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The Syllabus: Everybody freeze

By Ryan Herrington

It's become a biennial tradition. Just as the college golf season gets rolling in the fall, along comes (at least in even numbered years) the World Amateur Team Championship, arguably the prestigious events in amateur golf worldwide, to cause a momentary pause in the action.

For college players to pass up on the opportunity to represent their countries and play for the Eisenhower (men's) or Espirito Santo (women's) trophies would be unthinkable. Given that, the schools for which they otherwise play tend to adjust their schedules so that they're not competing in college events with their best players out of the lineup. It's why, with the Women's WATC beginning today and running through Sunday, only one top-15 women's program is competing this week.

That would be UCLA, which in hindsight might have wished it passed on its invitation into the Golfweek Conference Challenge. With Erynne Lee (USA) and Kyle Roig (Puerto Rico) competing in Turkey, and Tiffany Lua sitting out because of her ailing wrist, coach Carrie Forsyth traveled to Colorado with only four players, two of whom (Jacquie LeMarr and Louise Ridderstorm) were making their college debuts. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the No. 2 team in the preseason Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll finished a distant ninth in the event.

Similarly, next week is quiet for the men's teams with as the WATC event takes place Oct. 4-7. And then we can resume our regularly scheduled programming.
THE FAB FIVE
My look at the top five teams in the country right now

Cal logo.gif1. California (Last week: 2)
It's early, and getting overly excited about a tournament result in September is risky. That said, the way the Golden Bears played in the final round to grab a share of the title at the Ping/Golfweek Preview Tuesday was rather impressive. A four-under 276 (with a 68 from Brandon Hagy and 69s from Max Homa and Michael Weaver) jumped the squad from T-3 to T-1 with Georgia Tech. It's the kind of finish that championship teams make.
Next event: Pac-12 Preview, Pumpkin Ridge GC, North Plains, Ore., Oct. 8-9

Texas logo.jpeg2. Texas (1)
Maybe you'd have liked to see one of the Longhorns' starting five finish in the top 15 at the Preview, but it's hard to find fault with the team's T-3 finish given the quality field competing at the Crabapple Course. Of course for those who were overly disappointed, UT has plenty of time to sharpen its collective games before its next start (thanks to the WATC).
Next event: Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, Isleworth CC, Windermere, Fla, Oct. 21-23

Washington 2012-13.jpeg3. Washington (3)
Apparently being diagnosed with mono isn't such a big deal after all. At least not for Chris Williams, who finished T-2 at the Preview along with teammate Cheng-Tsung Pan. I promised myself I wouldn't use the cliched phrase "best 1-2 combo in college golf" more than twice each semester in 2012-13, but I'm willing to burn my first one of the fall after the way this pair has started the season.
Next event: Pac-12 Preview, Pumpkin Ridge GC, North Plains, Ore., Oct. 8-9

Alabama logo.gif4. Alabama (4)
As I was saying, it's early, and getting over excited about a tournament result in September is risky. However, the T-9 showing at the Preview from the team picked No. 1 in the Golf World/Nike Golf preseason poll is a little surprising. Still, coach Jay Seawell has this thing under control from reading his comments afterward. "If we are going to be a great team, we need to be ready to play every week," Seawell said.
Next event: Jerry Pate National Collegiate, Old Overton GC, Vestavia Hills, Ala., Oct. 15-16

Florida logo.gif5. Florida (5)
OK Gators, I'm excited to see what you're made of next week at Olympia Fields, where the competition will be bit deeper than at the Ocean Course earlier this month. My guess is that Buddy Alexander's group steps up, but my only hesitancy in believing this is the long layoff they've had from the first event.
Next event: Olympia Fields/Illini Invitational, Olympia Fields CC, Olympia Fields, Ill., Sept. 30-Oct. 2
 

Women
Florida logo.gif1. Florida (1)
The Gators as a team have put up some impressive numbers thus far this fall, and I'm not just talking about their first and second place finishes in their opening two events. They've hit a collective 86.9 percent of their fairways and 78.0 percent of their greens in regulation. ... Oh and then there's their 82 birdies, fifth best in the country.
Next event: Lady Tar Heel Invitational, UNC Finley GC, Chapel Hill, N.C., Oct. 12-14

