Conference call, April 30
It was a big weekend for the golfers in green as Michigan State claimed the women's Big Ten title by 13 strokes over Purdue at MSU's Forest Akers GC while the Spartan men's team shared the conference title with Minnesota at Ohio State's Scarlet Course. Fifth-year Spartan senior Rachel Meikle took medalist honors at the women's event in record-setting fashion, shooting a four-under 284 in what was her first college victory. On the men's side, Purdue senior Pariya Junhasavasdikul went wire-to-wire, posting a one-over 285 for an eight-stroke victory over MSU's Matt Harmon and Minnesota's Bronson La'Cassie to become the first Boilermaker since 1967 to win the individual Big Ten title.
Other conference winners this past weekend included the BYU men (by one stroke over UNLV) and TCU's Robby Ormand at the Mountain West Conference Championship and the Kent State women (by 49 strokes over Eastern Michigan) and Golden Flash Kira Meixner at the Mid-American Conference Championship. It was BYU's first league title since 2001 and came after a see-saw final round at the Omni Tucson National Resort. The Cougars started the day with an eight-stroke lead, made the turn six strokes back of the Rebels, endured a half-hour weather delay and watched Daniel Summerhays birdie the last hole while UNLV's Seung-su Han bogeyed for the final result. The scene wasn't as dramatic at Longaberger GC in Nashport, Ohio for Kent State, but the result was still impressive as the school claimed its ninth straight conference crown.
Up next this week are the following men's championships. And don't forget, the NCAA Women's Division I regional selections will be announced this afternoon.
Field: __Alabama-Birmingham, Central Florida, East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Mississippi, UTEP, Tulsa
Skinny:__ SMU and Tulsa seem the likely two to be vying for the team title, although the Mustangs chances have been hindered by the absence of their conference player-of-the-year candidate Colt Knost, who Monday qualified for the PGA Tour's EDS Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas and then made the cut after shooting a second-round 64. Knost missed yesterday's first round at Texarkana CC but is expected to play for SMU today and tomorrow. Without Knost, SMU finished in 10th place after the first round, 16 strokes back of Tulsa. Knost would have been a favorite for the individual title too, but now the medalist race seems to be in the hands of whatever Tulsa player is ready to shine. Brett Myers, Sam Korbe, Mitch Cohlmia, Nicolas Geyger and Ryan Henry have all won or shared medalist honors in events this year. Picking before Sunday's first round, I'd give the edge to Korbe.
Field: __Butler, Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Loyola (Ill.), Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wright State, Youngstown State
Skinny: Detroit Mercy, third a year ago in the Horizon Championship, has the best ranking of any team in the league and has the most momentum, finishing in the top five in five of its last six starts, including a victory at IPFW event last fall. __Knutson has a shot at defending his title, but will have to hold off Detroit Mercy's Mark Sommerfeld, who has a league-best 73.0 stroke average, was the conference player of the year in 2006 and finished one stroke out of last year's individual playoff. Look for the Titans and Sommerfeld to roll to conference titles.
Field: __Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State
__ Skinny: The team race is fairly wide open, with Fresno State ranked best among the nine conference squads. Could the Bulldogs take inspiration from former All-American__Nick Watney's first PGA Tour win in New Orleans? Our guess is yes, although host Nevada will make it very competitive.