Of course I say this in jest. Talking to some coaches of teams chasing the No. 1s in each of the divisions, they appreciate the level dominance their opponents have shown in the fall. Yet at the same time the chasers believe they have played well enough that on any given week they could be victorious over all comers.
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for USC and what they've accomplished," said UCLA women's coach Carrie Forysth. "But I think we are confident that our team is capable of winning every tournament we enter. That hasn't changed this fall."
With that, here are the final fall polls. Read into them what you will as schools gets some rest before the spring season calls.
I promise there is some surprise in the latest Golf World/WGCA women's Division I coaches' poll. It's just not with team that's ranked No. 1.
USC returns to the top spot, winners of its first two fall events and in the middle of a school-record five-tournament win streak dating back to last spring. However, the Trojans weren't the only school to receive first-place votes.
Indeed, where the interesting news comes from this time is that five other programs in addition to the Women of Troy had at least one coach pick them as the best team in the land.
See for yourself ...
The name of the school atop the latest Golf World/WGCA women's Division I coaches' poll should come as no surprise, USC claiming all 21 first-place votes after starting the 2013-14 season with an impressive comeback victory at the Dale McNamara Fall Preview.
However, take a look at the rest of the top 25 and you'll see a few new names and a few names occupying a few spots for the first time in school history.
Defending NCAA champion USC starts its title defense as the No. 1 ranked team in the Golf World/WGCA 2013-14 preseason women's Division I coaches' poll. The Trojans claimed the school's third women's golf championship when they won by a dominating 21-strokes at the University of Georgia GC last May.
All five starters return to Los Angeles, including last year's national player of the year Annie Park. Additionally, USC brings in the U.S. Girls' Junior champion Gabriella Then and five-time AJGA All-American Karen Chung as to challenge for starting spots as freshmen. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the Trojans claimed 26 of the 29 available first-place votes.
No. 2 in the poll is Alabama, the 2012 NCAA champs who bring back senior Stephanie Meadow, Golf World's No. 1 player to watch for the season, and sophomore Emma Talley, the reigning U.S. Women's Amateur champion.
Duke claimed the No. 3 spot, having finished runner-up to USC at nationals last May. Rounding out the top five are UCLA and Arizona State, both of whom picked up first-place votes (the Bruins getting 1, the Sun Devils getting 2).
The seemingly inevitable took another step toward becoming reality earlier this month when the NCAA women's Division I golf committee forwarded a recommendation to the NCAA Championship/Sports Management Cabinet that match play be incorporated into the NCAA Women's Championship to help determine the team winner starting in 2015.
Carol Reep, associate director for championships and alliances at the NCAA, said the women's golf committee made its decision to back the change during its summer meeting in early July. Reep was on hand at last week's U.S. Girls' Junior Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind., where she spoke during a meeting of women's coaches and outlined the proposal.
The plan, which the cabinet will review during its next meeting Sept. 10-11, calls for the women's championship to follow an identical six-day platform to the men's championship. Teams would play 54 holes of stroke-play competition with the low eight schools advancing into a match-play bracket where en route to crowning a champion.
The individual championship would follow the new 72-hole structure recently approved for the 2014 men's championship, with the low 36 players and ties after 54 holes of stroke play competing in a final 18 holes of stroke play that would proceed the start of team match play to determine the individual winner.
While the men's championship has 30 teams competing, the women's championship will continue to have 24 schools in the field. However, how they qualify for nationals would change as the proposal also calls for expanding from three regional championships to four. Each regional would have 18 teams and six individuals competing, with six schools and three individuals qualifying for the NCAA Championship.
The decision to move toward match play reflects the changing landscape of college golf, says Reep. In December, Golf Channel announced a partnership with the NCAA that would have the cable network take a proactive, year-round role in promoting the sport, including televising the men's championship annually beginning in 2014 and the women in 2015. Having these two flagship events in consecutive weeks played under different formats, however, has the potential of confusing fans that the game is trying to attract. Given the sometimes confounding nature of the play-five/count-four stroke-play format—along with the potential for less than dramatic blowout similar to what happened last May when USC cruised to a overwhelming 21-stroke victory—match play makes for the TV-friendly alternative.
