Sept. 12, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The No. 22 Michigan State women's golf team, fresh off its best-ever finish at the NCAA Championships last season, opens the 2013-14 campaign this weekend (Saturday, Sept. 14; Sunday, Sept. 15) by hosting the 30th annual Mary Fossum Invitational at Forest Akers West Golf Course on the campus of MSU.
The Spartans return four starters from last season's team that placed a school-record ninth at the 2013 NCAA Championships last May in Athens, Ga.
Although MSU must replace All-American and 2013 Big Ten Golfer of the Year Caroline Powers, who graduated as the program's all-time leader in career scoring average, a trio of experienced seniors in Allyssa Ferrell, Liz Nagel and Christine Meier will anchor the starting lineup this year. Ferrell, Nagel and Meier all rank among the program's top 10 in career scoring average entering their final year and have earned All-Big Ten second-team honors during their careers. MSU also brings back juniors Trisha Witherby and Jenny Sritragul, who have a combined 23 starts in their first two seasons.
"It's a very exciting time for the program," said Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, who is entering her 17th year as head coach of the Spartans. "It's the beginning of another season and there's no better way to open than to honor Mary Fossum in our only home tournament. We looked really good in qualifying and it was close to determine who our top five were going to be this weekend. We certainly had a great summer with so many wonderful accomplishments. We expect nothing less than to strive for a Big Ten Championship this season and compete at nationals since we got into the top 10 last season."
In addition to MSU, the 15-team field for this year's Fossum Invitational includes Eastern Michigan, East Tennessee State, Ferris State, Florida International, Indiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Miami (Fla.), Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oakland, Ohio State, Oregon, Toledo and Western Michigan. Northwestern and Oregon also competed at the 2013 NCAA Championships.
The tournament begins Saturday with two rounds, starting at 9 a.m. The third and final round is set for Sunday at 8:30 a.m.; both days will be shotgun starts. Live scoring of the entire tournament will be available at golfstat.com. The format will be five players in the starting lineup for each team, with the top-four scores counting toward the team total.
The Spartans have won their home tournament seven out of the last 10 years, with victories in the 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 Mary Fossum Invitationals, and the 2006 Lady Northern Invitational. Overall, MSU has won the Mary Fossum Invitational nine times. Last year, the Spartans finished runner-up.
"It's always wonderful to have Mary here at the tournament with us," said Slobodnik-Stoll, who lettered three seasons under Fossum at MSU from 1991-94. "I say this every year, but it's nice to be able to go to tournaments and know who that person is that the tournament is named after. I try to explain that to our team when we go to tournaments, that obviously this person had a huge influence on how we do things today.
"Mary is one of the pioneers of women's golf. She's like part of my family - I talk to her almost every day. She's a really important person and my mentor, and she's the one who gave me the opportunity - without her, I wouldn't be here. I try and tell her that as much as I can. Knowing that we're one of the best teams in the country is truly because of her."
Michigan State will field one starting team for the tournament and nine players will compete as individuals. Ferrell will start in the No. 1 spot on Saturday for MSU, followed by junior Lindsey McPherson, Nagel, true freshman Kelly Grassel and Meier.
"It's always intense," said Slobodnik-Stoll on the qualifying. "With three seniors, that's three spots out of five. That's a good chunk of who's going to be travelling most likely. But every single person on the team is going to have to prove their spot, week in and week out, and they need to perform well. Certainly starting out at the Mary Fossum is good for us. The course is in beautiful shape and hopefully Mary can give us a trophy on Sunday. It's going to be a fun weekend for us."
Several Spartans had impressive summers, including Meier, who won the Michigan Women's Amateur for the second time in three years, qualified for match play at the U.S. Women's Amateur, tied for seventh at the Michigan PGA Women's Open, and advanced to the second stage of LPGA Qualifying.
Named to the All-Big Ten Second Team as a junior, Meier ranked third on the team with a career-low 75.69 scoring average and posted four top-20 finishes, including three in the top 10. She earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Championships team after placing a career-high third with a 4-over 220 (75-72-73).
Ferrell, Grassel and Nagel also qualified for match play at the U.S. Women's Amateur.
