Hamilton High loads up ASU women’s golf team

Both of Arizona’s Pac-12 representatives in women’s golf have a decidedly foreign flavor.  Arizona State‘s roster carries players from France, Colombia, Spain, and Australia.  The University of Arizona squad this year is peppered with players from France, Puerto Rico, and Spain.

That may help explain why both programs feature top-tier teams on the national level, which affords an ideal opportunity for local players to get a shot at playing for a nationally-prominent program without having to leave the state.

Arizona was ranked in the top 10 nationally throughout the 2012-13 season and wrapped up the year with a No. 9 finish at the NCAA Championships.  ASU, which has the most top-five finishes all-time with 16, posted its best team finish since 2010 by coming in fifth at the championships.

But getting recruited to those programs isn’t easy.  Last year, ASU had just one local high school grad on its roster and UofA had none.

ASU, which typically carries two or three local players, returns to that formula for the 2013-14 season by snatching up a pair of top prep competitors from the same Chandler school.

Mikayla Harmon and Saki Iida frin Hamilton High School will join returning senior, Nicole Jones from Horizon High School in Scottsdale to add the local flavor for the coming season. Jones was the Western States Golf Champion her senior year at Horizon and the Arizona Super Region Champion as a junior.

Harmon got a good look from the ASU recruiters when she won the Sunrise at ASU Tournament as a junior and then finished third last year in the state high school championships.  Iida won the Girls State Junior Golf Championship as a freshman and then had runner-up finishes the next two years.  As a senior, she was named an AWGA State Champion.

The third member of this recruiting class comes from Oregon.  Monica Vaughn is the youngest player in the 101-year history of the Oregon Women’s Amateur Championship to win the event, back when she was a freshman. She also won the Oregon Junior Amateur and was runner-up at the 2011 Oregon State Championship.

Arizona, too, has reached into the local talent pool for the coming season, but accomplished it by adding a transfer from Mesa Community College.  Shelby Martinek, a graduate of Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, attended Nebraska and MCC before stepping into the Wildcat program as a junior.

Martinek was named to the NJCAA All-Tournament Team after an 18th-place finish at last year’s junior-college championships.

While Arizona and Arizona State offer a chance to play on college golf’s biggest stage, there are other opportunities as well since Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff is a Division I school that plays in the Big Sky Conference, and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix will be making the transition from Division II to D-I in the fall.

NAU won the women’s Big Sky title this past year with a roster that includes four local prep stars: Laura Jabczenski (Catalina Foothills HS), Melissa Olson (Mountain View HS, Marana), and Darian Spivey (Mountain Pointe HS) – all who will return as juniors.  The lone senior from last season was Stephanie Kim from Desert Vista High.

GCU won the Pacific West Conference championship with three locals on board: Emily Kaye, a junior-to-be from Chaparral High; Kelsi Sanborn, a sophomore from Notre Dame Prep; and Cassidy Sanchez, a junior from Xavier Prep.

Arizona appears to have a winning formula for women’s golf.  Just mix in a little local talent.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)