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The Syllabus returns!

Back by popular demand (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) The Syllabus returns with my weekly look at the world of college golf. Each Thursday I'll offer some highlights from the past week and a primer for the week ahead.

Questions and comments are always welcomed.

Without further ado ... here we go for 2011-12.

My look at the top five teams in the country right now

Auburn logo.gif1. Auburn
A victory at the Carpet Capital Classic (with Blayne Barber missing at the Walker Cup and coach Nick Clinard watching him over across the pond) is a nice statement for the Tigers. They they followed it up with a T-2 at Olympia Fields. It's early, but it never hurts to get off to a good start.
Next event: Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate, Old Overton Club, Vestavia Hills, Ala., Oct. 3-4

Stanford logo 2008-09.gif2. Stanford
Top-five finishes from Patrick Rodgers (medalist in his first college start), Andrew Yun and Cameron Wilson helps Cardinal record impressive victory at Olympia Fields. It was a weird year in 2010-11 for Conrad Ray's group, where talent never materialized into team success. First tourney suggests it's not likely to be repeated in 2011-12.
Next event: The Prestige at PGA West, PGA West, LaQuinta, Calif., Oct. 9-10

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif3. UCLA
Only Gregor Main is missing from the lineup that claimed the No. 1 seed at the NCAA Championship last June. Lots of experience is why the Bruins were No. 1 in the Golf World/Nike Golf preseason coaches' poll ... that and some guy named Patrick Cantlay.
Fall opener: The Jack Nicklaus Invitational, Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio, Oct. 10-11

Oklahoma State logo.jpg4. Oklahoma State
Finished T-2 at Olympia Fields even with senior All-American Peter Uihlein finishing last among the five starters. Could be a good sign that the new guys looking to pick up for departed All-Americans Morgan Hoffmann and Kevin Tway might make the transition more smoothly (and quickly) than expected.
Next event: Golfweek Conference Challenge, Spirit Hollow GC, Burlington, Iowa, Sept. 25-27

Arkansas.gif5. Arkansas
Western Amateur champion Ethan Tracy let his solid victory this summer carry over as he helped the Razorbacks claim the team title at the Gopher Invitational with a fifth-place individual showing. Austin Cook and Sebastian Cappelen also carded T-6 finishes to suggest that Brad McMakin's crew might have some depth.
Next event: Golfweek Conference Challenge, Spirit Hollow GC, Burlington, Iowa, Sept. 25-27


UCLA logo 2008-09.gif1. UCLA
The Bruins begin their NCAA title defense this weekend looking like they have a deeper squad than a year ago. They'll have a chance to  show it in the opener as Stephanie Kono and Brianna Do are AWOL playing in the second stage of LPGA Qualifying School. Tiffany Lua and Lee Lopez can provide the leadership and freshmen Erynne Lee and Kyle Roig will get to show what they've got. 
Fall opener: Mason Rudolph Fall Preview, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 23-25

USC logo.gif2. USC
Sophia Popov
and Lisa McCloskey provide a great 1-2 combo and freshman Kristen Park could challenge them as she makes her college debut this week in Tennessee. Consistency has been USC's biggest asset in recent years and will be needed again in 2011-12.
Fall opener: Mason Rudolph Fall Preview, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 23-25

LSU logo.gif3. LSU
Second straight year the Tigers have started their fall campaign in impressive fashion, claiming the title at the Cougar Classic with Austin Ernst running away with medalist honors. Only question as to whether Karen Bahnsen's team can hang with national elite is how the young back-end of her lineup holds up, particularly with a roster that right now has just six players.
Next event: Mason Rudolph Fall Preview, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 23-25

Alabama logo.gif4. Alabama
Not quite the start the Crimson Tide wanted in 2011-12, finishing T-7 at the Cougar Classic, but this group has too much experience in Brooke Pancake, Jennifer Kirby and Stephanie Meadow not to bounce back. With the exception of nationals last year, this Alabama group tends to step up in bigger events, which should bode well this weekend in Tennessee.
Next event: Mason Rudolph Fall Preview, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 23-25

North Carolina logo 2008-09.gif5. North Carolina
OK, I'm buying the Tar Heels early here after their second-place showing at the Cougar Classic. Held off several ranked opponents for the solid finish (and this with their top senior, Catherine O'Donnell finishing T-44). They can go a long way to proving they're legit this weekend at the Preview.
Next event: Mason Rudolph Fall Preview, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 23-25

Number (estimated) of bees that overtook the 18th green at Waterchase GC during the final round of the UTA-Waterchase Invitational. The swarm emerged when a large limb broke off a tree near the green, exposing the bees that were living in the tree. Texas-Arlington officials decided to cancel the final round (some players had completed six holes) upon the advice of a beekeeper that was brought in to investigate the infestation. Wichita State won the shortened 36-hole event.

