__THE FAB FIVE
My look at the top five teams in the country right now
__GOLF WORLD PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Dawie Van der Walt__, Lamar
Taylor Leon__, Georgia
__STAT OF THE WEEK
The average score of the 87-player field at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational, held last week at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course. Only one golfer, Purdue’s Maria Hernandez, was under par for the 54-hole event (one-under 215) and only three posted scores lower than 10-over 226 (Hernandez, teammate Christel Boeljon and Kent State’s Tara Delaney) despite temperatures in the 70s and no rain. A year ago, at the women’s NCAA Championship, the scoring average was 76.57. The course hosts this weekend's men's Big Ten Championship.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
• The hearts of Arkansas women’s golf fans had to sink Saturday morning when All-American Stacy Lewis pulled out of the women’s SEC Championship after finishing just one hole of the second round because of a back injury. The good news, however, is the prognosis is promising that Lewis will be in the line-up for NCAA Regionals in two weeks. “She’s been getting two-a-day treatments from our medical staff,” said Arkansas women’s coach Kelley Hester, “and they’re confident she’s going to be ready to go. She isn’t playing or practicing at all this week, which is torture for this kid. She just lives for [golf].”
The 22-year-old redshirted her freshman year in 2003-04 after having surgery to try and correct scoliosis. Since then, she has had minor but chronic back issues, but hadn’t experienced a combination of muscle and nerve trouble like what she had occur this past weekend. Hester said Lewis initially tweaked the back bending over while warming up for the Saturday round. “I can’t imagine what kind of pain she really must have been in to say that she couldn’t play any more,” noted Hester.
Indeed, Lewis is as feisty and scrappy a player as any in college golf, and had been on a roll of late. She was the low amateur at the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, finishing in a tie for fifth place, and had just come off a win at the Susie Maxwell Berning Invitational earlier this month. Without her in the line-up, the Lady Razorbacks would face a real challenge to advance out of regionals to the NCAA Championship.
• For as impressive a start to the 2006-07 season as the Florida men had—recall they were ranked No. 1 in the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches’ poll in late February—the past two months have been anything but memorable for the Gators. It continued last weekend at the SEC Championship, when Florida finished in fifth place despite starting the day only four shots off the lead. “Not quite the finish we wanted, but there are a lot of positives that we can take from this golf tournament,” said Florida coach Buddy Alexander, whose team has finished ninth, 10th, fifth, 10th and fifth since winning February’s Gator Invitational. “We played a pretty solid front nine today and put ourselves in a good position with nine holes to play, which is what you want when you play golf at this level. I would have liked to have seen us handle that opportunity a little better on the back nine, but we had a decent day and hopefully this will help us down the road.”
Alexander’s top performer turned out to be junior Tyler Brown, who tied for fourth place. Interesting, junior Manuel Villegas who had three top-10s including a win at the Gator, didn’t make the line-up for Alexander.
All this said, I’m not ready to give up on Florida just yet. Alexander is too talented a coach, and his players are young but very capable of playing well. There is still time to regroup before regionals and nationals, and something tells me coach will have his guys ready to play in the next few weeks.
• Conference championships are coming to a close … look for more previews and reviews on Campus Insider in the coming days.
__TOURNAMENTS TO WATCH
Birdwood GC, Charlottesville, Va. (Par 72, 7,000 yards)
Field: Belmont, Boston College, Central Arkansas, James Madison, Maryland, UNC Greensboro, Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth, William & Mary.
Defending champion: Maryland (seven-over 871); Brad Tilley, Virginia (even-par 216, won in playoff)
Skinny: The tournament celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Host Virginia hasn’t won the team title, however, since 1997. In the last three years, the individual race has finished in a tie. A year ago, the playoff wasn’t decided until the seventh hole, Tilley and Maryland’s Blaine Peffley making pars on the first six holes. Tilley holed a 20-foot par putt on the seventh extra hole, then watched Peffley miss an eight-footer to give the UVa senior the title.
First Energy Intercollegiate
(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)
Firestone CC (North), Akron, Ohio
Field: Akron, Ball State, Binghamton, Bowling Green, Charlotte, Cleveland State, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, George Washington, Georgetown, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph, Western Kentucky, Youngstown State