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The Syllabus: Not your typical tournament

By Ryan Herrington

The field is only 12 teams and just four ranked in the top 25 of the Golf World/WGCA coaches' poll, but I'm going to be paying close attention to the Florida State Match-Up event that began this morning at Southwood GC in Tallahassee, Fla. With so many college events having the same look and feel, it's great what coach Amy Bond and the Seminoles are trying to do with this first-year event.

The concept behind the Match-Up is pretty interesting: six teams were initially invited to play in the tournament. Those six teams were then allowed to contact a team of their choice to partner with during the competition.


According to the Florida State website, "the team partnerships this year consist of head coaches partnering up with their former assistant coaches who are now coaching their own programs, former college teammates, rivals, friends, and teams that have fun together."

The partnerships are: Florida State/Texas A&M, Oklahoma/Georgia, Notre Dame/Michigan, Tennessee/Texas San Antonio, Furman/Kansas, and UNC Greensboro/UNC Wilmington.

In addition to a traditional individual and team champion being crowned after 54 holes, the  Match-Up event will be determined by taking the best four scores from the partner schools 10 players and the worst score to make the Match Up team total. At the end of the tournament, the teams with the lowest score will win the Match Up.

I don't really care what team pulls it out this weekend, but I hope the event lives up to its aim and is a fun experience. College golf needs to have a few different events from time to time.


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

Cal logo.gif1. California (Last week: 1)
Apparently the Golden Bears' good fortune extends to alums as well. James Hahn's run of good play on the PGA Tour has gotten the notice of golf cognoscenti. And Scott Carlyle recently landed a good gig at Cleveland Golf. That said, all the good will from the fall starts to go by the wayside if the team doesn't show up at Turtle Bay.   
Next event: John Burns Intercollegiate, Turtle Bay Resort (Palmer Course), Kahuku, Hawaii, Feb. 20-22
 
Alabama logo.gif2. Alabama (2)
Going with my gut something leads to indigestion, but I've just got a hunch that we're going to see a hungry Crimson Tide team arrive in Puerto Rico ready to take care of business. I'll apologize next week when/if I'm wrong, but like Ben Crenshaw, I've got a good feeling.
Spring opener: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 17-19

UCLA logo 2008-09.gif3. UCLA (NR)
The Bruins' playoff victory at the Amer Ari Invitational was impressive on multiple fronts. A final-round comeback show spunk. Withstanding the body blow of having two Washington players finish birdie-eagle on the last three holes yet hanging on to win in a sudden death suggests an ability to handle pressure situations. Going to be one heck of a Pac-12 Championship later this spring.
Next event: The Prestige at PGA West, PGA West (Norman Course), La Quinta, Calif., Feb. 18-20

New Mexico logo.gif4. New Mexico (3)
Thus far in the 2012-13 season the Lobos have finished strong (they're ranked eighth in the nation in final-round scoring) but by comparison take a little more time to get rolling (only 28th in first-round scoring). It's hard to point out too many flaws with Glen Millican's team right now, but this is an area where they could actually get better.
Next event: John Burns Intercollegiate, Turtle Bay Resort (Palmer Course), Kahuku, Hawaii, Feb. 20-22

Washington 2012-13.jpeg5. Washington (5)
The Huskies unexpectedly coughed up a lead in Hawaii, then nearly stole victory from the jaws of defeat when Cheng-Tsung Pan and Jonathan Sanders forced a playoff after their late birdie-eagle rallies. The eventual loss to Pac-12 rival UCLA hurts, but Chris Williams' final-round 76, matching the highest closing score he's ever shot at UW, isn't likely to happen again. More important was the emergence of Sanders as a possible fourth man and the continued solid play of Trevor Simsby (T-3
Next event: The Prestige at PGA West, PGA West (Norman Course), La Quinta, Calif., Feb. 18-20


Women
Alabama logo.gif1. Alabama (1)
Mic Potter has the best of all worlds with his team's victory at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic. The squad wins going away with a 13-stroke triumph over Arkansas, giving them a nice boost of confidence (particularly Emma Tally and Daniela Lendl, who each recorded their best college finishes). At the same time he's able to say in classic coach speak "there's still room for improvement."
Next event: AllState Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn G&CC, New Orleans, Feb. 24-26