Here is a local TV report from a Fox affiliate about the buzzworthy event at the Fort Worth club:

70,000 Bees End Golf Tournament:

Score posted by USC senior Steve Lim during his first round of qualifying at L.A. North Sept. 12. It broke the course record  (63, set previously by UCLA's Patrick Cantlay) and put him in good shape to make the travel team heading to Kikkor Husky Invitational this week.


Tweet of the Week (9-22-2011).jpg—AKA LSU's Austin Ernst, the reigning NCAA individual champion

With all this realignment stuff going on, is there any way Baltimore can get out of the American League East?

PughRhys5345b (Web).jpg* I'm curious to watch freshman Rhys Pugh as he makes his debut this week for East Tennessee State at the Inverness Intercollegiate. Already we've seen freshman Justin Thomas from Alabama and Patrick Rodgers from Stanford win tournaments in their debut. After watching Pugh, a 17-year-old from Wales, perform exceptionally at Scotland's Royal Aberdeen, going 3-0 in helping the victorious Great Britain & Ireland team claim the Walker Cup, I think he could have a similar start. Pugh is soft-spoken, almost shy, and there might be a bit more of a acclimation period for him than the other stand-out Americans in this year's college freshmen class simply because he's coming from overseas, but he's got the game to make a impact quickly for ETSU, not unlike another Rhys that the coach Fred Warren had in Johnson City (Rhys Davies).

* It's way too early to declare this year's NCAA women's title race to be a two-team affair, but I'll be interested to see how UCLA and USC come out of the gate at the Mason Rudolph Fall Preview this weekend. The Bruins have won twice at the Vanderbilt Legends Club (2007, 2008) and Trojans have won once (2009), so the trip East shouldn't been too taxing on the teams. Both would appear to have the deepest lineups in the country and could make statements with success starts in at the same course where the NCAA Championship will be held next May.

The spoilers here are obvious: LSU, winner of the event in 2010, claimed the Cougar Classic title earlier this month to pick up some early season momentum. Meanwhile, Alabama looked a bit flat at the Cougar, but the Crimson Tide have the experience to bounce back nicely.

Ultimately it's dangerous to read too much into a tournament that's seven-plus months away from nationals, but if Los Angeles programs are atop the leader board by day's end Sunday, a ominous tone may have been signaled for the 2011-12 season.   

Mason Rudolph Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Vanderbilt Legends Club (South Course), Franklin, Tenn.
Sept. 23-25
Host: Vanderbilt
Field: Akron, Belmont, College of Charleston, Davidson, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Samford, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Western Carolina
Defending champion: Memphis (-10/842) by two strokes over South Carolina; Memphis' Jack Belote (-8/205) by one stroke over South Carolina's Blaine Woodruff
Skinny: First time the school is hosting the event since Rudolph's death in April.

Golfweek Conference Challenge
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Spirit Hollow GC, Burlington, Iowa
Sept. 25-27
Field: Arkansas, Ball State, California, Chattanooga, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Kennesaw State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, North Texas, Oklahoma State, S.E. Louisiana, Tulsa, UC Irvine, Xavier
Defending champion: Iowa (-31/833) by 15 strokes over N.C. State; Iowa's Vince India and Chris Brant (-10/206) co-medalists
Skinny: Third year for the event and no doubt its best field with two teams that already have wins in 2011-12 (Arkansas, California) and two perennial powers (Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech)

Inverness Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
Sept. 26-27
Host: Toledo
Field: East Tennessee State, Florida, Kent State, Kentucky, Liberty, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, South Alabama, Toledo
Defending champion:
Skinny: First time Rockets have hosted an event at the renowned course since fall 2008 (Ping Preview).