That the women might one day follow the path of the men and adopt match play has been a point of discussion since the men made the switch for the 2009 NCAA Championship. Opinions seem split, with arguments from women's coaches who are against the change not unlike those of men's coaches who have raised concerns that match play doesn't always identify the best team, not to mention the disconnect in using a format that's hardly every played during the regular season.
To that end, however, at least one prominent event appears ready to experiment with match play next season in preparation for the format's likely inclusion at NCAAs. Georgia women's coach Josh Brewer said via Twitter that the Liz Murphey Collegiate Championship will use the format when played in the spring of 2014.
By George Henry
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Annie Park shot a 1-under 71 to top the individual standings and help Southern California take its third NCAA women's tournament title with a record-setting team performance Friday.
Southern California finished at 19-under 1,133 -- 15 strokes better than the previous tournament mark set by UCLA in 2004 -- to beat second-place Duke by 21 strokes.
Third-place Purdue was 21 over -- 40 shots behind Southern California.
Park, a freshman from Levittown, N.Y., finished at 10 under for a six-stroke victory over Duke's Lindy Duncan. Kyung Kim and Sophia Popov tied for sixth at 1 over for Southern California, which finished second to Alabama last year by one shot.
ATHENS, Ga. -- While the third day of a 72-hole tournament is commonly considered "moving day," only the Auburn Tigers -- who drew inspiration from the brief presence of Coach Kim Evans, recovering from recent surgery to treat ovarian cancer -- succeeded in matching USC's third-round three-under 285. At 19-under 845, USC turned its 12-shot, 36-hole lead into a 17-shot cushion over Duke -- the only other team under par -- with only 18 holes remaining. Tied for third place are Purdue, UCLA and defending champion Alabama, who shot 13-over 301 Thursday.
High temperatures and low humidity nearly turned the already firm and fast UGA GC greens to hardwood tabletops, and only 15 players managed to break par. But the Trojans grinded through the front nine and shot eight under on the back to post respective scores of 69 and 70 from freshmen Kyung Kim and Annie Park, 72 from sophomore Doris Chen and 74 from junior Sophia Popov.
"I'm just honored to be playing in this championship," said Park, who leads the individual race by two shots over Alabama's Stephanie Meadow (one-over 73 Thursday) and Mississippi State's Ally McDonald after recording four birdies in her last six holes. "It takes the pressure off knowing how good my teammates are."
The lowest round of the day was a four-under 68 from Auburn junior Marta Sanz, who jumped 32 places into a tie for 14th. "On the back nine every putt went in. It was one of those days," said Sanz, who, like her teammates, benefited from having Coach Evans on site. "It shows us what life is and that we're just playing a game."
McDonald's seven-under 209 total has her well within reach of Park's lead, but because her team sits in 18th place at +30, she won't play alongside the other leaders. "I think I'm in a good position to make something happen," said McDonald. "[The leaders] have no control over what I do."
USC's big lead should take some excitement out of Friday's final round, but as has happened in the past, large leads can be erased even more quickly then they are built. However, Park and Meadow are among the favorites to win national Player of the Year honors, so there's more riding on the final round than a team and individual title, as if that weren't enough.
***Auburn's Coach Evans arrived on site yesterday and left this morning via a ride to the airport from Beans Kelly, a close friend and former Georgia women's coach. The Tigers are currently T-9 after posting three-under 285 on Thursday. "The first day, [we] seemed a bit rattled," said Auburn student assistant coach Danielle Downey. "Coach Evans flying in and the team seeing her really settled [our players]."
***Emilie Burger, the Georgia senior who qualified for the event as an individual, shot 75 Wednesday and is T-72 at +11. "It's not the way I expected to play," said Burger. "But to be able to finish my career here tomorrow is a blessing." Burger takes lessons at Atlanta Athletic Club from Chan Reeves, the nephew of former NFL player and coach, Dan Reeves.
