News & ToursMarch 27, 2008

This week's syllabus: March 27-April 2

__THE FAB FIVE

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

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  1. Alabama (Last week: 1)

The Crimson Tide's tournament win steak ends at three with their third-place showing at the U.S. Collegiate outside Atlanta. The team could be a little disappointed that Oklahoma State passed them for second place over the final nine holes Wednesday, but the bottom line was Alabama only finished eight strokes behind victorious USC.

Next event: Morris Williams Intercollegiate, University of Texas GC, Austin, Texas, April 7-8

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  1. USC (5)

The most impressive part of the Trojans' highly impressive victory at the U.S. Collegiate Wednesday was that the team went out and a won the tournament with its five-under 283 final-round performance. USC might be young (it started two sophomores and three freshmen this week) but looks to be quite hungry.

Next event: Stanford Intercollegiate, Stanford GC, Palo Alto, Calif., April 19-20

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  1. Georgia (3)

An under-par final round at the U.S. Collegiate was nice, but a little late to help the Bulldogs finish better than ninth place, the team's worst showing since March 2006. There's a lot of talent here, but this isn't the kind of momentum you like to see build with the postseason approaching.

Next event: The Administaff Augusta State Invitational, Champions Retreat GC, Evans, Ga., March 30-April 1

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  1. Charlotte (2)

A first-round 304 at the U.S. Collegiate was the worst 18 holes from the 49ers all season, explaining the 10th-place showing overall. A home game in a couple weeks is just what Jamie Green needs to get his group back on track.

Next event: Palisades Collegiate, Palisades CC, Charlotte, N.C., April 14-15

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  1. Tennessee (4)

The Vols were the lone team among the nation's elite missing from all of last week's top events (U.S. Collegiate, Hootie at Bulls Bay and the National Invitational Tournament). Guess they were catching their breathe before the stretch run here in April.

Next event: The Administaff Augusta State Invitational, Champions Retreat GC, Evans, Ga., March 30-April 1

__WOMEN

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  1. Duke (1)

The Blue Devils' T-5 finish at last weekend's Liz Murphey Collegiate, amazingly, was the worst finish since October 2006. They should be able to rebound pretty easily, though, seeing as they're playing an event they're familiar with in the Bryan Park National Collegiate.

Next event: Bryan Park National Collegiate, Bryan Park GC, Brown Summit, N.C., March 28-30

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  1. UCLA (2)

Can a first-team All-American be an underrated player? Junior Tiffany Joh just might be. Consider that in her seven starts, she has six top-10 finishes and a share of a tournament title. Her worst showing? T-13 at Stanford in October.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, ASU Karsten Cse., Tempe, Ariz., April 4-6

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  1. USC (3)

Question for the Trojans (as well as their crosstown rivals the Bruins): Will there be any rust with a three-week break from their last start at the UCF Challenge to next weekend in Arizona?

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, ASU Karsten Cse., Tempe, Ariz., April 4-6

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  1. Florida (4)

Want another sign of how well the Lady Gators have been doing despite the loss of Sandra Gal? Consider that Gal, now on the LPGA Tour, still ranks No. 10 in the Golfstat Cup ranking.

Next event: Bryan Park National Collegiate, Bryan Park GC, Brown Summit, N.C., March 28-30

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  1. Oklahoma State (5)

Junior All-American Pernilla Lindberg has improved her finish in every event this spring (16th, T-12, T-5, second). Guess we know who's going to be medalist outside Phoenix next week.

Next event: Ping/ASU Invitational, ASU Karsten Cse., Tempe, Ariz., April 4-6

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__STAT OF THE WEEK

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Number of days since a round from Florida junior Billy Horschel hasn't counted toward the Gators' team score. Prior to Horschel posting a final-round 74 at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Invitational in South Carolina Tuesday, the two-time first-team All-American's last non-counting round was a 73 in the second round of the Puerto Rico Classic on Feb. 26, 2007.

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WHAT TO WATCH FOR__

1.) I haven't gotten a definitive word on this from the NCAA, but my hunch is that if Arizona senior Alison Walshe goes on to win the Pac-10 player-of-the-year award this season the 2008 U.S. Curtis Cup team member would be not just the first golfer but the first athlete in any sport to have earned such an honor in three different conferences during her college career.

Walshe, a Westford, Mass., native, started at Boston College, where she won Big East player-of-the-year as a freshman in 2005. That summer she transferred to Tulane, and there she won the Conference USA's top honor as a sophomore in 2006. When Hurricane Katrina forced the New Orleans school to temporarily shut down the women's program, Walshe transferred to Arizona where she was a first-team All-American as junior. This season, she has a 72.08 stroke average, two wins (including last week's Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational), five top-fives and seven top-10s in eight starts. Her toughest competition will come from UCLA's Tiffany Joh.

