News & ToursNovember 6, 2008

This week's syllabus: Nov. 7-13

__THE FAB FIVE

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

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  1. Georgia (Last week: 1)

Fall results: 4 starts; 2 wins (Brickyard Collegiate; Isleworth/UCF Collegiate), 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s

Just think how dominant this team could be if senior Brian Harman returned to his All-American form from his freshman and sophomore years.

Spring opener: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar GC (River course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 27-March 1

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  1. Oklahoma State (2)

Fall results: 3 starts; 1 win (Ping/Golfweek Preview), 2 top-5s, 3 top-10s

You can bet the Cowboys' disappointing T-9 finish at Isleworth to close fall will give coach Mike McGraw a motivational tool during the winter break.

Spring opener: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar GC (River course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 27-March 1

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  1. USC (4)

Fall results: 3 starts; 1 win (CordeValle), 3 top-5s

Conversely, the Trojans' 26-stroke victory Wednesday at the CordeValle Collegiate--with Tim Sluiter (co-winner), Tom Glissmeyer (third), Matt Giles (T-4) and Jamie Lovemark (T-7) finishing in the top seven overall--provides a great shot of momentum for Chris Zambri's talent-laden squad.

Spring opener: UH Hilo Invitational, Mauna Lani North Course, Kohala Coast, Hawaii, Feb. 4-6

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  1. Alabama (3)

Fall results: 4 starts; 1 win (Jerry Pate Collegiate), 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s

To top last year's historic six-win season would have been asking a bit much, but coach Jay Seawell has to be pleased with how quickly his young line-up has seemed to make the transition to full-time players.

Spring opener: John Hayt Collegiate Invitational, Sawgrass CC, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 22-24

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  1. Illinois (5)

Fall results: 5 starts; 3 wins (Olympia Fields, Windon Classic, D.A. Weibring), 4 top-5s, 4 top-10s

One of the big surprises at the midway point of the 2008-09 season, the Fighting Illini have the talent to remain a top-25 team. The question, however, is whether they truly believe they belong.

Spring opener: Big Ten Match Play tournament, Coral Springs, Fla., Feb. 13-14

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WOMEN

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  1. UCLA (1)

Fall results: 4 starts; 3 wins (Topy Cup, Mason Rudolph, Stanford Intercollegiate), 4 top-5s

Hard to be too bent out of shape with the fifth-place showing at the Hooters Collegiate Match Play this week. The Bruins earned the No. 1 seed in stroke-play qualifying and lost in the first round to Michigan State on an odd tiebreaker.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11

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  1. Arizona State (2)

Fall results: 3 starts; 2 wins (NCAA Fall Preview, Derby Invitational), 3 top-5s

Having preached about how the season was going to be a "tale of two semesters," coach Melissa Luellen should be pleased with how the Sun Devils handled the fall, when they weren't at full strength.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11

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  1. USC (3)

Fall results: 4 starts; 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s

Defending NCAA champs had three runner-up finishes in stroke-play events before finishing eighth at the Match Play this week. Considering the Trojans kept Belen Mozo and Stefanie Endstrasser back in Los Angeles last week to catch up on school work, don't read much into the way the team closed the fall. A repeat at nationals is still very much a possibility.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11

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  1. Oklahoma State (4)

Fall results: 4 starts; 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s

Considering the Cowgirls had their head coach resign and essentially have been without talented sophomore Jaclyn Sweeney all fall, their record is pretty impressive ... thanks in no small part to  Caroline Hedwall and Pernilla Lindberg. Talent isn't an issue (see the 20-under 268 they shot in the final round of the Las Vegas Collegiate last week). Still, a lot of things need to be resolved during the winter break.

Spring opener: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, Peninsula GC, Puerto Penasco, Mexico, Feb. 22-24

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  1. Purdue (5)

Fall results: 4 starts; 2 wins (Windy City, Lady Northern), 2 top-5s, 3 top-10s

The Lady Boilermakers can be as good as they want to be. __Junthima Gulyamamitta has stepped up to fill the shoes of__Christel Boeljon and Maria Hernandez is a rock. Whether they have the depth to contend with the West Coast powers remains to be seen.

Spring opener: Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Coco Beach GC, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 8-10

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STAT OF THE WEEK, PART I__

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Career win-loss record of Duke's Alison Whitaker in her individual matches at the Hooters Collegiate Match Play Championship. The junior from Australia swept all three of her matches earlier this week (losing just two holes total) to help the Blue Devils claim the team title for the fifth time in the past six years.

"It's awesome, to be honest with you," Whitaker said about the team win at Ginn Reunion Resort near Orlando, the first in 2008-09 for Duke, and earned with coach Dan Brooks back in Durham recovering from an illness. "It's probably easily one of the top three most rewarding wins since I've been here at Duke. Everyone just really dug deep this week, and it's taken a lot of heart to get where we have--keeping patient, keeping up the belief in yourself and your belief that the rest of the team has your back while you're out there."

Whitaker beat USC's Shelcie Takenouchi, 8 and 6; Michigan State's Shannon Warner, 5 and 4; and Alabama's Laura Goodwin, 8 and 7.

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STAT OF THE WEEK, PART II

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Number of birdies Marquette's Mike Van Sickle made over his final four holes to close out his final-round 69 at the Stockton Sports Commission Pacific Invitational and win the tournament by one stroke. The senior from Wexford, Pa., make an 18-foot birdie putt on his second to last hole and a 25-footer for birdie on his final hole at Brookside CC to pull out his ninth career win and third victory of the fall.

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WHAT TO WATCH FOR__

  • I like changing things up a little bit from the same-old, same-old of stroke-play tournaments, so I have no problem with the National Golf Coaches Association holding the Hooters Collegiate Match Play Championship each fall. I wish, however, that the schools that play in the event would take it a bit more seriously. Because it was held this year around the same time as the Duramed Futures Tour's Q-school, a handful of schools were without some of their top players (Duke, the tournament winner for the fifth time in six years, was missing senior All-American Jennie Lee). Other schools, however, decided to leave some of their better players behind, taking instead players deeper down their rosters. There were surely some good reasons why some schools chose to bring the squads that they did, but in the process they do a disservice to their own coaches' association by not bringing their best to the event that it sponsors.

  • Forgive me if I seem to be repeating myself, but I once again hope we don't see great performances by players at lower profile schools be forgotten when it comes to awards time. UC Irvine senior Jane Chin shot a final-round 69 last week at the Kent Youel Invitational in Hawaii to cruise to a nine-shot victory over San Francisco's Christina Stockton. It was Chin's third straight victory, and her 54-hole score of 13-under 203 set the Anteaters' school record; her second-round 66 equalled UC Irvine's 18-hole best. If the Kent Youel hadn't been played simultaneously with the birdie-fest that was the Las Vegas Collegiate, Chin's showing wouldn't have been lost in the see of red that Pepperdine posted.

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TOURNAMENTS TO WATCH

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Turtle Bay Intercollegiate__

Turtle Bay Resort GC, Kahuku, Hawaii

Nov. 10-12

Host: Hawaii

Field: Baylor, Cal Poly, Charleston, Hawaii, Long Beach State, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Ohio State, Oregon State, Pepperdine, Point Loma Nazarene, St. Mary's (Calif.), San Diego State, Santa Clara, Texas, Texas-Arlington, UC Irvine, UNLV

Defending champion: Tennessee (64-under 800) by 21 strokes over UC Irvine; Tennessee's Charles Ford and UC Irvine's Sean Shahi (16-under 200)

Skinny: Hawaii in November ... we can think of worse places to finish up the fall season.

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