ISU women’s golf to compete against nation’s elite in Illinois

Mike Randleman

By making its first appearance in program history at the NCAA Championship last season, the ISU women’s golf team earned a spot at the table of the nation’s elite.

To stay there, the Cyclones, who lost three starters from last season, will have to prove themselves once again against top competition.

Its first big test against college golf’s upper echelon will come at the Windy City Collegiate Classic, which will host four of the nation’s top-10 teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

“It’ll be awesome,” said ISU coach Christie Martens. “Southern Cal, Oklahoma State, Northwestern will all be there, so that should be a great test for us.”

In its first event of the season at the Dick McGuire/Branch Law Firm Invitational, Iowa State finished in 11th place out of 17 in what was a weaker field compared to the Windy City Collegiate Classic.

Despite the slow start, Martens said her young team, which features three true freshmen in the starting lineup, has made noticeable strides as it prepares for stronger competition.

“They’re just getting more and more comfortable everyday and I think they’re starting to get to a point where they are working our system and understanding what practices are like and what the expectations are,” Martens said. “I know we’ve been really impressed with the progress and improvement they’ve made.”

One freshman who stood out was Celia Barquin.

In her first collegiate event, the heralded Spanish recruit tied for 19th place, which was also the best ISU result alongside senior Chonlada Chayanun.

Junior Cajsa Persson, like Martens, has also seen signs of improvement from her younger teammates.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress from them in the two weeks, especially with MJ [Kamin], she’s played great,” said Persson, who tied for fourth place at the Windy City Collegiate Classic in 2013. “They’re really dedicated to getting better and practicing hard.”

While the Cyclones will look for improved play from their freshmen, which include Barquin, Kamin and Nattapan “New” Siritrai, they will rely on veteran leadership from Persson and Chayanun this week in Wilmette, Illinois.

Chayanun, in particular, has had success on big stages like this before.

With top-five finishes at both the Big 12 Championship and the NCAA Championship, as well as a top-20 at the Windy City Collegiate Classic last season, Chayanun is often at her best during big moments and adds to her own game by playing with the best.

“I like to play against good teams, I like to see good players and how they play it [the course],” Chayanun said.

Persson said the prospect of knocking off the likes of Northwestern, Arizona, among others, has provided motivation for the team.

“It’s always great to play against the best,” Persson said. “You get motivated to play harder.”

The tournament will not only provide a stern test for the Cyclones, but it will also serve as a homecoming for Martens.

Martens, then known as Christie Hermes, was a three-time golf letter winner for Northwestern from 1997-2000 and helped lead the Wildcats to their first NCAA Championship appearance in 2000. Her sister, Beth Miller, is also currently an assistant at Northwestern.

The Windy City Collegiate Classic will take place Oct. 6 and 7 from Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Ill. First round play Oct. 6 will begin at 7:30 a.m. CST.