As is starting to become the norm in the women’s game, the Annika Award Watch List may have a surprisingly different look from the fall to the spring.
Several top contenders for the award, including Stanford standouts Andrea Lee and Albane Valenzuela and Florida State’s Frida Kinhult, are playing LPGA Q-School and could turn pro before the spring. Of course, there is the option now to defer, so maybe some will go that route like Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho and Arkansas’ Maria Fassi did last season. (Fassi went on to win the Annika Award while Kupcho finished second in voting.)
The Annika Award presented by Stifel is awarded annually to the most outstanding women’s college golfer, as voted on by players, coaches and media. Past winners of the Annika Award include Leona Maguire, Alison Lee and Maria Fassi.
Here is a preseason ranking of the top 25 contenders heading into the fall:
1. Frida Kinhult, Soph., Florida State: Topped the Annika Award Watch List for much of last season before ultimately finishing third behind Fassi and Kupcho. She’s added length this summer and could rack up several victories.
2. Andrea Lee, Sr., Stanford: The current top-ranked women’s amateur in the world, Lee has six wins in her first three years with the Cardinal. She also recently advanced to the semifinals at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
3. Albane Valenzuela, Sr., Stanford: Coming off her second runner-up showing at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Valenzuela is capable of winning more this season than in her first three combined (two).
4. Emilia Migliaccio, Jr., Wake Forest: With the players in front of her all exempt into the second stage of LPGA Q-School, there’s a chance Migliaccio could be the woman to beat come the spring.
5. Jennifer Chang, Jr., USC: The best player on the top-ranked team in the country, though could also leave midseason as she advanced to second stage of LPGA Q-School.
6. Sierra Brooks, Sr., Florida: A three-time winner in her first two seasons at Florids and last season’s NCAA individual runner-up, Brooks should only contend more often as a senior.
7. Kaitlyn Papp, Jr., Texas: The Longhorns have three returning first-team All-Americans and Papp (sixth) finished just ahead of her teammates in Golfstat’s rankings.
8. Gabriela Ruffels, Jr., USC: There is some belief that Ruffels should be higher after winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur, and there is definitely the possibility that Ruffels vastly improves on last season’s No. 26 ranking.
9. Jaravee Boonchant, Jr., Duke: Like Chang, she’s clearly the best player on a team full of talented players. There’s serious potential for Boonchant to be player of the year.
10. Olivia Meheffay, Sr., Arizona State: It will all depend on how she responds to hand surgery, which kept her sidelined all summer. But if healthy, she should lead what will be a very good Sun Devils squad.
11. Linn Grant, Fr., Arizona State
12. Gina Kim, Soph., Duke
13. Emma Spitz, Fr., UCLA
14. Hailee Cooper, Soph., Texas
15. Malia Nam, Soph., USC
16. Agathe Laisne, Soph., Texas
17. Angelina Ye, Fr., Stanford
18. Yusang Hou, Jr., Arizona
19. Erica Shepherd, Fr., Duke
20. Pimnipa Panthong, Sr., Kent State
21. Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, Fr., South Carolina
22. Sofia Garcia, Jr., Texas Tech
23. Siyun Liu, Jr., Wake Forest
24. Caterina Don, Fr., Georgia
25. Kaleigh Telfer, Jr., Auburn