Playing in the most competitive collegiate conference for women’s golf has its challenges.
It also has its benefits.
“We get to play with some of the best golfers in the world,” says Kelli Kamimura, who is starting her ninth season as coach of Washington State’s women’s golf team. “The Pac-12 is tough. It’s definitely the powerhouse conference right now.”
Sixteen of the past 25 national championships have been won by Pac-12 schools, including current champ Arizona State, which in May set a Division I record with its eighth NCAA golf title. Two other Pac-12 teams also won trips to nationals last spring.
Washington State, which began fielding intercollegiate women’s golf teams in 1982, is holding up well against the pressure.
Last season, WSU women tied for second in the Cougar Cup and notched four top-5 finishes. On the individual side, junior Alivia Brown earned her second bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament in three years, becoming WSU’s first female golfer to secure multiple trips to regionals, and notched a career-best second place finish last fall in the Golfweek Conference Challenge.
“We made some really big strides,” says Kamimura, who as a collegiate player led the University of Washington to five tournament victories, two NCAA championship berths, and then spent six years as an assistant coach with national contender Pepperdine. “We’re really getting the program to where we want to see it going.”
That means getting creative.
Washington State is the only golf program in the Pac-12 that has to cope with the kind of extreme winter weather that shuts down courses for the entire season. The Cougars’ home course, Palouse Ridge Golf Club, is a great, challenging place to train and compete, says Kamimura, but it closes each fall.
The University has an indoor training facility with an artificial putting green and hitting bays, but is hoping to get some upgrades to remain competitive. The men’s and women’s teams also travel regularly to Clarkston, which sits in a warmer valley nearly an hour south of Pullman. And, they travel to Arizona to give players actual time on golf courses during the long winter break between fall and spring portions of the annual season.
Meanwhile, Pullman’s reputation within golf circles is growing.
Palouse Ridge is ranked among the top collegiate courses in the nation. It was the site of the Pac-12 women’s championship tournament in 2012 and the men’s conference championship in 2015. It’s set to host its second NCAA men’s regional in 2019, and its first women’s regional in 2020.
On the web
Game changer – Palouse Ridge Golf Club and water smarts