2.) Don't look now, but USC sophomore Jamie Lovemark is starting to get on a role. Granted, the reigning NCAA player of the year and the defending NCAA champion hasn't won an event during the 2007-08 season. Still, the way he played the final round of the U.S. Collegiate Wednesday--six birdies, no bogeys for a 66 and a T-2 finish with a seven-under 209 overall--showed he's on his game.

"Every team needs their best players playing well and we really need Jamie to perform like he did today."

I hadn't seen Lovemark in person in a while, but the 6-foot-4 20-year-old from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., has filled out his previously lanky frame and become an imposing figure on the course, literally. We haven't seen a repeat individual winner at the NCAA Championship since Arizona State's Phil Mickelson in 1990. (Ironically, Lovemark and Mickelson play out of the same club, with Mickelson serving as a bit of a mentor to Lovemark.) This could be the year that drought ends.

3.) Alabama senior Michael Thompson, along with Crimson Tide coach Jay Seawell, heads to Augusta National GC this weekend for what will be his final tune-up before tournament week at the Masters. Thus far this year, Thompson says he's played seven practice rounds on the course, noting that any weekend he hasn't had a college tournament he's made the five-plus hour drive from Tuscaloosa.

Not since 2005 has an amateur made the cut in the year's first major, but I think Thompson will buck that trend this year. The U.S. Amateur runner-up has had a very impressive college season, posting a 70.1 stroke average, five top-five finishes and seven top-10s (including at T-8 at the U.S. Collegiate). His worst showing has been a T-10, and he has shown no ill effects from the broken left ring finger he suffered last fall.

Thompson, who had several agents following him on the course this past week at the GC of Georgia, told me this past week he will remain an amateur through the U.S. Open, having also earned a spot at Torrey Pines thanks to his performance at last year's Amateur. He also hopes to play on the U.S. Palmer Cup team, which will be named on, interestingly enough, his birthday (April 16). He intends to turn pro after the U.S. Open and hopes to receive some sponsor's exemptions into PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour events in preparation for a trip to Q school in the fall.

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UPCOMING TOURNAMENTS

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Furman Intercollegiate __

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

Furman University GC (Par 72, 6,800 yards)

Greenville, S.C.

March 28-30

Host: Furman

Field: Appalachian State, Charleston Southern, Chattanooga, Clemson, Davidson, East Carolina, Elon, Francis Marion, Furman, Marshall, North Florida, Ohio State, Old Dominion, Presbyterian, Rhode Island, Samford, South Carolina, UNC Wilmington, USC Aiken, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Western Carolina, Winthrop, Wofford

Defending champion: Virginia Tech (nine-over 873) by four over Elon; Jayson Judy, Elon (five-under 211) by three over Rhode Island's Ben Spitz, Jacksonville's Duncan Stewart and Charleston Southern's Stuart Carrihill

Skinny: With a 24-team field, you've got to hope Mother Nature looks kindly on South Carolina this weekend. A few heavy hitters--Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia Tech--are making an appearance in the 39th annual event and could pick up a lot of wins for their three-days work.

Adidas Hoosier Invitational

Indiana University GC (Par 71, 6,813 yards)

Bloomington, Ind.

March 29-30

Host: Indiana

Field: Ball State, Bowling Green, Butler, Cleveland State, Dayton, Eastern Kentucky, Evansville, George Washington, IPFW, IUPUI, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Purdue, Toledo, Western Illinois, Youngstown State

Skinny: The tournament was revived after first being played in September 2003, when former IU All-American and future PGA Tour player Jeff Overton won the event by five strokes and the Hoosiers captured the team title by 33.

Diet Pepsi Shocker Classic

Wichita CC (Par 71, 6,814 yards)

Wichita, Kan.

March 31-April 1

Host: Wichita State

Field: Denver, Florida Gulf Coast, Hartford, Iowa State, Kansas State, Nebraska, Northeastern State, Oklahoma Christian, Oklahoma City, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, UT Arlington, UT San Antonio, Virginia Commonwealth, Wichita State

Defending champion: UT Arlington (39-over 891) by two over Oklahoma City; Bobby Massa, UT Arlington (six-over 219) by one over Arkansas' Andrew Landry and Kansas State's Robert Streb

Skinny: Having gone largely unnoticed by many is the fact that Wichita State has five wins (Gene Miranda, Adams Cup, Stephen F. Austin, Sycuan Collegiate, Callaway Invitational) this season. Says here the Shockers are about to get No. 6 come next week.

Ogio Pacific Coast Intercollegiate

Rancho San Marcos GC (Par 71, 6,814 yards)

Santa Barbara, Calif.