Alabama logo.gif2. Alabama (3)
A 73.87 team average through their first two events leaves room for improvement but the Crimson Tide is still one of only 11 D-I schools in 2012-13 to have a sub-74.0 mark. The biggest thing will be to improve on their 44.4 GIR percentage.      
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif3. UCLA (2)
Obviously the Bruins were playing at 100 percent in their fall opener, so trying to get a gauge on the team based on their ninth-place showing at the Golfweek Conference Challenge is a bit of a stretch. More troubling though is what happens if Tiffany Lua's wrist injury lingers into the spring.  
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7

Duke logo.gif4. Duke (4)
Through two events, the Blue Devils haven't overwhelmed their competition with birdies, making only 43 to rank outside the top 50 in the country. Yet the team sports the nation's best scoring average 72.07, showing that they're not prone to making mistakes. That's a pretty good formula they've got working in Durham.
Next event: Liz Murphey NCAA Fall Preview, U. of Georgia GC, Athens, Ga., Oct. 5-7

Arizona 2009-10.gif5. Arizona (NR)
The Wildcats lost lots of experience to graduation last spring, but transfer Kendall Prince and returning starter Manon Gidali stepped up and newcomers Janie Jackson, Anna Kim and Andrea Vilarasau held their own as the team claimed the Mason Rudolph title. Five freshmen and sophomores starting may lead to some lean moments at times this season, but the base looks solid.
Next event: Stanford Intercollegiate, Stanford GC, Palo Alto, Calif., Oct. 19-21



STAT OF THE WEEK (junior edition)
4.392
Average GPA for the AJGA's newly named HP Scholastic All-American team. (For full list of the 12 boys and 12 girls who made the team, click here.) Former AJGA scholastic All-Americans have included Casey Martin, Wendy Ward, Matt Kuchar, Scott Langley and Patrick Rodgers.


TWEET OF THE WEEK
Tweet of the week (melissa luellen) 9-27-2012 .jpg—Arizona State women's coach Melissa Luellen, moonlighting at this week's Ryder Cup



RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
The Baltimore Orioles are playing meaningful baseball games the weekend of the Ryder Cup. Would have lost lost a lot of money on that bet if I made it last March. #GoBirds!


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Julien Brun.jpeg* College coaches are supposed to be helping their charges prepare to be pro golfers, which is why none would keep a high-caliber player who received a sponsor's exemption into a pro event from competing. Yet there is a risk, albeit small, when you do let your golfer spread his/her wings, as TCU men's coach Bill Montigel is starting to understand after his top player, Julien Brun of France, not only competed in but won the ALLIANZ Golf Open Toulouse Metropole on the European Challenge Tour in his home country.

I haven't talked to Brun, who stayed in Europe to play in next week's World Amateur Team Championship, so I don't know what he is thinking right now. But I'm guessing the chance at full-status on the Challenge Tour in 2013 is tempting him to consider leaving TCU early. Among the toughest things for any golfer straight out of school to do is lock up a place to play on a quality tour that will help them advance to either the PGA, LPGA or European tours. Brun will have that security in full Challenge Tour status, something that's not assured should he pass it up and wait until being done with school to turn pro.

The decision, meanwhile, will have huge ramifications for the Horned Frogs. Brun had a record freshman season a year ago, winning three times and breaking the school's single season scoring mark (70.51). In his one start this fall for TCU, Brun was first in the four-team Carmel Cup, hinting there wasn't going to be any sophomore slump in the offing.

Now we just have to see if there's going to be a sophomore season.


* I love the optimism in Nashville for the Vanderbilt men's team, after the Commodores claimed the team title at their home event, the Mason Rudolph Championship, last weekend. First-year coach Scott Limbaugh is nothing if not enthusiastic, and that energy has translated into early success. Here's hoping, however, that those starting to look for a spot on the Vandy bandwagon aren't startled by their next two events: the Jack Nicklaus Invitational and the Isleworth Collegiate. It's one thing to win an event at home, on a course you're comfortable with. It's another to play at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, and Isleworth CC in Windermere, Fla., against more difficult competition. Should the Commodores find themselves in the middle of the pack at those events, it doesn't mean that progress isn't still being made. 

