Behind ‘Pim’ and ‘Koko,’ women golfers rank highest of any team in KSU history

Owen MacMillan

Two fall tournament championships have boosted the Kent State’s women’s golf team to the No. 3 ranking in the country.

This week’s ranking by Golfweek magazine is the highest for any KSU team in any sport in university history. The previous best was fifth by the women’s team in 2017, 2018 and spring 2019 and the men’s golf team in 2012. 

This fall’s women’s team also was ranked fifth in this week’s Women’s Golf Coaches Association rankings. 

First year coach Lisa Strom is happy to see her players recognized for their hard work.

“It is neat to see the fruits of their labor from this season,” Strom said. “It’s great to have that recognition, it brings a lot of pride back to the university.”

The Flashes won the 15-team Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire tournament in New Mexico by seven strokes Sept. 9-10 and beat beat 14 more teams to capture the Mercedes Benz Intercollegiate by five strokes in Knoxville, Tennessee, Sept. 16-17.

The team has been powered by an experienced lineup led by seniors Pimnipa Panthong, who is from Thailand and Karoline Stormo, a Norway native.

Stormo, the 16th-ranked golfer in the country, beat Panthong, ranked 23rd, in a playoff to win the Mercedes Benz tournament.

The players laughed during in interview Tuesday when they talked about about the one-hole playoff in Knoxville.

Panthong and Stormo were on the team van, eating Chick-fil-A, when they learned they had another hole left to play.

The team had already won the championship. But the two seniors would have a playoff against each other to decide who would take home the trophy.

Stormo won by a stroke, but Panthong was not upset.

“It was tough to have a playoff against your teammate, Panthong said. “I did not prepare for that, but it was a great experience. It was fun.”

“Pim” and “Koko,” as their teammates call them, are top contributors to the team’s success.

“They (Panthong and Stormo) are just able to do their own thing on the golf course,” first-year KSU coach Lisa Strom said. “They know what they need to do and they do it at an elite level.” 

Panthong and Stormo both enjoy freedom on the course and have enough experience to make good use of it.

“We know our own games pretty well, so we know what works for us, and we can kind of keep doing what we have done,” Stormo said.

Panthong also emphasized her appreciation of independence.

“I personally don’t like someone to control me or tell me what to do,” she said. “I just like to play my own game.”

The seniors say the team’s work ethic and experience explains its success.

“I think a big reason why we have played so well this year is we have four returners from last year,” Stormo said. “It’s just more experience overall, and we have two pretty good freshmen.”

Panthong praised freshman Caley McGinty, who has finished tied for fourth in both tournaments so far. McGinty is ranked 32nd in the country by Golfweek.

“I am glad she can adapt to college golf pretty fast,” Panthong said. “That is very good for our team.”

Being ranked third this early in the season is impressive, but Strom wants to take things one tournament at a time.

“Obviously the peak of the mountain for us is a national championship, but we can’t be thinking about that in September,” Strom said.

For now the team prepares for a tournament Oct. 7 in Medinah, Illinois.

Stormo and Panthong continue to push each other and practice hard, and though they sometimes compete directly they are complimentary of each other.

“Pim is very competitive,” Stormo said. “She does not like to lose, but she is very patient on the course. You can’t really tell is she is playing well or badly.”

Panthong turned to Karoline, who was sitting next to her.

“You are a great golfer, Koko,” Panthong said. “You are very competitive. You practice and work hard.”

After the interview, Pim and Koko grabbed their golf bags, hopped in a cart together and drove off onto the course.

Assistant coach Jenny Gleason watched.

“Well, we won’t see them for a while,” she said.