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Michigan State's Valery Plata named Big Ten women's golfer of the year

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Like so many other teams around the nation, Michigan State’s golf season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that didn’t keep the Spartans from getting a record four golfers named to the All-Big Ten team, led by Golfer of the Year Valery Plata.

Plata, a sophomore, is the third Spartan in four years to earn the conference’s top honor, joining Sara Burnham, who was the Golfer of the Year in 2017 and 2018. She is the sixth Michigan State golfer to earn the award.

Valery Plata

“It’s a very exciting day for us to have four players earn All-Big Ten honors and for Valery to be named Player of the Year,” MSU coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. “Valery is an amazing young woman and had a breakout year. She finished in the top 20 of all but one tournament and winning the Tar Heel Invitational in the fall was an outstanding accomplishment. We’re really happy for Valery and this should put a smile on the faces of all those that follow Spartan golf.

“These awards go to show that the hard work, effort and dedication that these young women put into our program is appreciated.”

Senior Ally Geer-Park and junior Yurika Tanida also earned first-team honors while senior Paz Marfa Sans was named to the second team.

Plata led the Spartans with a 72.37 scoring average and began the fall season with a second-place finish in the Spartans’ home Mary Fossum Invitational. She followed that with her first career win at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational (Oct. 11-13) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, an event the Spartans also won as a team. Plata recorded the second-lowest 54-hole tournament total in school history with an 11-under-par 205 with rounds of 69, 68, and 68.

The native of Floridablanca, Colombia, finished no lower than 17th in the Spartans’ three spring tournaments, capped by a first-place finish in a duel vs. No. 9 Florida in early March.

Geer-Park, who had a 72.79 scoring average this season, ended her career with Michigan State as the all-team leader in scoring average at 72.87. The native of Brighton is the first player in program history to be a four-time first-team All-Big Ten honoree.

Tanida had the best year of her career as her 72.84 scoring average was nearly a stroke and a half lower than her sophomore year average. Tanida had three top-five finishes on the year and had the best finish of her career in the spring as she tied for second place at 7-under-par 209 at the UCF Challenge in Orlando.

Marfa Sans earned her third career All-Big Ten selection. Her 72.94 scoring average in 2019-20 was the second-lowest of her career and she had four top-10 finishes on the season, including her first-career tournament win as she claimed medalist honors at the home Mary Fossum Invitational with a 2-over-par 218.

2020 Big Ten women's golf awards

(Selected by Big Ten coaches)

Women’s Golf Big Ten Player of the Year: Valery Plata, Michigan State

Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Irene Kim, Northwestern

Mary Fossum Award: Kate Smith, Nebraska

All-Big Ten first team

►Priscilla Schmid, Indiana

►Valery Plata, Michigan State

►Allyson Geer-Park, Michigan State

►Ashley Kim, Michigan

►Kate Smith, Nebraska

►Kelly Sim, Northwestern

►Yurika Tanida, Michigan State

All-Big Ten second team

►Tristyn Nowlin, Illinois

►Irene Kim, Northwestern

►Virun Olankitkunchai, Maryland

►Brooke Riley, Northwestern

►Aneka Seumanutafa, Ohio State

►Paz Marfa Sans, Michigan State

►Kornkamol Sukaree, Illinois

►Hailey Borja, Michigan

►Sifat Sagoo, Purdue