    With last year's NCAA title, USC extended its NCAA leading streak of top 5 NCAA finishes to 8 and has 14 top 5 finishes overall, tied for second most with UCLA. Arizona State has the most at 16. USC is now one of only five schools with at least three NCAA team titles. Arizona State has seven, Duke has five while USC joins San Jose State and UCLA at three.

    The NCAA title extended USC's season-win record to seven and followed victories in the 2013 NCAA West Regional and the 2013 Pac-12 Championships. The NCAA crown complements Trojan national titles in 2003 (by 15 strokes) and 2008 (by six strokes) and is USC's sixth win in the past seven events this year.

    With Annie Park's NCAA title last year, USC now has four NCAA individual titles, tied for second most with Arizona. Arizona State has five. Annie Park's win also marked USC's 10th top 5 NCAA finish.

    USC's second-round 276 set the NCAA Championship record for low round and was the second-best round in school history.