News & ToursFebruary 16, 2012

The Syllabus: A struggling champion

__THE FAB FIVE

____My look at the top five teams in the country right now

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Men

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1.____Texas (Last week: 1)

Given the depth that the Longhorns rosters has shown thus far in the 2011-12 season, missing Jordan Spieth for the Puerto Rico event (he's playing on a sponsor's exemption at the Northern Trust Open) shouldn't be as problematic an issue as it could be. That said, it will be curious to see how John Fields' squad handles the fact its big steer isn't eating with the rest of the cattle this week.

Next event: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar GC (River course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 19-21 [#image: /photos/55ad74ffb01eefe207f6b32d]|||Auburn logo.gif|||

2. Auburn (NR)

Impressive performance from the Tigers in ending Florida's eight-year winning streak at the Gator Invitational. Emergence of Dominic Bozzelli, another former UCF golfer who came over with coach Nick Clinard to Auburn three years ago, is becoming one of the more interesting under-the-radar stories of the 2011-12 season.

Next event: Wyoming Desert Collegiate, Classic Club, Palm Desert, Calif., Feb. 25-26

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3. USC (3)

Another nice performance for the Trojans in San Diego, racking up second straight runner-up finish. I know that if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, however, had Sam Smith been in the lineup, instead of playing as an individual, the team would have at least tied Washington for team title.

Next event: Del Walker Match Play, Virginia CC, Long Beach, Calif., Feb. 27-28

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4. Washington (NR)

The Huskies gained confidence with their victory this week in San Diego. Wire-to-wire win on a tough golf course against a solid field. If Matt Thurmond can get Trevor Simsby to repeat his top-10 performance to shore up the back-end of UW's lineup, this could be a dangerous bunch.

Next event: Del Walker Match Play, Virginia CC, Long Beach, Calif., Feb. 27-28

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5__. UCLA __(2)

The Bruins have too deep a lineup to underestimate, and six top-five finishes in six starts is pretty nice, but why does it feel like they should have more than one win given their talent? The third-place showing in San Diego was without Patrick Cantlay, but also saw top-10 finishes from__Alex Kim__ and Pedro Figueiredo. If they ever get their whole rosters playing well at the same time, watch out.

Next event: Del Walker Match Play, Virginia CC, Long Beach, Calif., Feb. 27-28

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Women__

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__1. UCLA __(1)

Maybe Arizona did a disservice to the rest of the college golf world by beating the Bruins by 12 in the spring opener. Carrie Forsyth's squad seemed awfully motivated to show its still the best in show with a comfortable 12-stroke victory at the Northrop Grumman.

Next event: Bruin Wave Invitational, El Caballero CC, Tarzana, Calif., March 5-7

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__2. LSU __(4)

Last week's prediction held strong as the Tigers played like the quality team they are with a final-round rally that led to a two-stroke victory over Georgia in Puerto Rico, the team's third of the 2011-12 season. Four top-20 performances, including top-10s from Austin Ernst and Tessa Teachman give Karen Bahnsen her 35th career team title as LSU women's coach.

Next event: Central District Invitational, River Wilderness CC, Parrish, Fla., Feb. 20-21

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__3. Auburn __(3)

The Tigers win their first team of the 2011-12 season with a two-stroke win over Baylor at the UCF Challenge, the school's first regular season victory since spring 2010. More impressively, perhaps, they had their third different golfer win an individual title with freshman Victoria Trapani claiming medalist honors, joining Carlie Yadloczky and Marta Sanz from the fall.

*Next event: *Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn GC, New Orleans, Feb. 26-28

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__4. Alabama __(2)

The Crimson Tide's drop from second to fourth is primarily a function of the team having not yet played this spring. SEC race feels a little like a tennis match right now: LSU and Auburn each won on their serves, now Alabama can hold its serve in New Orleans next week?

*Next event: *Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate, English Turn GC, New Orleans, Feb. 26-28

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5. Arizona (NR)

I'm relying a bit on the transitive property here. If the Wildcats can beat UCLA by 12 strokes (even if it was at home) and UCLA is beating everybody by at least 12 at the Northrop Grumman, doesn't that mean the Wildcats are pretty good? Would like to see more than two top-fives in five starts on their resume, but adding Manon Gidali to a senior-laden roster (Isabelle Boineau,Margarita Ramos,Nikki Koller) might be enough to spark a good spring run in Tucson.

Next event: UNLV Spring Invitational, Cascata GC, Boulder City, Nev., Feb. 20-21

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STAT OF THE WEEK__

1-3

Record of Division I coaches who have been picked to coach the U.S. Palmer Cup team a year after winning the NCAA Championship. Having been picked as the coach for the 2012 team that will compete at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland June 28-30, Josh Gregory will be joining Clemson's Larry Penley, Georgia's__Chris Haack__, Oklahoma State's__Mike McGraw__ and Stanford's Conrad Ray as coaches picked to lead the American team in wake of winning a D-I national title. However, only McGraw in 2007 at Caves Valley GC outside of Baltimore was able to lead the U.S. team to victory.

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____TWEET OF THE WEEK

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I like the bilingual panache from the U.S. Curtis Cupper.