Florida logo.gif2. Florida (2)
Cross-country trip against the best field the team has faced in 2012-13 was going to be a challenge for the Gators, so a fifth-place showing at the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge is a reasonable result.      
Next event: AllState Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn G&CC, New Orleans, Feb. 24-26

USC logo.gif3. USC (3)
A second-place showing at the Northrup Grumman is nothing to complain about as you start the spring semester, although the ending wasn't exactly what the Trojans anticipated. Sophia Popov's scorecard snafu cost the squad a shot at catching UCLA, but will likely be a good lesson learned for the future.      
Next event: AllState Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn G&CC, New Orleans, Feb. 24-26

North Carolina logo 2008-09.gif4. North Carolina (4)
For the first time since 1989 and just the second time in school history, the Tar Heels have won three straight tournaments after taking the title at the UCF Challenge earlier this week. More important that the feat itself was the margin of victory for UNC: 17 strokes over Tulane.
Next event: Darius Rucker Invitational, Long Cove Club, Hilton Head, S.C., March 8-10

Duke logo.gif5. Duke (NR)
The Blue Devils continue their solid if not spectacular ways with a third-place performance at the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge. They never seem to be out of an event, which is a good trait to exhibit. From a confidence standpoint, however, a victory some time in the spring certainly would be nice.
Next event: AllState Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn G&CC, New Orleans, Feb. 24-26



STAT OF THE WEEK
14-0-1
Record compiled by the Illinois men's team last week at The Concession GC in Bradenton, Fla., during last weekend's Big Ten Match Play Championship, where the Fighting Illini claimed the title after defeating Michigan in the quarterfinals (4-0-1), Ohio State in the semifinals (5-0) and Michigan State in the finals (5-0).

Twelve of the 15 matches ended before the 18th hole. In the championship-match sweep of MSU, no individual match even reached the 17th hole. Illinois coach Mike Small also played with three freshmen in the starting lineup: Thomas Detry, David Kim and Charlie Danielson.
 

 

TWEET OF THE WEEK
Top Tweet 2-15-2013 (Tyler Gann).jpg
—Wichita State senior Tyler Gann. Having followed him since last summer, I know the young man is rather fond of social media. I'll be impressed if he can make it all the way to Easter. #rootingforyou


RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
If I could only play one golf course for the rest of my life, Riviera CC wouldn't be a bad choice. 

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
* No team in college golf might have been happier to see the fall season end than the UCLA women. Carrie Forysth's squad was picked No. 2 in the Golf World/WGCA preseason coaches' poll, only to then suffer the worst stretch of play from a Bruins' team in more than a decade: four starts, no finish better than eighth place. By the end of the fall, the school had fallen out of the rankings entirely, the first time since November 2001.

Yet with UCLA's nine-stroke victory earlier this week at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, suddenly the folks in Westwood have new life. Three players finished in the top 10 individually—medalist Erynne Lee and seniors Lee Lopez and Tiffany Lua. The performance for Lua was particularly impressive considering she had been sidelined all fall with a wrist injury and wasn't exactly sure what to expect upon her return to the lineup.

Having Lua playing again doesn't just provide a boost to UCLA's team score but it gives the Bruins' squad a psychological lift as well. During her first three years in Westwood, Lua demonstrated that there might not be any more valuable a player in women's college golf. Her absence this fall only brought that idea into greater relief. It's no coincidence that UCLA suffered so much on the course last semester. So long as Lua stays healthy through the spring, I think we should expect UCLA to return to national prominence and contend again for a Pac-12 and NCAA title.


* In the Feb. 18 issue of Golf World, I wrote a column triggered off the recent USGA announcement that it was going to be examining the issues of slow play with the idea of being able to implement guidelines to improve pace of play at the recreational and competitive level. In my piece, I raise the point that with golf's social conscience renewing its focus on the problem of slow play, college golf coaches needs to be prepared to receive criticism for how collectively they've addressed the issue at the collegiate level.

