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College golf's toughest spring tournaments

By Ryan Herrington

Time flies when you're waiting for the spring college season.

In less than two weeks, we'll be resuming the 2012-13 campaign. In looking ahead to the action to come, it seems only appropriate to revive my annual look at the the spring tournament slate to see what events have the strongest fields and what schools are playing the toughest competition.

Today will look at the tournaments themselves. As I have done the past two years, I went through the schedules all the teams that received votes in the final Golf World/Nike Golf men's Division I coaches' poll and the Golf World/WGCA women's Division I coaches' poll. From that information, I counted the number of schools that are playing in various spring tournaments to assess down "deep" the tournament fields are.

Listed below are the top 15 tournaments ranked in order of which events have the most teams in their field that have received at least one vote in the coaches' poll. The chart also breaks down how many schools that ranked in the top five, top 10 and top 25 are in the field if you prefer those as a barometer for how "strong" an event is?

Men's top tourneys 2013 spring.jpgFor the third straight year, the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, held March 7-10 in Las Vegas, is the leading tournament on the men's side. All five of the top five men's programs are competing as well as nine of the top 10 and 12 of the top 25.

In second on the men's side is the Hootie at Bulls Bay event (March 24-26). There is a caveat for this in that the tournament has 11 schools that received at least one vote in our last fall coaches' poll but only one top 10 program (Alabama) and just six top-25 schools. It's why I break out all the data the way I do, so that you can crunch the numbers in the manner you think most meaningful.

Women's top tourneys 2013 spring.jpgOn the women's side, the Bryan National Collegiate, held at Bryan Park GC's Champions Course in Greensboro, N.C., (March 29-31) gets top honors with nine top-25 teams competing and 14 schools that received votes in the final fall women's poll. Last year's No. 1 tournament, the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, stays in the top five in our ranking, and actually has the most top-five schools competing of any spring event (four).

The one caveat to remember on the women's side: the Liz Murphey Collegiate is ordinarily held in the spring and has ranked third in 2012 and first in 2011. However, because the University of Georgia GC is hosting the NCAA Women's Championship, the event was played last fall.

Tomorrow I'll discuss individual schools' schedules.
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