The Loop

This Week's Syllabus — 3/27

March 29, 2006

FEATURED TOURNAMENTS for the week of March 27


(Click for Live Scoring from Golfstat)__

Champions Retreat GC (Par 72, 7,265 yards)

Evans, Ga.

April 1-2__

Call it the prelude to the Masters. Contested on the weekend prior to the “other” tournament in Augusta, the ASU Invitational has a few connections with the year’s first men’s major. Although the team and individual champions don’t get green jackets, they do received tickets to Monday’s practice round at Augusta National, as do all teams in the field for that matter. The perk was a great one except in 2003 when the day was washed-out entirely, the first time this had happened since 1983. One future Masters champions, meanwhile, also earned medalist honors at the event—Phil Mickelson winning here in 1989—while three other former ASU medalists will be playing in the Masters, Justin Leonard (1992, Texas), Tim Herron (1993, New Mexico) and Vaughn Taylor (1998, Augusta State).

After 27 years of holding the tournament at Forest Hills GC, the ASU Invitational moves to Champions Retreat, a 27-hole facility with three nine-hole layouts built by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player (the Nicklaus and Player nines will be in play this weekend). The upgraded venue is expected to help continue to grow the event in prestige.

Host Augusta State took the 2005 title here with a one-shot win over Georgia and will look to win the team championship for the 12th time. Likely to give the Jaguars their toughest competition is fifth-ranked UCLA, coming in after winning the National Invitational Tournament in Tucson Tuesday. The Bruins will warm up in Georgia with a one-day match-play event against Augusta State at Forest Hills. Meanwhile, the sleeper in the field may well be the two-time defending Division II champs in USC-Aiken. The Pacers have won six of their eight events this season, and in senior Scott Brown (a first-team All-American from North Augusta, S.C.) and senior Dane Burkhart (2005 NCAA DII player of the year) they can argue about having the best one-two combination in the country, regardless of division.

Other events to watch:

Omni Tuscon (Ariz.) National

March 27-28—Oregon Duck Invitational, Shadow Hills CC,

Junction City, Ore.

March 27-28—Western Intercollegiate, Pasatiempo GC,

Santa Cruz, Calif.

March 27-28—UALR/First Tee Collegiate, Chenel CC,

Little Rock, Ark.

Stevinson (Calif.) Ranch




Ping Arizona State Invitational__

(Click for Live Scoring from Golfstat)__

ASU Karsten GC (Par 72, 6,230 yards)

Tempe, Ariz.

March 31-April 2__

Since its inception in 1966, the ASU Invitational has been one of the elite events in women’s college golf. Many of the game’s best have earned medalist honors in the desert, including Nancy Lopez (1976, 1977, Tulsa); Jody Rosenthal (1985, Tulsa); Kelly Robbins (1990, 1991, Tulsa); Wendy Ward (1994, 1995, Arizona State); Hilary Lunke (1998, Stanford); Grace Park (1999, Arizona State) and Lorena Ochoa (2002, Arizona). Suffice it to say, the tournament is a fitting compliment to the storied golf program the Sun Devils have built over the years.

The 41st edition has 10 top-25 teams in the 16-school field. UCLA, which regained its No. 2 position in the most recent Golf World Coaches’ Poll this week from host Arizona State, is coming off a victory at the Cal Guadalajara Invitational and looks as if its got freshman standout Jane Park rounding into form at an opportune time. The 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion had her best collegiate performance when she finished runner-up in Mexico. The Bruins also got good news when junior Hannah Jun, recovering from a broken neck suffered in an auto accident last December, had her halo brace removed earlier this month, although whether she’ll play again in the 2005-06 season remains uncertain.

Yet while many will be watching from a Bruins-Sun Devils clash—ASU is also the defending champions, having beaten UCLA in a tie-breaker here in 2005—don’t be surprised to see USC sneak in and claim its first team title of the spring after two runner-up showings. Trojan coach Andrea Gaston says that her 2005-06 squad has the best team chemistry of any groups she’s had in Los Angeles, including the 2003 NCAA champs. “They’re really enjoying one another,” Gaston said. “I love that part of it. I couldn’t ask for more because when you’re dealing with an individual sport, sometimes they don’t always want to be together.”

FIELD: No. 20 Arizona, No. 3 Arizona State, No. 23 Long Beach State, Missouri, Oregon, Oregon State, No. 7 Pepperdine, No. 18 Stanford, Texas, No. 17 Texas A&M, Tulsa, No. 2 UCLA, No. 10 UNLV, No. 5 USC, No. 25 Washington, Washington State.

Other events to watch:

March 27-28—Oregon Duck Invitational, Shadow Hills CC,

Junction City, Ore.

River Landing CC, Wallace, N.C.

March 31-April 2—Bryan National Collegiate, Bryan Park

Champions Cse., Browns Summitt, N.C.

Don Shula Golf Resort, Miami Lakes, Fla.