   


TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN
William H. Tucker Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
UNM Championship Cse., Albuquerque
Sept. 28-29
Host: New Mexico
Defending champion: UNLV (+3/867) by four strokes over New Mexico; BYU's Zachary Blair (-7/209) by four strokes over New Mexico's James Erkenbeck
Field: Arizona, Baylor, BYU, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Pepperdine, San Francisco, UC Irvine, Utah, UTEP, UT-San Antonio, Wyoming
Skinny: UNM's Gavin Green looking to become first Lobo to claim medalist honors in his home event since Charlie Beljan in 2006, also the same year that the host won the team title.

Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Olympia Fields CC, Olympia Fields, Ill.
Sept. 30-Oct. 2
Host: Illinois
Defending champion: Stanford (+9/849) by 16 strokes over Auburn and Oklahoma State; Stanford's Patrick Rodgers (-4/206) by three strokes over Texas' Dylan Frittelli
Field: Arkansas, Auburn, Augusta State, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Purdue, SMU, Stanford
Skinny: Everything is coming up roses for the Fighting Illini of late, with the squad having won its first two starts of 2012-13 and watching Luke Guthrie from afar win back-to-back weeks on the Web.com Tour. Karma suggests this could be the year the team comes out on top at Olympia Fields for the first time since 2008.

Rees Jones Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Haig Point Club, Daufuskie Island, S.C.
Oct. 1-2
Host: South Carolina
Defending champion: Kennesaw State (+30/894) by four strokes over South Carolina; Iowa State's Nate McCoy (-6/210) by nine strokes over Kennesaw State's Ben Greene
Field: Charleston Southern, Charlotte, East Carolina, Francis Marion, Iowa State, Kennesaw State, Liberty, Presbyterian, South Carolina, Tennessee Tech, UNC Wilmington, Winthrop
Skinny: Blue-chip South Carolina freshman Matt NeSmith has shot to become latest rookie to win early in college career.

Jim Colbert Intercollegiate
Colbert Hills GC, Manhattan, Kan.
Oct. 1-2
Host: Kansas State
Defending champion: Idaho (+10/874) by 12 strokes over Boise State; Boise State's Taeksoo Kim (-6/210) by six strokes over Idaho's Justin Kadin and Creighton's Kevin Stanek
Field: Creighton, Drake, Idaho, Kansas State, Missouri State, Nebraska-Omaha, Southern Illinois, Valparaiso, Western Illinois
Skinny: The host Wildcats have finished no worse than second in the last four of the previous five playings of the JCI.
 

WOMEN
Nittany Lion Women's Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Penn State Blue Course, State College, Pa.
Sept. 28-29
Host: Penn State
Defending champion: Eastern Michigan (+21/597) by two strokes over Longwood and Penn State; Longwood's ARiel Witmer (E/144) by two strokes over Longwood's Amanda Steinhagen
Field: Akron, Bucknell, Cincinnati, College of Charleston, Columbia, Georgetown, Harvard, Longwood, Minnesota, Monmouth, Ohio, Old Dominion, Penn State, Princeton, Western Michigan, William & Mary, Yale
Skinny: Bad weather forced the cancellation of the final round of the tournament last fall.

Johnie Imes Invitational
The Club at Old Hawthorne, Columbia, Mo.
Oct. 1-2
Host: Missouri
Defending champion: Texas State (+15/879) by seven strokes over Kansas State; Texas State's Lejan Lewthwaite (-4/212) by three strokes over Texas State's Krista Puisite
Field: Arkansas-Little Rock, Bradley, Colorado State, Eastern Michigan Florida International, Illinois State, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas State, Louisville, Mississippi State, Missouri, Missouri-Kansas City, Missouri State, Montana, Oklahoma City, Redlands CC, SMU, Wichita State
Skinny: Tournament is once again raising money for breast cancer research by asking local individuals/corporations to pledge dollars for any birdies made by a player or team or on a specific hole at Old Hawthorne.

Windy City Collegiate Championship
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Glen View Club, Golf, Ill.
Oct. 1-2
Host: Northwestern
Defending champion: Oklahoma State (+18/882) by one stroke over Arizona; Oklahoma State's Kelsey Vines and Arizona's Isabelle Boineau share medalist honors (-2/214)
Field: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa State, Kent State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, UC Davis, UCF, UNC Wilmington, Washington, Wisconsin
Skinny: Hopefully Chicago-land golf fans won't be too tired after hosting the Ryder Cup to come out to Glen View.
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