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The Syllabus: Back to school

By Ryan Herrington

If you weren't already excited for the start of the 2012-13 season, this past week should have gotten you fired up as several of the marquee men's and women's teams played their opening tournaments of the fall. More intriguing is the fact that, particularly on the men's side, the top-ranked programs came out swinging. Texas' victory at the Carpet Capital and California's win at the Gopher Invitational sets up some interesting storylines for the coming months.

If not for the World Amateur Team Championship later this month—which has caused many programs to put together truncated or jagged fall schedules because they'll have players heading over to Turkey—I think the fall season might be the most anticipated since I started covering the beat in 1998. Even so, it's hard not to be looking forward to some of the bigger tournaments on the fall slate, particularly the NCAA preview tournaments at the University of Georgia GC in Athens, Ga., and Capital City Club in Atlanta, where the exciting season will eventually culminate.

With that, here is the first 2012-13 edition of The Syllabus, my weekly overview of what's going on in the world of college golf.


THE FAB FIVE
My look at the top five teams in the country right now

Texas logo.jpeg1. Texas
Seems like old times for the Longhorns—or at least a lot like 2011-12—as the team storms to victory at the Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic. As I wrote for Golf World Monday, I think the win is big because of the message it sends not to other top programs but to John Fields' team itself. Perhaps there was worry with Dylan Frittelli graduating and Jordan Spieth eyeing PGA Tour Q school that this team might be solid enough to repeat. Incoming freshman Brandon Stone, medalist at The Farm, helps replenish a still solid lineup.  
Next event: Ping/Golfweek Preview, Capital City Club, Atlanta, Sept. 23-25

Cal logo.gif2. California
It was easy to get excited about the Bears after they reached the NCAA semifinals last June and then had seemingly their entire roster reach match play at last month's U.S. Amateur. That said, to come out strong and win the Gopher Invitational earlier this week in their fall opener speaks to how motivated a group Steve Desimone has in Berkley.
Next event: Ping/Golfweek Preview, Capital City Club, Atlanta, Sept. 23-25

Alabama logo.gif3. Alabama
A third-place finish at the Carpet Capital would have pretty good if not for the even more impressive starts from Texas and California. Still, the Crimson Tide's start to the 2012-13 season was promising as Jay Seawell begins to pace his squad for the upcoming year. Even if their fall record is rough (they'll likely be without Justin Thomas at the Preview because of the World Amateur in Turkey), this group is in it for the long run.
Next event: Ping/Golfweek Preview, Capital City Club, Atlanta, Sept. 23-25

Florida logo.gif4. Florida
The Gators win at the Invitational at the Ocean Course was impressive for how well they played on a difficult track (yep it was Kiawah Island's Ocean Course) and how much they won by (24 strokes). The strength of the field left something to be desired, but the effort was impressive as T.J. Vogel continues to show he's one of the country's top collegians and that Tyler McCumber's runner-up showing at NCAAs last June wasn't a fluke either.
Next event: Olympia Fields/Illini Invitational, Olympia Fields CC, Olympia Fields, Ill., Sept. 30-Oct. 2

Washington 2012-13.jpeg5. Washington
The folks in Seattle have a laid-back vibe that helps them get through what's otherwise a long season without feeling burned out. It doesn't work for everybody, but Matt Thurmond uses it very effectively with his group. Chris Williams and Cheng-Tsung Pan can carry the squad at times if need be but they have teammates more than capable of shouldering the load and getting this team back to match play at NCAAs come June.
Fall opener:
Kikkor Golf Husky Invitational, Gold Mountain GC, Bremerton, Wash., Sept. 17-18

 

Women
Florida logo.gif1. Florida
I don't really know how good the Gators are or are not, but I do know they beat a quality field to win the Cougar Classic by six strokes in their fall opener earlier this week, a pretty impressive debut for new coach Emily Bastel. Meanwhile, Camila Hedberg's medalist run (13-under 203) hints that the Spaniard isn't likely to have a sophomore slump.
Next event: Dale McNamara Invitational, GC of Oklahoma, Broken Arrow, Okla., Sept. 17-18

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif2. UCLA
Depth remains the Bruins' strength as 2012-13 begins, which will be important considering senior Tiffany Lua's sore wrist, which forced her to withdraw at the U.S. Women's Amateur last month, appears to be a lingering issue. Fifth-year senior Lee Lopez and sophomore Erynne Lee are quite capable of taking the lead until Lua returns to full form.   
Fall opener: Golfweek Conference Challenge, Red Sky GC, Vail, Colo., Sept. 24-26