***Amidst the entourage following Burger on Thursday was former UGA golfer Terri Moody. Moody was the first woman to ever receive a full athletic scholarship to UGA, and as a senior, won the national championship here at UGA GC in a three-hole playoff. With Moody and Kelly in her gallery, Burger had two of the biggest legends in Bulldog women's golf watching her play.
ATHENS, GA.—It’s not every year that a senior gets to close out her career playing her home course on the biggest stage in college golf—the NCAA Women's Championship. But Emilie Burger, who won the Mason Rudolph Championship last fall and the Bryan National Collegiate this spring, is doing just that. Though the Bulldogs failed to qualify as a team, the 22-year-old from Hoschton, Ga.,, a three-time All-American, qualified for her first national championship by shooting one-under 212 at the West Regional at Stanford GC.
“It’s a dream come true to be playing in this event on my home course. I started out playing junior golf here. The whole golf program has been such a blessing,” said Burger, who through three rounds this week at the University of Georgia GC has played solid stretches of golf despite scores of 75, 77 and 75. Big numbers have been her problem with three double bogeys and a quadruple bogey over 54 holes.
Burger began attending annual summer golf camps at Georgia as a child and still uses the Bulldog headcover she received from Todd McCorkle, the former Georgia women’s coach, for being named "Camper of the Week" as a kid.
ATHENS, GA.—The USC Trojans took control on the second day of the NCAA Women’s Championship with a course- and tournament-record 12-under 276, good for a 36-hole total of 16-under 560 that has them 12 shots ahead of defending champion Alabama. Anchored by freshman Annie Park, whose precision putting carried her to a five-under 67, the women in gold and cardinal added a round of 69 from Kyung Kim and two 70s from Sophia Popov and Rachel Morris to complete a historic day.
“We got off to a great start, hitting great shots, making birdies,” said USC women's coach Andrea Gaston, who felt like more of a spectator than a coach for most of the round. “With a start like that, the momentum can really help the rest of the team.”
That was certainly the case on a day when the greens at the University of Georgia GC firmed up, but friendlier pin positions allowed for slightly more aggressive play on certain approach shots. Having a round in the books seemed to make some players more comfortable in Round 2. A Tuesday 67 by San Jose State’s Regan de Guzman led the field by two shots, but on Wednesday, Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow, Vanderbilt’s Jenny Hahn, Tulane’s Maribel Lopez Porras, and USC’s Park all shot 67.
“I’m just trying to be committed and relaxed over every shot,” said Meadow, whose eight-under 136 leads the individual race by one shot over Park. “I set a goal this week and it was all mental.”
USC may have a commanding lead, but the experiences that some of Trojans have dealt with recently may prove more beneficial than the 12-shot cushion.
ATHENS, GA.—With its big, undulating greens and difficult pin locations, the University of Georgia GC held its own today, allowing only 19 subpar rounds on the first day of the NCAA Women’s Championship. USC (four-under 284), San Jose State (-4) and Duke (-2) were the only teams that broke par, with formidable foes Alabama (E), UCLA (+1) and Purdue (+1) only five shots back of the lead.
“Our goal was to be very patient,” said USC women's coach Andrea Gaston, whose squad has won five of its last six events and ranked No. 1 in the final Golf World/WGCA coaches' poll of the spring. “It’s a 72-hole event, so you’re always going to have a series of holes where you don’t do so well. But you can turn it around with a few birdies.”
The Trojans were led by freshman Annie Park’s two-under 70 and one-under 71s from juniors Rachel Morris and Sophia Popov. While still impressive, those rounds wilt in comparison to the five-under 67 that San Jose State freshman Regan de Guzman posted in the morning wave, a round that included seven birdies.
“I was just having so much fun,” said Guzman (right), whose team narrowly qualified for the tournament despite being seeded 19th going into the West Regional (only eight teams from each regional qualify).