Cardinal Intercollegiate
The Cardinal Club, Simpsonville, Ky.
Sept. 26-27
Host: Louisville
Field: UALR, Austin Peay State, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Dayton, DePaul, Eastern Kentucky, Francis Marion, Illinois State, Kansas, Louisville, Marshall, Marquette, Morehead State, Murray State, Rutgers, Wisconsin
Defending champion: Miami (Ohio) (-7/857) by three strokes over Illinois State; Marshall's Aaron Boggs (-6/210) by one stroke over Kennesaw State's Jeff Karlsson
Skinny: Tournament should help a few teams get back into the swing of things.

VCU Shootout
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Hermitage CC, Manakin-Sabot, Va.
Sept. 26-27
Host: VCU
Field: Charlotte, East Carolina, Iowa State, James Madison, Maryland, North Carolina, Old Dominon, Richmond, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Wichita State, VCU
Defending champion: UNC Wilmington (-2/862) by one stroke over Wake Forest; Iowa State's Nate McCoy (-8/208) by 1 over UNC-Greensboro's Robert Hoadley
Skinny: Solid field with seven teams that played in last year's NCAA Championships

Fighting Irish Gridiron Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Warren GC, South Bend, Ind.
Sept. 26-27
Host: Notre Dame
Field: Eastern Michigan, Georgetown, Houston, Lamar, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota, Missouri, Notre Dame, St. Mary's (Calif.), San Francisco, Texas-Arlington, Villanova
Defending champion: Iowa (+13/853) by six strokes over Notre Dame; San Francisco's Ji Hwan Park and Taylor Travis (-2/208) co-medalists
Skinny: Players in the field will be given blue ribbons to wear in support of colon cancer awareness. The disease took the life of ND coach Jim Kubinski in 2005.

Kikkor Golf Husky Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Gold Mountain GC (Olympic Course), Bremerton, Wash.
Sept. 26-27
Host: Washington
Field: BYU, Fresno State, Gonzaga, Long Beach State, Oregon, Oregon State, Pacific, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Santa Clara, SMU, Texas A&M, UC Davis, USC, Washington, Washington State
Defending champion: Pepperdine (-17/847) by seven strokes over Washington; Pepperdine's Josh Anderson (-10/206) by four strokes over Pepperdine's Andrew Putnam
Skinny: Event did a fantastic job of promoting pace of play initiatives a year ago, with the average time for each of the three rounds being no longer than 4 hours, 17 minutes. Texas A&M's Cameron Peck and Idaho's Jarred Bossio both shot closing-round 63s while playing in 4:03. Expect more of the same this year in terms of making the push to play faster.

Mason Rudolph Fall Preview
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Vanderbilt Legends Club (North Course), Franklin, Tenn.
Sept. 23-25
Host: Vanderbilt
Field: Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, California, Duke, Florida, Georgia, LSU, North Carolina, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tulane, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia
Defending champion (Mason Rudolph): LSU (-21/843) by two strokes over Purdue;  California's Pia Halbig (-13/203) by three strokes over Wake Forest's Michelle Shin
Skinny: Schools get early look at the course that will host the NCAA Championship next May. Will be playing at par 72, 6,451 yards

Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
U. of New Mexico Championship GC, Albuquerque
Sept. 25-26
Host: New Mexico
Field: Baylor, Campbell, Colorado, Colorado State, Denver, Iowa, Iowa State, New Mexico, North Texas, Northern Arizona, Northwestern, Pepperdine, San Diego State, San Jose State, TCU, UNLV, UTEP, Wyoming
Defending champion: Oregon (+5/881) by two strokes over Ohio State; Oregon's Erica Omlid (-8/211) by one stroke over Ohio State's Rachel Rohanna
Skinny: Lobos host tournament for the 32nd time since the event became a separate tournament from the women's division of the William H. Tucker Invitational that the UNM men's team hosts.

Badger Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
University Ridge GC, Madison, Wis.
Sept. 25-26
Host: Wisconsin
Field: Bucknell, Delaware, Drake, Georgetown, Illinois State, Illinois-Chicago, North Dakota State, SMU, Wisconsin
Defending champion: Wisconsin (+15/879) by two strokes over Augusta State; Wisconsin's Carly Werwie (-3/213) by two strokes over Xavier's Audrey Fellmeth
Skinny: Hometown Badgers set a 18- (-6/282) and 54-hole school and tournament records a year ago in the event.
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