Alabama logo.gif3. Alabama
Well, now, that was a bit unexpected. The Crimson Tide finished 25 strokes out of first, settling for eighth place at the Cougar Classic, not the most impressive way to begin your NCAA title defense. (The last time Alabama finished this low in a regular-season tournament was in April 2010 at the Ping/ASU Invitational.) Of course it's too early to really have any long-term concerns; my guess is it serves as a nice motivator for coach Mic Potter during practices in Tuscaloosa the next few weeks.   
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7

Duke logo.gif4. Duke
There is more genuine excitement coming out of Durham this fall for this Blue Devils squad than any since the mid-2000s with the arrival of freshmen Celine Boutier and Yi Ashley Xiao providing backup for senior standout Lindy Duncan. The runner-up showing at the Cougar Classic didn't do anything to dampen it.
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7

USC logo.gif5. USC
The Trojans deserve credit for making the trip east to start their fall season, and while their final-round performance at the Cougar Classic wasn't likely what coach Andrea Gaston hoped for (seven-over 295), a third-place showing is a nice way to start the season with three players (Sophia Popov, Doris Chen and Kyung Kim) posting top-15 finishes. 
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7



STAT OF THE WEEK
0
Number college golfers competing in this week's Ricoh Women's British Open. Alabama junior Stephanie Meadow had qualified for women's major by virtue of her victory at the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship in June but decided not to compete because of a harried fall schedule. The native of Northern Ireland was in the U.S. this last week, playing for the Crimson Tide as they opened their fall season but will be heading to Turkey in the coming days to compete in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship.  
 

TWEET OF THE WEEK
Tweet of the week (9-13) Tulane.jpg
Devon is Devon Walker, the Tulane football player injured during the school's football game against Tulsa last weekend. Walker fractured his cervical vertebrae and has been on the minds of all the athletes and students at the school. The Green Wave women's team played with that emotion at the Old Waverly Bulldog Invitational, where Gemma Drysburg claimed medalist honors, her first college victory. The team finished second to Kentucky.


RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

Went to a baseball stadium recently and they listed the calories next to all the food and drinks that were serving. I know it was trying to be helpful in terms of making good eating choices, but all it did was not make me buy any food.


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Isabelle Lendl.jpg* As impressive as Camila Hedberg's performance was at the Cougar Classic, it was the performance of another Florida player that caught my attention. Senior Isabelle Lendl arrived in Gainesville as a highly touted junior golfer with the potential to be a break-out college golfer. Her career to date has yet to live up to the expectations (a solid freshman season was followed by disappointing sophomore and junior campaigns) but her fifth-place finish in the fall opener hints that maybe this could be the year she puts things together. It was her best showing since finishing fifth at the Liz Murphey Collegiate in April 2011.


SMU logo.jpg* There has been lots of curiosity over how the SMU men might fair as they started three freshmen in their first fall event, the Gopher Invitational. Suffice it to say, the hype around the Mustangs might be warranted as the squad pulled off a second-place finish against a field that included five teams ranked in the Golf World/Nike Golf top 25. Rookies Bryson Dechambeau (fifth), Ryan Burgess (T-9) and Austin Smotherman (T-12) all had top-15 finishes. SMU's next test comes at the Olympia Fields/Illini Invitational Sept. 30-Oct. 2.


Women's Golf Coaches Association logo.jpg* There's a new acronym we all need to learn: WGCA. The Women's Golf Coaches Association is the new name for the National Golf Coaches Association per an announcement this morning. The name change coincides with the organization preparing to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. A new logo and website (www.wgcagolf.com) were also launched.

Along with being a way to rebrand the association, the name change was hoped to eliminate any confusion between the group that includes coaches who oversee women's golf programs from the Golf Coaches Association of America, which consists of coaches that oversee men's programs.    


TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN
Tar Heel Intercollegiate
  (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
UNC Finley GC, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Sept. 15-16
Host: North Carolina
Field: Boston College, Charlotte, Duke, East Carolina, East Tennessee State, Furman, Gardner Webb, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, Virginia Commonwealth
Skinny: Second-year coach Andrew Sapp decided the Tar Heels had too nice a course near campus not to host an event, so he decided to showcase with a fall tournament similar to the UNC women's program.

