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Taking Stock 2020: How Arizona women’s golf is looking under coach Laura Ianello

arizona-wildcats-laura-ianello-womens-golf-contract-extension-ncaa-salary-alumni-heeke-2021 Photo by Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

We haven’t had college sports for more than four months now due to the coronavirus pandemic, making this the longest offseason ever. Literally, not just figuratively.

And who knows when they’ll ever resume. The Pac-12 has already made adjustments to fall sports, eliminating non-conference competition, and it’s entirely possible more chances will be made in the near future.

Nevertheless, now is as good a time as ever to take a look at each of the Arizona Wildcats’ 19 different men’s and women’s programs to see what shape they’re in and what prospects they have for the near future.

To help prepare you for the 2020-21 seasons of Arizona’s 19 different men’s and women’s programs, over the next few weeks we’ll break down each team and evaluate how it is performing under its current coaching staff, looking at the state of the program before he/she arrived and comparing it to now (as well as looking at this season and beyond).

NOTE: The information in the ‘before’ section has been repurposed from last year’s series to provide continuity.

Next up: Laura Ianello’s women’s golf squad.

How it looked before

Women’s golf has consistently been one of Arizona’s best programs both in terms of individual and team results, routinely finishing at or near the top of the Pac-10/12 and regularly making the NCAA championships while also producing numerous professionals. Ianello, a former Wildcat standout (and member of the 2000 NCAA title team) joined the program in 2007 as the top assistant for head coach Debbie Haywood, who was in her first year in charge after serving as the top assistant under Greg Allen the previous three seasons.

Haywood’s contract was not renewed after the 2009-10 season, despite Arizona winning the conference title and taking first in the NCAA West Regionals. Ianello and men’s golf coach Rick LaRose piloted the Wildcats at the NCAA championships, where they placed fifth, and not long after Ianello was handed the keys to the program.

Where things stand now

Ianello has been at the helm for nine seasons now, the longest tenure since Kim Haddow was head coach for 12 seasons (1984-95). Under contract through the 2023 season, she made $130,000 in 2019-20 which feels like a bargain considering the results she’s produced.

Arizona won the 2018 NCAA title and reached the semifinals in 2019, falling to eventual national champion Duke. The most recent squad was primed for another deep postseason run before the season was canceled in mid-March, having won their own Wildcat Invitational for the first time since 2016 just before things were halted.

Vivian Hou was named WCGA Freshman of the Year, also earning All-American honors after averaging 70.68 strokes per round. She was part of a youth movement for the Wildcats, as 45 of 98 rounds were played by freshmen. Her older sister Yu-Sang Hou, a junior, was named a Second Team All-American. Sophomore Ya Chun Chang was an All-American honorable mention.

There was only one senior on the team, Sandra Nordaas, but she’s set to be replaced by Maya Benita, a Tucsonan who won the Division 2 state championship in November.

One big question

When will they play? Golf is a sport that runs nearly the entire school year, as last season’s schedule began in mid-September with the first of five fall tournaments. Action resumed in early February and would have run into late May had it not been interrupted.

As it stands right now there is no public schedule for women’s golf, which isn’t a surprise since none of the program’s student-athletes have returned to campus. Thankfully, this is a sport that—at least in Arizona—can be played at any point of the year, so schedule adjustments won’t be as disruptive as in others.

There’s no reason Arizona can’t compete for a national championship when/if things get started.