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RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

__I'm already doing Twitter and Facebook (well sort of). I'm crying uncle when it comes to Pinterest. __

WHAT TO WATCH FOR__

"Everybody is so used to seeing the same four or five players that competed for the national championship," McPherson told me, "but you know what a lot of people haven't seen is the players we have at home and the depth we have at home. … I think we have a little bit of rebuilding but not as much as what some people perceive us to be."

McPherson was the logical candidate to take over the program when Josh Gregory left and remains the right person to lead this group. However, he is learning the hard way that the loss of all five starters from the squad that won back-to-back national titles is something that no squad can easily replace, no matter how much depth the roster has.

With a ninth-place showing at last week's San Diego Intercollegiate, the Jaguars have finished in the top five in just one of five tournaments during the 2011-12 season. More importantly, their head-to-head record is 24-41-1, the 17-loss deficit that has to be overcome in their last four starts or it will cost ASU the opportunity to even try to make a run at a third title. With Augusta State being an independent, the team has no conference championship it can try to win in April and earn an automatic qualifier spot into NCAA regionals. Thus the team must have a .500 head-to-head record or be ineligible for the postseason.

Interestingly, the Jaguars' home event, the Insperity ASU Invitational, is currently the team's final start of the season. That's probably to their advantage, as their familiarity with Forest Hills GC will likely help them finish strong. They'll know what place they have to finish in order to get to that .500 mark, which will also be helpful.

The other thing working in their favor is the addition of Maverick Antcliff to their roster. The Australian native enrolled in January but missed the San Diego event because of some NCAA clearing-house questions. Once they're cleared up, it's expected that make it into the starting lineup and help provide some much needed depth.

But what happens if no matter what their finish at the Insperity, they can't make up the loss deficit? Counting ASU's days of competition by looking at their current 2011-12 schedule, they'll have used 22. Might they be able to add another two-day event to see if they can get more wins? I haven't asked McPherson specifically about this scenario, but it might not be a fallback.

EDITOR'S NOTE, Feb. 16, 10:47 p.m.: A quick update regarding my Augusta State item from today's Syllabus column. Kevin McPherson confirmed through the school's sports information department that the Jaguars are adding one more two-day event to their schedule, playing in the Princeton Invitational April 14-15 at Springdale GC in Princeton, N.J.

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  • The Wichita State men travel to the Rice Intercollegiate this coming weekend as the only ranked team from the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll in the field, but it won't be as simple it would seem. The 25th-ranked Shockers continue to try and regroup after having their van stolen from the parking lot at The Quarry GC in San Antonio earlier this month.

"I'm still in a little bit of a fog," Wichita State coach Grier Jones (right) told me when I talked to him on the phone this morning. "Our international players, right now they don't have any official form of ID. We lost everything except what we had on and our golf clubs."

The Shockers were in San Antonio for the UTSA/Oak Hills Invitational, but had arrived early to play an 18-hole individual stroke-play event with Iowa State and Kansas State at The Quarry. When the round was over, a few of Jones' players headed out to the parking lot to retrieve some items from the van that had been rented that morning after the team had flow into town. When they couldn't find the van, they went and found Jones to ask him again where they had park.

"I thought they were kidding me," said Jones of not being able to find the van. "We've got some good guys who try to pull your leg."

When Jones went out, however, he realized the van--complete with all the players clothes, school books, computers and other supplies--was indeed nowhere to be found. (Jones said police still have not been able to find the van or any of the stolen material)

After reporting the van stolen, Jones scrambled, replacing the van then taking the team to a nearby Target to get clothes and toiletries, spending roughly $1,500 so everybody, six players and two coaches, could get through the week.

"We were all mismatched but we had to have something," said Jones, in his 16th season as Wichita State's coach. "And everybody just had one pair of shoes to wear the whole week, their golf shoes."

Upon hearing of the Shockers' plight, UT-San Antonio coach John Knauer and the school's athletic director Lynn Hickey pitched in to try to help. One night the UTSA athletic department set up Jones' team at a local restaurant that's a UTSA sponsor. Another night, one of the school's bigger donors hosted the entire team at his house for dinner.

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate what they did for us," Jones said. "John loaned us their travel covers so we could get our clubs back home. They gave us backpacks to carry our dirty clothes. Everybody at UTSA absolutely bent over backwards to make things the best they could be."

Given the distractions, perhaps it's not a surprise that the Shockers finished fourth in the event, despite the fact that it was the first tournament they had played since landing in the top 25 of the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll for the first time in school history last November.

That said, Jones is hoping that the players, particularly the team's top performer in the fall, Hunter Sparks, can re-focus and return to the form that earned them two team titles and four top-three finishes in four fall starts.

"We're not going to look back at what happened," Jones said. "We're going to try to put this behind us and move on."

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TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS

MEN

Puerto Rico Classic

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Rio Mar CC (River Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Feb. 19-21

Host: Purdue

Defending champion: Alabama (-28/836) by five strokes over Georgia Tech; Georgia Tech's James White (-10/206) by one stroke over Alabama's Bud Cauley

Field: Alabama, Clemson, East Tennessee State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Texas, UNC Greensboro, Virginia Tech

__Skinny:__Texas current momentum gets combined with some historic vibes: the Longhorns won the team title there in 2010 and Dylan Frittelli was co-medalist in 2009.

