Impact players: College golf's game-changers include transfers, world travelers and top juniors

Hannah O'Sullivan starts her freshman season at Duke after a year off chasing the best competition around the world. Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics.

Hannah O'Sullivan starts her freshman season at Duke after a year off chasing the best competition around the world. Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics.

The beauty of college golf is it’s a team sport. One player can’t win a team championship, but an infusion of talent can definitely shape a team’s season. Here are the best incoming players for some of the nation’s top teams:

1. Dylan Kim, Arkansas (junior)

One of the most powerful players in college golf, whose transition time should be minimal (as we saw when she arrived at Baylor in January 2014). Being in Fayetteville, Ark., will benefit her, too. There’s a distinct and well-traveled pipeline from Fayetteville to the LPGA tour (Arkansas is great at touting its #prohogs and helping up-and-coming players learn from those women), plus there’s the benefit of playing newly redesigned Blessings Golf Club every day. It’s a very challenging and very unique course that rewards placement. For a long hitter like Kim, it’s a place to hone the rest of the game.

2. Hannah O’Sullivan, Duke (freshman)

A level-headed up player with a wealth of experience (think six LPGA majors in the past year and a half). O’Sullivan took some heat to get back here, in the college-golf world, after starting down a professional path. There should be no doubt about her commitment, nor much question about how she’ll deal with the academic rigor of Duke. She had a rough go of the U.S. Women’s Amateur last month, finishing well outside the stroke-play cut with rounds of 83-81, but can certainly bring her game back into form for the college season.

3. Agathe Laisne, Texas (freshman)

Here’s a new name that became noteworthy after she won the European Ladies Amateur in July. Laisne, from France, could be one of the best international newcomers this year, and her match-play experience is really going to pay off if Texas gets in the match-play bracket. Then again, there’s a lot of golf to be played until then.

4. Patty Tavatanakit, UCLA (freshman)

She spent a good chunk of the summer No. 1 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings and No. 3 in the Rolex AJGA Ranking. She also finished third earlier this summer in the Rolex Girls Championship. Thailand is well-represented in women’s golf these days (think the Jutanugarn sisters on the LPGA tour) and Tavatankit could be the next.

5. Mika Liu, Stanford (freshman)

Liu has a vast array of competitive experiences entering her freshman season, and more importantly, experience winning. She was the 2014 Women’s Western Amateur and Southern Amateur champion, she won the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in 2014, too, and the 2015 AJGA Thunderbird. But the thing that really stands out about Liu is her quiet intensity. Her older brother Seiji played for Harvard and her older sister Marika played for Yale, so Mika was made to playing on this level while dealing with as much academic rigor as she’ll find at Stanford.

6. Kaitlyn Papp, Texas (freshman)

A dominating singles win for the U.S. in last month’s Junior Solheim Cup speaks well for the state of her game. Papp, from Austin, Texas, defeated Mathilde Claisse in 13 holes. She has been on the AJGA circuit for the better part of five years, even serving as a player rep in 2016. I’m expecting Texas to be tough this year, considering they’re adding both Laisne and Papp. It’s a good sign for Texas that head coach Ryan Murphy is keeping top players in state, like this one.

7. Alyaa Abdulghany, USC (freshman)

Abdulghany brings an infusion of spunk to a short USC roster. She’s the kind of future phenom you would expect to be a Trojan. Abdulghany lived in Malaysia until she was 6 years old, then moved to Newport Beach, Calif., with her family. She is intensely focused on her golf game, but leads a balanced life, too (among her off-the-course hobbies is guitar). She was on the Junior Ryder Cup and Junior Solheim Cup teams, and almost joined the USC roster last spring before deciding to stay on a traditional path and finish high school on the normal timeline.

8. Lois Kaye Go, South Carolina (sophomore)

At 18 years old, she’s still young for a college sophomore. Go, from the Philippines, arrived early at Boston College last season, qualified for NCAA Regionals as a freshman, then won the Women’s Porter Cup this summer. She also qualified for and played the U.S. Women’s Amateur for the first time. She’s improving, and she’s constantly finding better competition.

9. Emilia Migliaccio, Wake Forest (freshman)

A U.S. Junior Solheim Cup stalwart (she was 3-0 for the week) with a bright future. She also went 3-0 in the Junior Ryder Cup in 2016. That kind of record shows an extreme level of competition. After losing Sierra Brooks, Sierra Sims and Mathilda Cappeliez, Wake Forest needs some new blood.

10. Madison Moosa, Furman (freshman)

Furman coach Jeff Hull should get the award for best regional recruit with this player. Kudos to keeping Moosa, of Charlotte, N.C., in the Carolinas. Moosa’s resume is full of prestigious local titles like the 2015 Ballantyne Junior Open, the 2015 Carolina Junior Girls and the 2016 Junior Heritage. She should fit in nicely on the Lady Paladins’ roster, and there’s a need, too, considering the team graduated one of its best players, Taylor Totland, after last season.