March 31-April 1

Host: UC Santa Barbara

Field: Boise State, Cal Poly, CSU Bakersfield, CSU Northridge, Idaho State, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, Sacramento State, San Francisco, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, Weber State

Defending champion: Cal Poly (37-under 827) by five over Denver; Chris Kirk, Cal Poly (17-under 199) by four over Idaho's Russell Grove

Skinny: If you're looking for an individual favorite, consider Boise State's Troy Merritt. He has won three titles this year and is coming off a school-record performance at the Ron Moore Invitational.

Wofford Invitational

Carolina CC (Par 72, 6,877 yards)

Spartanburg, S.C.

March 31-April 1

Host: Wofford

Field: Akron, Appalachian State, Charleston Southern, Elon, Furman, High Point, Presbyterian, Radford, Stetson, USC Beaufort, USC Upstate, Wofford

Defending champion: Elon (seven-under 857) by 10 over Charleston Southern; Andres Cuenca, Western Carolina (eight-under 208) by two over Wofford's John Gault and Elon's Justin Newton

Skinny: Three of the past four team champions (Elon, 2006 champ Charleston Southern and 2004 champ Furman) are competing in the 21st playing of the event.


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WOMEN

Bryan Park National Collegiate __

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

Players Course at Bryan Park GC (Par 72, 6,319 yards)

Brown Summit, N.C.

March 28-30

Host: UNC Greensboro/Wake Forest

Field: Arkansas, Auburn, Charleston, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Furman, Michigan State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Penn State, South Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, Virginia, Wake Forest

Defending champion: Purdue (23-over 887) by seven over Florida; Sandra Gal, Florida, and__Maria Hernandez__, Purdue (one-under 215) with Hernandez winning a playoff

Skinny: The event has turned into a great final preparation before conference championships for East Coast schools. It's also become a favorite for the Duke Blue Devils, who have won the event six times in its 10 years. That said, for only the second time it will be contested on the Players course as the Champions course is undergoing renovations for the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.

Mountain View Collegiate

Mountain View GC (Par 72, 6,178 yards)

Tucson, Ariz.

March 29-30

Host: Colorado

Field: Arizona, Baylor, Boise State, Colorado, Colorado State, East Carolina, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Oklahoma, San Jose State, Texas Tech

Defending champion: Nebraska (two-over 866) by four over Northwestern; Elaine Harris, Indiana, (seven-under 209) by five over Denver's Katie Kempter, Oklahoma's Kendall Dye and Northwestern's Liliana Alvarez

Skinny: East Carolina heads west to see if it can keep its five-event winning streak alive. Toughest hurdle the Lady Pirates will face in this event that's celebrating its 10th year: sixth-ranked Arizona.

John Kirk/Lady Panther Intercollegiate

Eagle's Landing CC (Par 73, 6,145 yards)

Stockbridge, Ga.

March 30-April 1

Host: Georgia State

Field: Arkansas-Little Rock, Augusta State, Campbell, Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, Elon, Georgia State, Jacksonville State, Maryland, Memphis, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi State, Richmond, Western Carolina, Xavier

Defending champion: Maryland (nine-over 585) by five over Louisville; Stacey Tate, Memphis (four-under 140) by one over Maryland's Kelly Calkin and East Carolina's Lene Krog

__Skinny:__The event, being held for the 15th time, is named after the late John Kirk, a long-time supporter of the Georgia State women's program and a former pro at Northwood CC, where the tournament was first held. Meanwhile, Maryland got some long odds to beat if it wants to repeat as champions; in the last nine years, nine different schools have won the team title.

Sacramento State Invitational

Lincoln Hills GC (Par 72, 5,819 yards)

Sacramento, Calif.

March 31-April 1

Host: Sacramento State

__Field:__Cal Poly, CSU Bakersfield, CSU Northridge, Colorado, Denver, Eastern Washington, Fresno State, Idaho, Nevada, Northern Arizona, Oregon, Sacramento State, San Diego State, San Francisco, Santa Clara, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UNLV, Washington State

__Defending champion:__New event

__Skinny:__Tourney gets a fair amount of interest in that it's played on the course that will host the NCAA West Regional in May.

BYU Dixie Classic

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

Entrada at Snow Canyon (Par 72, 6,216 yards)

St. George, Utah

April 1-2

Host: BYU

__Field:__BYU, Colorado State, Idaho State, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Portland State, Redlands CC, Southern Utah, Texas Tech, Utah Valley State, Weber State, Wyoming

Defending champion: BYU (14-over 878) by 16 over TCU; Alison Walshe, Arizona (two-under 214) by two over Denver's Stephanie Sherlock

__Skinny:__The host Cougars are the clear favorites, particularly after coming off their first victory of the 2007-08 when they shared the team title with Washington State at the UNLV Spring Invitational earlier this month.

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