__Mobile Bay Intercollegiate

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Magnolia Grove GC, Mobile, Ala.

Feb. 20-21

Host: South Alabama

Defending champion: Middle Tennessee State (-1/863) by 11 strokes over Kentucky; Middle Tennessee State's Jason Millard (-11/205) by seven strokes over Kentucky's Chase Parker and South Alabama's Jack Hiluta

Field: Akron, Arkansas State, Illinois, Illinois State, Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Mercer, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, South Alabama, Southern Mississippi, Toledo, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest

__Skinny:__Fourth year of the tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course.

__Rice Intercollegiate

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Westwood GC, Houston

Feb. 20-21

Host: Rice

Defending champion: New Mexico State (-11/853) by three strokes over Florida Gulf Coast; New Mexico State's Gaston De la Torre (-9/207) by three strokes over Florida Gulf Coast's Brandon Pena, Wichita State's Calvin Pearson and Bowling Green State's Drew Preston

Field: Air Force, Florida Gulf Coast, Houston, Houston Baptist, Kansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Missouri State, Northwestern, New Mexico State, Rice, Texas State, UT-San Antonio, Wichita State, Winthrop

Skinny: New Mexico State is looking to become not just the first team to repeat as champions in the 11-year history of the event, but the first school to win the event more than once.

__Folino Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Industry Hills CC, Industry, Calif.

Host: CSU-Fullerton

Defending champion: Cal Poly (+15/867) by three strokes over UC Irvine; Cal Poly's Geoff Gonzalez (-1/212) by three strokes over four others

Field: Cal Poly, CSU-Bakersfield, CSU-Fullerton, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, Oakland, Pepperdine, Sacramento State, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara

Skinny: Event is being played concurrent with the women's tournament and has moved a month earlier on the calendar from 2011.

__WOMEN

Peg Barnard Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Stanford GC, Stanford, Calif.

Feb. 18-19

Host: Stanford

Defending champion: California (+11/579) by 18 strokes over Stanford; California's Emily Childs (-2/140) by three strokes over California's Daniela Holmqvist

Field: California, Fresno State, Furman, Hawaii, Oregon State, Portland State, Rollins, San Francisco, San Jose State, Santa Clara, Stanford, Washington

Skinny: Only two non-Pac-12 schools have ever won the 16-year-old 36-hole event: San Jose State (1995, 1996, 1997) and Denver (2003)

__Claud Jacobs Challenge

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Victoria CC, Victoria, Texas

Feb. 19-20

Host: Texas State

Defending champion: Texas State (+48/912) by eight strokes over Kansas; Texas State's Krista Puisite and Tulsa's Kamryn Ruffin (+9/225) co-medalists

Field: Ball State, Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, Houston Baptist, Iowa, Lamar, Louisiana-Monroe, McNeese State, Missouri, Ohio, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin State, Texas State, UT-Pan American, Toledo, Houston-Victoria, Western Illinois

__Skinny:__Tourney looks like it sets up for the host school to start the spring on a positive note again.

__Folino Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Industry Hills CC, Industry, Calif.

Host: CSU-Fullerton

Defending champion: Long Beach State (+30/606) by four strokes over UC Irvine; Portland State's Lauren Taylor (E/144) by four strokes over UC Irvine's Patty Chawalitmetha and Long Beach State's Simone Hoey

Field: Cal Poly, CSU-Bakersfield, CSU-Fullerton, CSU-Northridge, Eastern Washington, Gonzaga, Long Beach State, Montana, Sacramento, Seattle, South Alabama, UC Riverside

__Skinny:__Second-year event is named after Paul Folino, the local philanthropist who helped bring back men's and women's golf to CSU-Fullerton after more than two decades in 2009-10.

__Central District Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

River Wilderness CC, Parrish, Fla.

Feb. 20-21

Host: Michigan State

Defending champion: Iowa State (+4/868) by nine strokes over LSU; LSU's Austin Ernst (-3/213) by one stroke over TCU's Brooke Beeler

Field: Coastal Carolina, Indiana, Iowa State, Kent State, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU, UCF, Vanderbilt

Skinny: River Wilderness has proved a good home-away-from-home for the Spartans; MSU has finished in the top five at the event every year since 2007 and eight out of 12 times overall.

__UNLV Spring Rebel Invitational

__   (For live scoring, click here to link to Golfstat)

Cascata GC, Boulder City, Nev.

Feb. 20-21

Host: UNLV

Defending champion: Pepperdine (-20/844) by 14 strokes over BYU; BYU's Kelsey Vines (-10/206) over Pepperdine's Danielle Kang in a sudden-death playoff

Field: Arizona, BYU, Colorado State, Idaho, Louisville, New Mexico, New Mexico State, North Texas, San Diego State, UC Irvine, UNLV

__Skinny:__Tourney moves from Boulder Creek GC to Cascata this year.

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