College golf has always been slow and always will be. That's the refrain I hear all the time from observers of the game. The problem with this is that it's no longer a good enough excuse or explanation. Coaches and players need to look at their own programs and figure out what they can do to address the issue because if they're not going to be proactive about it, the entire sport is going to get a major black eye. Talking privately with sources at the USGA, they know exactly how bad things are at the college level and are to make the college game a scapegoat, if necessary, to help inspire change.

A suggestion? Remember back in 2010 when the GCAA made a big deal out of the formation of a working group that was going to look into slow play and try to identify ways to fix the problem at the college level. It's time to revive that working group, which from afar doesn't look like it did much work at all, and see if there's something that college coaches and players can do proactively to try and improve on the 5-plus hour rounds that often occur at tournaments. It's better that folks directly involved with the college game be part of the solution, or risk having somebody else impose something on them.   



TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
MEN
Puerto Rico Classic
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Rio Mar CC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Feb. 17-19
Host: Purdue
Defending champion: Alabama (-30/834) by 18 strokes over Clemson; Alabama's Justin Thomas (-10/206) by one stroke over Oklahoma State's Talor Gooch
Field: Alabama, Augusta State, Clemson, East Tennessee State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, SMU, Virginia Tech
Skinny: Only once since the Boilermakers started hosting the event in 2001 have they finished inside the top five (3rd, 2002)

The Prestige at PGA West
PGA West (Norman Course), La Quinta, Calif.
Feb. 18-20
Host: UC Davis & Stanford
Defending champion (October 2011): Oregon (-32/832) by two strokes over Washington; Washington's Cheng-Tsung Pan (-15/201) by three strokes over Oregon's Eugene Wong.
Field: Arizona State, Colorado, Fresno State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Stanford, Stirling, TCU, Texas Tech, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Washington
Skinny: First time the tournament is being held in the spring season.

John Burns Intercollegiate
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuka, Hawaii
Feb. 20-22
Host: Hawaii-Hilo
Defending champion: California (-17/847) by seven strokes over Duke and UNLV; Duke's Julien Suri (-11/205) by four strokes over California's Max Homa
Field: Arizona, BYU, BYU-Hawaii, California, Colorado State, Denver, Hawaii, Hawaii-Hilo, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas A&M, UTEP, UNLV, Utah, Washington
Skinny: I love how there are schools that are loyal to the John Burns and schools that are loyal to the Amer Ari that was played last weeks. There's got to be a way to get a competition between the two going somehow.

WOMEN
Seminole Match Up
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Southwood GC, Tallahassee, Fla.
Feb. 15-17
Host: Florida State
Defending champion: New event
Field: Florida State, Furman, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro, UT San Antonio
Skinny: Should be entertaining if nothing else.

Peg Barnard Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
Stanford GC, Stanford, Calif.
Feb. 16-17
Host: Stanford
Defending champion: California (+19/587) by 19 strokes over Stanford; California's Emily Childs and Fresno State's Christine Uhalde (+3/145) co-medalists
Field: Boston College, California, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon State, Rollins, San Francisco, San Jose State, Santa Clara, Stanford, UC Davis, Washington
Skinny: It's a no-fuss, no-muss tournament. Two day, 36 hole, 12 team, Meanwhile, good for Boston College for making the cross-country trip (and good for Stanford for inviting the Eagles).

Central District Invitational
   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)
River Wilderness GC, Parrish, Fla.
Feb. 18-19
Host: Michigan State
Defending champion: TCU (+18/882) by one stroke over Oklahoma; Oklahoma's Chirapat Jao-Javanil (-4/214) by two strokes over LSU's Tessa Teachman
Field: Augusta State, Chattanooga, Denver, Georgetown, Iowa State, Kent State, Michigan State, Minnesota, SMU, TCU, UCF, Vanderbilt
Skinny: The last two individual winners of this tournament have gone on to claim medalist honors at the NCAA Championship (LSU's Austin Ernst won in 2011).
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