Wolf Run Intercollegiate
Wolf Run GC, Zionsville, Ind.
Sept. 15-16
Host: Indiana
Field: Akron, Butler, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, IPFW, IUPUI, Kentucky, MIami (Ohio), Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Texas Tech, Wisconsin
Defending champion (2010): Illinois (+7/859) by 19 strokes over Ball State and UCF; UCF's Connor Arendell (-5/208) by four strokes over Ball State's Eric Steger
Skinny: After a one-year hiatus, the tournament returns to the fall schedule. Only once in five playings has a Big Ten squad not won the team title (2006, Kentucky)

Golfweek Conference Challenge
Spirit Hollow GC, Burlington, Iowa
Sept. 16-18
Host: Iowa
Field: Ball State, Campbell, Central Arkansas, Florida Gulf Coast, Iowa, Jacksonville State, Kansas, Long Beach State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Missouri, San Francisco, San Jose State, Tulsa, Wake Forest, Xavier
Defending champion: Arkansas (-5/859) by seven strokes over Chattanooga; Chattanooga's  Stephan Jaeger (-7/209) by one stroke over Arkansas' Josh Eure
Skinny: Fourth-year tournament pits one school from 15 different conferences.

Kikkor Golf Husky Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Gold Mountain GC, Bremerton, Wash.
Sept. 17-18
Host: Washington
Field: Arizona State, BYU, Gonzaga, Loyola (Md.), Minnesota, Oregon, Pacific, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Seattle, St. Mary's (Calif.), Texas A&M, UC Davis, Washington, Washington State
Defending champion: Washington (+5/293) by six strokes over Fresno State and Washington State; Washington's Chris Williams (-3/69) by two strokes over Washington State's Jarrett Foote, Pepperdine's Josh Anderson and Washington State's Trent Sanders
Skinny: Fun tournament played at one of the Pacific Northwest's hidden gems at Gold Mountain.

Inverness Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio
Sept. 17-18
Host: Toledo
Field: Florida State, Kent State, Liberty, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, North Texas, Penn State, Toledo, USF
Defending champion: Kent State (+3/287) by four strokes over Liberty; Toledo's Dugan Murphy (-5/66) by four strokes over Kent State's Taylor Pendrith and Florida's T.J. Vogel
Skinny: Last year's return of the event after a four-year hiatus was hampered by rain, with the tournament cut to just one round. It was the first time that a Midwestern program actually won in eight playings of the event dating back to 2000.


WOMEN
Mary Fossum Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Forest Akers (West), Lansing, Mich.
Sept. 15-16
Host: Michigan State
Field: Bowling Green State, Eastern Michigan, Ferris State, Kent State, Louisiana-Monroe, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Oakland, No. 22 Purdue, Texas State, Toledo, Western Michigan
Wisconsin
Defending champion: Michigan State (+28/892) by 15 strokes over Ohio State; Michigan State's Caroline Powers (+1/217) by four strokes over Michigan's Yugene Lee
Skinny: The Spartans have been "rude" hosts of last in the Fossum, winning the team title six of the last seven years and seven of the last nine (including when MSU hosted the Lady Northern instead of the Fossum).

Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
U. of New Mexco Championship GC, Albuquerque
Sept. 17-18
Host: New Mexico
Field: No. 20 Baylor, BYU, No. 16 Colorado, Colorado State, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, New Mexico, Northwestern, Ohio State, No. 24 Pepperdine, San Diego State, TCU, UC Davis, UNLV, UTEP, Wyoming
Defending champion: Baylor (+11/887) by four strokes over Denver and TCU; New Mexico's Sofia Hoglund (-3/216) by one stroke over Baylor's Hayley Davis
Skinny: The event was first held in 1979 after women's teams competed at the UNM's William Tucker Invitational from 1956 to 1978. Seven times since the McGuire's inception, the winning school has gone on to claim the NCAA title.

Dale McNamara Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
GC of Oklahoma, Broken Arrow, Okla.
Sept. 17-18
Host: Tulsa
Field: No. 4 Arizona State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Augusta State, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, No. 9 Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kennesaw State, Marshall, Middle Tennessee State, No. 21 Oklahoma State, SMU, UT-San Antonio, Tulsa
Defending champion: Oklahoma State (+4/868) by five strokes over Arizona State; Arizona State's Giulia Molinaro (-6/210) by four strokes over Oklahoma State's Jayde Panos
Skinny: Tournament honors the Hall-of-Fame coach who guided the Golden Hurricane women's team for 26 years and claimed two NCAA team titles and two AIAW titles.

Oregon State Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Trysting Tree GC, Corvalis, Ore.
Sept. 17-18
Host: Oregon State
Field: Boise State, CSU-Northridge, Eastern Washington, Gonzaga, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Northern Arizona, Portland State, Oregon State, San Francisco, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Utah Valley, Washington, Washington State, Weber State
Skinny: It's the first time the Beavers have hosted a regular-season home tournament since 2006. Coach Rise Alexander says it host this event in fall 2013 as well as the school prepares to hold the Pac-12 Championship in spring 2014.
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