There isn’t much that the Southern California women’s golf team hasn’t achieved in the 2018-2019 season.
A No. 1 national ranking. A Pac-12 title. Six other tournament victories.
As much of an individual sport the game of golf may be, the Trojans find team success by embracing competition within. Before almost every tournament, all 10 players on the roster are vying for five coveted spots.
Punahou’s Allisen Corpuz and Aiko Leong, as well as Kaiser’s Malia Nam, make up 30 percent of USC’s roster. The trio have been key contributors to the Trojans’ success and were also the subject of the Hawaii Grown feature in today’s edition of the Star-Advertiser.
“It’s just cool to be able to be on a team where we’re all super competitive with each other — we know we have to play really well for qualifying and what not but we’re also super close,” Leong said. “Just being able to share the wins together, we are all super happy for each when we do well. I just think that’s really cool and that’s definitely what the team experience is all about.
“We’re all genuinely really, really happy for each other when someone plays well or someone qualifies for a tournament or wins a tournament, or when our team wins a tournament.”
Leong started her collegiate career at Brigham Young but transferred after her freshman season in 2017 in hopes of growing her game under legendary coach Andrea Gaston, who left for Texas A&M last June. Despite Gaston’s departure, the team is thriving in Justin Silverstein’s first year at the helm. For Leong, the familiarity with friends already on USC’s campus as well as a friendship with Corpuz that goes back helped ease the transition.
“Allisen obviously, we’ve literally grown up together and been in the same school since we were five. We know each other really, really well from being teammates through high school,” Leong said. “For Malia, she and I are able to connect pretty well because we’re both from Hawaii, we both always talk about things we miss, our different experiences.”
Corpuz finished her prep career with an individual HHSAA title in 2016 at Wailua Golf Course. The Buffanblu also won the team title that year and have won 11 of the last 12.
Corpuz had a pair of top-20 finishes during her freshman season at USC. As a sophomore, she was a Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-American and earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention status and was a mainstay on the Trojans’ squad as just one of two players to compete in each tournament, finishing in the top ten four times.
This season, Corpuz earned Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors again after a fifth-place individual finish at the conference championships from April 15-17 in Palos Verdes, Calif., with a three-round total of even-par 213. She also made the cut at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, finishing in a tie for 17th with a three-round total of 3-over 219 from April 3-6. In between the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, she also plans to play in a US Women’s Open qualifier. In last year’s US Women’s Open, she barely missed the cut with a two-round total of 5-over 149. Because she played as an amateur, she still maintained her college eligibility.
Nam has had a stellar freshman season that earned her All-Pac-12 First Team honors. She’s had four top-seven finishes this season and has been selected to Team USA for the 2019 Arnold Palmer Cup from June 7-9 at The Alotian Club in Roland, Ark.
“I kind of had an idea of where I would stand on the team, but I didn’t expect to have all this success with USC,” she said. “We’ve won some tournaments and also winning Pac-12 will give us some good momentum heading into nationals. I knew coming to USC that there would be a lot of success because USC had such a good golf program already, but I’m glad to be a part of it.”
USC has earned the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and will compete in the Cle Elum regional in Washington from May 6-8. The top six teams from each 18-team regional will advance to the finals on May 17-22 at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.
As the Trojans seek their fourth national title, history is on their side after winning the Pac-12. Four of the last national team champions (Stanford in 2015, Washington in 2016, Arizona State in 2017 and Arizona in 2018) have come from the conference.
“I think we’re really trying to prepare in the same way,” Corpuz said. “We’ve just been focusing on taking one shot at a time and put in the right work to get the wins. I think we’re good enough if we go out there and play some good golf. It’ll all take care of itself.