Do yourself a favor before listening to the podcast and read LaRose's bio, particularly the information at the bottom, to get a glimpse at what a dynamic life LaRose has lived.
CI Podcast/Rick LaRose
It's been 22 months and counting now since the Blue Devils last won a college tournament, an eternity to fans of the five-time NCAA champions. This season, the squad has yet to even post a top-five finish, with fellow coaches' appearing to give Dan Brooks' squad the benefit of the doubt with them ranked 14th in the final fall Golf World/NGCA poll. The good news is that with Lindy Duncan the folks in Durham have a No. 1 player who can carry the team to victory on the right week. But for them to be a legitimate contender come the postseason, another player (or two) has to emerge. Laetitia Beck and Aleja Cangrejo have both shown signs they're ready to take that step. Now would be a good time to go ahead and do it.
First spring event: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes CC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 13-15
Why does any of this matter? Well, after needing to replace All-Americans Kevin Tway and Morgan Hoffmann in the Cowboys' starting lineup last fall, McGraw now is in search of somebody to take the place of Peter Uihlein, the former U.S. Amateur champion who decided to pass up the final semester of his senior year to try and earn a European Tour card as a fledging pro, if he hope to keep his squad in contention for a Big 12 and NCAA titles.
It's a task that's as challenging as any coach in the country will have this spring.
In this week's podcast, Popson talks about her recovery—which Tennessee fans can rest easy knowing is going well—as well as her breakout sophomore season of 2010-11, where she won three individual titles, including the SEC championship. She also discusses why she's anxiously waiting by the phone this month, and how a renewed mental approach has led to her college success.
CI Podcast/Erica Popson
Having gone through the schedules of every team that received a vote in the final fall edition of the Golf World men's and womens' coaches polls, I calculated how many top-10 and top-25 teams each of school would face through the remainder of the 2011-12 season, as well as how many schools they will compete against that received at least one vote in the final fall poll.
Below is what I found. Schools are listed in the order based on who will be facing the most schools that received a vote. I also broke down the charts by the top 25 and by all teams receiving votes, revealing that some unranked schools are facing the stiffest competition of any program in the country.
On the men's side, 12th-ranked USC clearly has the toughest road to travel. The Trojans face 25 top-10 teams in their seven starts, seven more than any other school, 39 top-25 opponents and 48 schools that received at least one vote in the final fall poll.
Interestingly, it appears top-ranked Texas won't be able to coast much this spring, either, ranking second in the most top-25 foes and most opponents who received votes.
Expanding beyond the top 25, two unranked teams boast fairly challenging schedules, specifically Texas Tech and Florida.
Similar to the men, the USC women's team faces the toughest spring test as it faces 15 top-10 teams (only Arizona with 16 sees more), 39 top-25s (10 more than any other) and 53 opponents who received votes. The Trojans cross-town rivals, top-ranked UCLA, would appear to have the second toughest schedule.
Interestingly, however, when you expand beyond the women's top-25 programs, several unranked teams have some of the toughest schedules in the country. Florida State and Michigan State both move jump into the top five in this ranking, with Wake Forest and Denver among the top 10.
Being no less curious this January, I went ahead and did the same thing for this coming spring. For today, I'm posting information on the top tournaments (I'll explore what programs face the stiffest competition tomorrow.)
Below is my list of the top men's and women's tournaments, ranked in order of which events have the most teams in their field that have received at least one vote in the coaches' polls. That chart also breaks down how many schools ranked in the top five, top 10 and top 25 are in the field, if you prefer those as barometers for how "strong" an event is. I also list how the event did compared to its "ranking" in 2011.
As was the case a year ago the toughest men's event was the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas, which will be held March 9-11 at Southern Highlands CC, hosted by UNLV. All told, 12 teams in this year's SHCM field received a vote in the final fall Golf World/Nike Golf men's coaches' poll (compared to 14 in 2011) with 10 teams from the top 25 (the same as a year ago).
On the women's side, the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge outside of Los Angeles took top honors for the spring, with last year's No. 1, the Liz Murphey Collegiate, falling to third. Played at Palos Verdes GC from Feb. 13-15, the Northrup Grumman will have 15 teams that received votes in the final fall Golf World/NGCA women's coaches' poll (the Liz Murphey had 18 in 2011).
The Northrup Grumman, however, does not have the most top-25 schools in its field; that honor went to the Ping/ASU Invitational, which will have 11 ranked programs playing at Karsten GC in Tempe (last year's Liz Murphey had 15 top-25 teams).
You can make a good argument that the answer is Cory Whitsett. The Alabama sophomore won a playoff over Missouri's Jace Long and San Diego State's Todd Baek to claim the Western Refining College All-America Golf Classic title right before Thanksgiving. Whitsett shot a seven-under 206 to become the third Crimson Tide golfer in school history to win the event.
Whitsett then made it two-for-two in college golf's "off" season with a three-shot victory over teammate Bobby Wyatt at the inaugural Patriot All America event outside Phoenix just prior to New Year's. A 14-under 199 earned him the champion's fighter pilot jacket (right) in an event that honorary the military (participants carried bags inscribed with the name of a fallen service member with the bags to be auctioned to help raise funds for Folds of Honor).
Whitsett joins me for the first podcast of 2012, talking about his double dip to close 2011, the tweaks he's made with his swing this fall, Alabama's chances at winning a national title this spring and who he thinks will claim the BCS title on Monday (hint: he does attend Alabama).
CI Podcast/Cory Whitsett