A native of Edgerton, Wis., Ferrell was a second-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior and ranked second on the team with a career-low 75.53 scoring average, including a career-best 76 birdies. During the summer, Ferrell also reached the round of 32 at the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship.
Ferrell owns a 76.53 scoring average through her first three seasons, which currently ranks ninth lowest in MSU history. She has collected nine top-20 finishes and five top-10 finishes, including a career-high fifth place at the 2013 Big Ten Championships.
Nagel's career average of 76.37 currently ranks seventh lowest in program history. As a junior, Nagel ranked fourth on the team with a 76.59 scoring average, including a career-best third-place performance at the Lady Buckeye Invitational. Nagel led the Spartans at the NCAA Central Regional by tying for 11th place, and her third-round 68 was a career low and tied for the second-lowest single round in MSU history.
Over the summer, Nagel claimed stroke-play medalist honors for the second straight year at the Michigan Women's Amateur and paired with Witherby to win the Women's Collegiate Team Championship.
McPherson, who qualified as the No. 2 starter in the lineup, won the Midwest Collegiate Amateur Series event at Forest Akers West in August, shooting a 148 (73-75). She also tied for 22nd place at the Michigan PGA Women's Open at Crystal Mountain Resort with a 222 (69-78-75), which was fifth best among amateurs.
"During the year you get so used to being with them every day, that in the summer, it's almost like you go through withdrawal," Slobodnik-Stoll said. "It's only a fleeting moment and it's just not the quality time that we get to spend with them on campus or on the road. It's nice to be around them every day again."
2013 MARY FOSSUM INVITATIONAL QUICK FACTS
TOURNAMENT: 30th annual Mary Fossum Invitational
HOST: Michigan State University
LOCATION: East Lansing, Mich.
DATES: Saturday, Sept. 14 - Sunday, Sept. 15
COURSE: Forest Akers West Golf Course
PAR/YARDAGE: 72 / 6,236
TEE TIMES: Shotgun start both days. Saturday at 9 a.m., Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
LIVE SCORING: Available at www.golfstat.com
FIELD (15): Eastern Michigan, East Tennessee State, Ferris State, Florida International, Indiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oakland, Ohio State, Oregon, Toledo, Western Michigan
TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Click here for Mary Fossum Invitational history
ABOUT MARY FOSSUM
Mary Fossum was the first and only head coach in the history of Spartan women's golf prior to 1997, coaching from 1973 until her retirement. For 17 of those years, Fossum was part of a unique coaching pair as her husband, Bruce, coached the MSU men's team for 25 seasons before his retirement in 1989.
Under Fossum's guidance, the Spartans won an unprecedented five straight Big Ten titles from 1974-78 and played in six consecutive AIAW National Championships (1973-78). The Spartans regained the conference crown in 1982 and played in the 1982 and 1984 NCAA Championships. MSU claimed its third conference runner-up spot under Fossum at the 1987 Big Ten Championship.
Those accomplishments led to recognition of Fossum as one of the country's best collegiate golf coaches. She was honored as the first-ever NCAA Midwest Region Coach of the Year in 1984 and was inducted into the Golf Coaches Hall of Fame in 1988. In 1999, Michigan State's annual fall women's golf tournament was renamed the Mary Fossum Invitational. In January of 1998, Fossum was honored by the College Golf Foundation with the Rolex/Gladys Palmer Meritorious Service Award for outstanding service and contributions to collegiate women's golf. She was inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame on Sept. 27, 2003. In 2007, the Big Ten named its award for the women's golfer with the lowest stroke-average to par in a season the Mary Fossum Award.
A native of Green Bay, Wis., Fossum won the Wisconsin women's golf championship in 1945, 1946 and 1947. One of the many highlights of her career was her match-play victory over Mildred (Babe) Didrikson-Zaharias in the 1946 Women's Western Amateur semifinals. Fossum was inducted in 1990 into the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame, making her only the fifth woman to achieve that distinction.
Fossum also was involved at the national level, serving as a member of the NCAA golf committee which guides the national development and administration of women's collegiate golf.