As the Alabama women’s golf team begins making its final preparations for the Lady Puerto Rico Classic held Feb. 10-12 at the Rio Mar Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, one question lingers at the back of all their minds: How are they going to play without Brooke Pancake?
Pancake was an invaluable asset to the Crimson Tide during her four-year career at Alabama. A four-time All-SEC selection and a three-time All-American, she is the most decorated player in the program’s history having also won the 2012 Honda Award as the top collegiate women’s golfer in the nation and numerous Academic All-American honors.
Pancake is best remembered for sinking a par-putt at last year’s NCAA Championships lifting the Tide to their first national championship in program history.
“[Pancake] brought a lot to the table, with her ability and her scores and what she meant to us academically,” head coach Mic Potter said. “She gave us a lot over her four-year time span.”
The team agreed that they won’t be able to replace Pancake coming into this season. However, there is one player that they are all very keen on: freshman Emma Talley.
Talley, a native of Princeton, Ky., has competed at a high-level for several years now. She has qualified for two U.S. Opens, having made the cut in 2012. She was a 2011 first-team Rolex Junior All-American and committed to the Tide in 2012 as the No. 1 recruit in America by Golfweek.
“We have a very good freshman this year, Emma Talley, who’s very talented, works really hard and brings a different aspect to the team than what Brooke might have brought,” junior Stephanie Meadow said. “I think a lot of us have a lot of confidence in her being able to score well in your freshman year fall is pretty impressive.”
Talley has already broken into the starting lineup, having played in each of the Tide’s three tournaments in the fall. She was the top individual performer in the team’s first tournament – the Cougar Classic – finishing tied for 14th.
Like Pancake and the players before them, the upperclassmen hope to set a good example for Talley and the rest of the underclassmen, Meadow said.
“We try to be a role model for the younger ones, because that’s what Brooke did for me and Camilla [Lennarth] the year before,” Meadow said. “If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be in this position now, so I just try and put myself in a position to help the younger ones come through.”
Talley will not be able to carry the team on her own. She is only one piece to the puzzle, and the team realizes it’s going to take a total team effort to get back to what they want to achieve.
“I think everyone is kind of stepping up in their spot. Obviously we’re going to miss Brooke, but I think we will all just work together to be better as a team,” senior Jennifer Kirby said. “It’s [about] doing the best each and every person can and if that ends up we win by one or we win by ten, we’ve left it all out there and done our best.
“I know that I’m getting better, I know Jenn’s getting better, [Talley’s] going to be great, Hannah [Collier]’s getting better,” Meadow said. “I think for the first time in a while, we really have a deep team. We have eight girls, [and] pretty much everyone on the team is pretty damn good. It makes us better, and it drives everyone else.”
Leading in today’s Crimson White: