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The Syllabus: Beware of Bears

By Ryan Herrington

There are any number of reasons for California men's coach Steve Desimone to be downright giddy about how the 2012-13 season has started. Most pundits, including yours truly, thought the Golden Bears were going to be among the top teams in the country, given how the program reached the NCAA Final Four a year ago and that everybody from that team was back this time around (notably Max Homa and Brandon Hagy), plus U.S. Amateur runner-up Michael Weaver was back after coming off a redshirt season.

What has to make the GCAA Hall of Fame coach most pleased, however, about winning the title at the Gopher Invitational, sharing the title at the Ping/Golfweek Preview and then walking off with win No. 3 in the young season last week at the Pac-12 Preview, is not just the impressive play on the course. No, it's the way his squad has handled expectations as the group eyes a fourth straight win when it hosts the Alister MacKenzie Invitational this coming week.

This team isn't one that was going to be sneaking up on anybody, like say the 2004 Cal squad that won the NCAA title. It's a group that before their van even left the parking lot at Riviera CC last spring after losing to Alabama in the NCAA semifinals was already talking about what a big year 2012-13 could be. Homa, Hagy, Weaver, et al. have completely embraced the fact that they've got potentially the best team ever assembled in Berkeley, helping lift them to the No. 1 ranking in the Golf World/Nike Golf men's coaches' poll.

What Desimone has that his coaching brethren are likely to be most jealous of is a deep, balanced roster. Sure there are the name players at the top, but it's the likes of Michael Kim, Joel Stalter and Walker Huddy rounding out the lineup that has to make him feel good, considering each has the potential to contend individually at any given tournament. This allows everybody to play more aggressively because they all know that their teammates have their back.

It showed at Pumpkin Ridge last week, where Kim (T-6) and Stalter (T-8) were the Golden Bears with top-10 finishes, followed by Hagy and Homa (T-14) while Weaver took the fifth spot on the team but still finished T-22. Not surprisingly Cal came away with a seven- strokes triumph on Washington.

"This was really quite a victory," Desimone said afterward. "It was a tremendous team effort in a great field. We certainly have earned our No. 1 ranking. We proved that yesterday and then again today, but it's only October 9 and we have a long way to go until we get to late May and early June. But we certainly like the way things have shaped up thus far."

Desimone said it all right there. It's early, and much can happen between now and the postseason. But at this point in time, he can feel comfortable knowing he has a team that isn't going to flinch at the thought of being the best team in the country.

On the contrary, the Golden Bears appear to be thriving on it.

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

Cal logo.gif1. California (Last week: 1)
With a victory at the Pac-12 Preview, the team's third in three starts this fall, Cal has now won or claimed a share of the team title in nine of their last 17 tournaments dating back to the start of the 2011-12 season.
Next event: Alister MacKenzie Invitational, Meadow Club, Fairfax, Calif., Oct. 15-16

Texas logo.jpeg2. Texas (2)
I've heard coaches coming off winning national titles in golf (as well as other sports) say the biggest trap you can fall into is letting the distractions of being the defending champions get in the way of actually defending the title. Given the quiet fall schedule for the Longhorns, my guess is that this issue won't be quite so problematic in Austin.
Next event: Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, Isleworth CC, Windermere, Fla, Oct. 21-23

Washington 2012-13.jpeg3. Washington (3)
There's lots of good to come from a second-place showing at the Pac-12 Preview, earned despite missing senior All-American Chris Williams from the lineup. Best thing: the continued development of junior Trevor Simsby, who claimed medalist honors at Pumpkin Ridge
Next event: Pac-12 Preview, Pumpkin Ridge GC, North Plains, Ore., Oct. 8-9

Florida logo.gif4. Florida (4)
Why is it that I get this feeling Buddy Alexander is wearing his poker face right about now regarding the potential of his Gators squad? He has sounded positive about the team, as he should after finishing first and second in their first two fall starts, but for some reason I have this funny feeling he's sort of hiding just how good a group he believes he's got in Gainesville.  
Next event: Jerry Pate National Collegiate, Old Overton GC, Vestavia Hills, Ala., Oct. 15-16
 
Alabama logo.gif5. Alabama (5)
With the World Amateur Team Championship behind them, and Justin Thomas back focused on college golf again, this coming week's event at Old Overton could help set the tone for the Crimson Tide going forward in 2012-13. It's not a make or break event, but a win would restore this team's confidence.  
Next event: Jerry Pate National Collegiate, Old Overton GC, Vestavia Hills, Ala., Oct. 15-16


Women
Arizona 2009-10.gif1. Arizona (1)
That a Pac-12 school would be in my top spot in mid-October shouldn't come as a shock. It's just that I would have figured it to be UCLA, USC or Arizona State. Admit it, except for the folks on the Tucson campus themselves, nobody saw this quick start from the Wildcats coming. Now can they keep it up when they become the hunted in Palo Alto?
Next event: Stanford Intercollegiate, Stanford GC, Palo Alto, Calif., Oct. 19-21

Florida logo.gif2. Florida (2)
There was some risk involved in naming Emily Bastel the head coach after she had spent less than a year in Gainesville as an assistant. But judging from the comments of some players, having somebody they were familiar with, as opposed to a brand new face coming to campus, seems to be paying off.  
Next event: Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational, UNC Finley GC, Chapel Hill, N.C., Oct. 12-14

Alabama logo.gif3. Alabama (3)
Now that's more like it. Have to guess that was the feeling for the defending NCAA champions after their second-place finish at the Liz Murphey Preview. While in position to claim the title only to miss out on some birdie opportunities down the stretch, the Crimson Tide looked much improved from the group that opened the season with a eighth-place showing at the Cougar Classic. 
Next event: Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, U. of Texas GC, Austin, Oct. 28-30

North Carolina logo 2008-09.gif4. North Carolina (NR)
Not to sound all ESPN-like, but it's safe to describe the four-stroke victory over Alabama at the Liz Murphey last weekend as the Tar Heels' biggest regular-season win since Jan Mann took over the program in three years ago. Similarly, not to sound all ESPN-like, but now we must ask: What can they do for an encore?
Next event: Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational, UNC Finley GC, Chapel Hill, N.C., Oct. 12-14

Washington 2012-13.jpeg5. Washington (NR)
Yesterday marked the first time in 31 years hosting the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational that the Huskies claimed the team title. Making it more remarkable was the fact they did it with the team's top player, SooBin Kim, playing only as an individual (and winning medalist honors with a new 54-hole tournament record of 11-under 205 after shooting an 82 at Sahalee CC in qualifying). Moreover, they did it in style, winning by 14 strokes over UC Davis to rack up win No. 2 on the season.
Next event: Stanford Intercollegiate, Stanford GC, Palo Alto, Calif., Oct. 19-21



STAT OF THE WEEK
3
Number of consecutive tournaments that the UCLA women's golf team has finished in eighth place, counting the NCAA Championship last May, the Golfweek Conference Challenge last month and the Liz Murphey Fall Preview last week. The last time the Bruins finished outside the top five in three straight starts? Try the 2006-07 season, when the team finished T-8 at Stanford, T-11 at UNLV, 10th at the Northrup Grumman and ninth at the Arizona Lady Wildcat.

Prior to last year's NCAAs, you had to go back 35 tournament starts to count three finishes total outside the top five for UCLA.


TWEET OF THE WEEK
Tweet of the week (Mary Michael Maggio) 10-11-2012.jpg
—Texas A&M's Mary Michael Maggio, recent individual winner at the Liz Murphey Fall Preview, praising her Aggie coach Trelle McCombs as the squad makes its way to the Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate in Knoxville this weekend.


RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
I ask this with all due respect—and even a little bit of envy—for my friends in Orlando, but is there a tournament in any division of college golf that Golfweek hasn't sponsored in the last month?

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Amy Anderson headshot 2012-13.jpg* When she tees it up with her teammates at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational later this month in Hawaii, North Dakota State senior Amy Anderson will have a chance to match San Jose State's Juli (Simpson) Inkster's mark of 17 career college wins (she earned her 16th W at the South Dakota Jackrabbit Fall Invitational).

The NCAA doesn't track individual victories, and stats at many schools prior to 1981-82 (when the association officially recognized women's golf) are sketchy. Looking at the record books for several high-profile programs, however, it appears Inkster's mark is tops in Division I golf
.

Expecting her to do it on the trip to the Aloha State might be asking much, but she'll win No. 17 no later than the Jackrabbit Spring Invitational in March and break Inkster's record before wrapping up her career in May.
  


TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN

Bank of Tennessee at Blackthorn
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Blackthorn Club, Jonesborough, Tenn.
Oct. 12-14
Host: East Tennessee State
Defending champion: Kent State (+5/869) by seven strokes over Virginia; Missouri's Jace Long and N.C. State's Mark McMillen (-2/214) co-medalists
Field: Army, Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, Furman, Memphis, Missouri, Penn State, Pepperdine, Tennessee, UNC Wilmington, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Skinny: The host Bucs have a young squad—four sophomores, three freshman. Blackthorn is still new to these guys, so I'm curious to see if they'll have much of a home-field advantage this week.

Rod Myers Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Duke University GC, Durham, N.C.
Oct. 13-14
Host: Duke
Defending champion: Duke (-3/861) by nine strokes over Baylor; Duke's Julian Suri (-5/211) by two strokes over Iowa's Steven Ihm
Field: Baylor, Charlotte, Duke, East Carolina, Iowa, Liberty, North Carolina, N.C. State, Northwestern, Pacific, Tulsa
Skinny: Northwestern has had an impressive fall thus far, but it's hard not to see the host Blue Devils taking the team title here. Home course advantage will be big.

UTSA/Lone Star Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Hill Country Resort GC, San Antonio
Oct. 14-16
Host: UTSA
Defending champion: New Mexico (-3/861) by eight strokes over Texas A&M and North Texas; Rice's Jeff Wibawa (-7/209) by one stroke over Baylor's Joakim Mikkelsen
Field: Arizona, Central Arkansas, Denver, Houston, Houston Baptist, Illinois State, New Mexico State, North Texas, Rice, Southern Mississippi, Stephen F. Austin, Texas State, Utah Valley, UTSA
Skinny: The fourth-year event will be held for the first time at the Hill Country Resort after three stops at Briggs Ranch.

Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Old Overton GC, Birmingham, Ala.
Oct. 15-16
Host: Alabama
Defending champion: Texas (-4/836) by 20 strokes over Alabama and Clemson; Clemson's Corbin Mills (-9/201) by two strokes over Texas' Dylan Frittelli
Field: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee State, Samford, South Alabama, UAB, UNLV, West Florida
Skinny: An eclectic mix of talent comes to Birmingham. Curious though if this will become more than a two team chase between Alabama and Florida.

AutoTrader.com Collegiate Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Berkeley Hills CC, Duluth, Ga.
Oct. 15-16
Host: Georgia State
Defending champion: North Florida (-9/855) by two strokes over Chattanooga; East Carolina's Harold Varner (-8/208) by one stroke over Chattanooga's Steven Fox
Field: Chattanooga, Furman, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Mercer, Old Dominion, USC-Aiken, South Carolina, Towson, UNC Greensboro, VCU, Winthrop, Wisconsin
Skinny: Georgia State freshman Jonathan Grey will be trying to make it three straight tournament victories after the Englishman shared the title at the Brickyard and won the Mason Rudolph Championship  

Alister MacKenzie Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Meadow GC, Fairfax, Calif.
Oct. 15-16
Host: California
Defending champion: California and Oregon (-41/811) co-champions; Oregon's Eugene Wong (-18/195) by five strokes over California's Max Homa
Field: Arizona State, BYU, California, Colorado, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Oregon State, San Diego State, San Francisco, San Jose State, UC Davis, Wichita State
Skinny: There are tournaments where the winner needs to go low, and then there's the MacKenzie, where the team champions have shot at least 23 under every year since 2006. In 2010 you needed to post a 48 under team total to claim the title; last year you only had to shoot 41 under. #noblackinkforthecaligrapher


WOMEN
Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
UNC Finley GC, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Oct. 12-14
Host: North Carolina
Defending champion: LSU (-8/856) by four strokes over Alabama; Auburn's Marta Sanz (-9/207) by one stroke over N.C. State's Augusta James, Alabama's Brooke Pancake and Michigan State's Caroline Powers
Field: Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Colorado, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississipi, N.C. State, North Carolina, South Carolina, UCF, Virginia, Wake Forest
Skinny: Great field assembled in Chapel Hill, with home Tar Heels the likely favorite after their recent win at the Liz Murphey Fall Preview

LPGA Xavier Invitational
LPGA International (Legends course), Daytona Beach, Fla.
Oct. 12-14
Host: Xavier
Defending champion: Campbell (+10/298) by six strokes over Lousiana-Monroe; North Dakota State's Amy Anderson (-2/70) by two strokes over Michelle Koh
Field:
Skinny: Hoping for better weather than a year ago when the final two rounds were washed out by rain.

Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Holston Hills CC, Knoxville, Tenn.
Oct. 12-14
Host: Tennessee
Defending champion: Alabama (+1/865) by four strokes over UCLA; Alabama's Stephanie Meadow (-5/211) by two strokes over Vanderbilt's Lauren Stratton
Field: Chattanooga, East Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, Florida State, Furman, Iowa State, James Madison, Memphis, Miami, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UTSA
Skinny: Tournament has been known as a stingy test for some of the country's top programs. Only once in its 15 previous editions has the team champion had a 54-hole score under par (Tennessee, -15 in 2010).

Hoosier Fall Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Belterra Resort, Florence, Ind.
Oct. 13-14
Host: Indiana
Defending champion: Eastern Michigan (+48/912) by one stroke over Notre Dame; Notre Dame's Becca Huffer (+4/220) by three strokes over Wichita State's Gretchen Huhnerkoch
Field: Augusta State, Ball State, Boston College, Delaware, East Tennessee State, Illinois, Illinois State, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin
Skinny: Three teams (Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin) in the field rank inside Golfstat's top 50.

Susie Maxwell Berning Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Jimmie Austin GC, Norman, Okla.
Oct. 15-17
Host: Oklahoma
Defending champion: Oklahoma (+14/878) by one stroke over Texas Tech; Oklahoma's Anne Tanguay (-6/210) by three strokes over Texas Tech's Kimberly Kaufman
Field: Coastal Carolina, Denver, Kansas, Kansas State, Kennesaw State, Kent State, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Redlands CC, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech, USF
Skinny: Tournament being held for the 34th time.

The NCAA doesn’t track individual titles, and stats at many schools prior to 1981-82 (when the association officially recognized women’s golf) are sketchy. Yet looking at record books for several high-profile programs, it appears Anderson now trails only San Jose State’s Juli (Simpson) Inkster and her 17 victories from 1978-82 for the all-time Division I lead. 

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July 28, 2014

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