News & ToursSeptember 12, 2008

This week's syllabus: Sept. 12-17

__THE FAB FIVE

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

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  1. UCLA (Golf World/Nike Golf preseason poll: 1)

Some people are complaining that the coaches' gave too much credit to the Bruins for being the defending NCAA champions in the preseason poll. They don't give out national championships on paper, however, so until somebody knocks them off, I have no problem with UCLA as No. 1.

Season opener: Fighting Illini/Olympia Fields Invitational, Olympia Fields CC, Olympia Fields, Ill., Sept. 19-21

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  1. Oklahoma State (2)

The Cowboys are so deep (again on paper at least) that senior Trent Leon, a two-time All-American and the last remaining player to start for OSU on the 2006 NCAA title team, is going to be fighting hard to keep his spot in the starting lineup.

Season opener: Fighting Illini/Olympia Fields Invitational, Olympia Fields CC, Olympia Fields, Ill., Sept. 19-21

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  1. Georgia (3)

The Bulldogs are also fully loaded, with two U.S. Amateur semifinalists (Adam Mitchell and Patrick Reed), a former U.S. Walker Cupper (Brian Harman), the SEC's reigning freshman of the year (Harris English) and a second-team All-American (Hudson Swafford) ... and NONE OF THESE GUYS was their team leader in scoring average last year (Russell Henley).

Next event: Carpet Capital Classic, The Farm CC, Dalton, Ga., Sept. 12-14

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  1. Stanford (4)

Missed defending its 2007 NCAA title by one stroke last spring at the Kampen Course. Cardinal loses great leader in Rob Grube, but Joseph Bramlett's return from injury, the increased confidence of Jordan Cox from getting into the U.S. Open and blue-chip recruit David Chung will keep Stanford high in the rankings.

Season opener: Fighting Illini/Olympia Fields Invitational, Olympia Fields CC, Olympia Fields, Ill., Sept. 19-21

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  1. USC (5)

The Trojans can make the best argument of "should have" winning last year's NCAA title. Losing Rory Hie (turned pro early) will hurt, and it would be nice for Jamie Lovemark's swing to return, but USC fans will be smiling again come next spring.

Season opener: Golfweek/Ping Preview, Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio, Sept. 28-29



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WOMEN

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  1. Arizona State (4)

Winning the Duramed NCAA Preview last Monday was a very nice way to start the season. When the Sun Devils get their full roster in the spring, watch out.

Next event: Mason Rudolph Women's Championship, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 26-28

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  1. UCLA (2)

Bruins' depth already on display as well; victory at the Topy Cup came without senior All-American Tiffany Joh in the lineup. Congrats to medalist Glory Yang, who is going to make my Top 50 Players to Watch list (and her absence from it) look bad this year, I can tell already.

Next event: Mason Rudolph Women's Championship, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 26-28

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  1. USC (1)

Like the UCLA men, the USC women deserved to be ranked preseason No. 1 ... and now deserved to fall slightly after finishing second at the Duramed Fall Preview. Anyone who sleeps on USC, however, will be in for a rude awakening.

Next event: Mason Rudolph Women's Championship, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 26-28

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  1. Oklahoma State (5)

The Cowgirls, like Arizona State, always seem to be a fifth-player short from being REALLY good. Well, that won't be an issue this season. How do you like that college debut from Caroline Hedwall? Medalist in your first event, one loaded with nine of the top-10 teams in the country, ain't too bad.

Next event: Mason Rudolph Women's Championship, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn., Sept. 26-28

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  1. Georgia (6)

Since Taylor Leon left, the Bulldogs have been missing a go-to No. 1 player in their lineup. Do they finally have that in sophomore Krystle Caithness (T-4 at Duramed NCAA Preview)? Yes or not, fourth-place finish at Caves Valley was good start.

Next event: Cougar Classic, Yeamans Hall Club, Charleston, S.C., Sept. 14-16

__STAT OF THE WEEK

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Number of college men who have shot rounds of 60 in an NCAA competition, after Southeastern Louisiana senior Matthew Carvell shot a 12-under 60 during the opening round of the Aldila Scenic City Invitational. Carvell went on to win the tournament at Council Fire GC in Chattanooga, Tenn.

For the record the other six include:

Paul Casey, Arizona State, 1999 Pac-10 Championship

Bryce Molder, Georgia Tech, 2000 GOLF WORLD/Palmetto Dunes Collegiate

Brock Mackenzie, Washington, 2003 Oregon Duck Invitational

Daniel Summerhays, BYU, 2006 Ping Preview

Michael Schachner, Duke, 2007 NCAA Championship

Zach Bixler, Washington, 2007 Alister Mackenzie Invitational



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WHAT TO WATCH FOR__

  • NOTICE A program missing from the women's top five above? You know the one ... resides in Durham, N.C., and has won five NCAA titles in the last seven years. Duke finished a disappointing eighth at the Duramed NCAA Preview last Monday, suggesting that whispers that this year's Blue Devils team might not be quite as solid as in the decade past aren't unfounded.

"We were clearly off," said Duke coach Dan Brooks. "We didn't play very well as a team and we were way off the mark. The attitudes are good, the work has been good and we are going to have to regroup and prepare for Vanderbilt."

Now, I'm not saying Duke's season is over and that the Blue Devils have no shot at winning a tournament this year, let alone the NCAA title. Brooks is too good a coach and Amanda Blumenherst is too good a player to let that happen (although Blumenherst's T-14 finish was the worst of her career, the first time she hasn't finished in the top 10 in 33 college starts). However, this finish isn't something to merely overlook as a bad season-opener, and how they perform at the Mason Rudolph is going to be very interesting. Have any guess at the last time Duke finished eighth or worse during a regular-season event? I'll give you some time to think ...

Give up?

How about a ninth-place showing at the Golf World/Palmetto Dunes Collegiate Invitational.

In November 1997.

  • OKLAHOMA STATE women's coach Laura Matthews quietly has been touting her incoming freshman, Caroline Hedwall, as arguably the best recruit the program has landed in some time. Hedwall lived up to the billing when she won the Duramed NCAA Preview last week. "I knew she could come in and compete with the best players here," Matthews said. "I just didn't think she'd come out and be so dominant so quickly."

Considering that Hedwall has not spent the last three years getting beaten up by Blumenherst, do we have a legitimate candidate to perhaps knock off the three-time National Player of the Year? Judging from one tournament, at least, you've got to think yes.

  • AFTER FINISHING second in the Duramed Fall Preview to kick off her junior season at Arizona State, Anna Nordqvist will be playing in LPGA Tour Q-School's Sectional qualifier in Palm Springs, Calif., next week, to the frustration of many who say college players shouldn't be trying Q school if they've committed to return to their schools over the summer.

Not far from anyone's mind is how Sandra Gal advanced through the Sectional qualifier last year, then earned an LPGA Tour card at Q school finals and subsequently left school mid-way through her senior year.

Oklahoma State sophomore Jacyln Sweeney is also going to be playing in the first stage of LPGA Q school, competing in the Florida sectional qualifier at the end of the month. OSU coach Matthews realizes the potential risk involved in allowing a top player to compete in Q school, but feels if the player wants to gain this experience she should be allowed to do so.

"I know there are a lot of different views on it," Matthews said. "I know a lot of people don't think it's right. I don't really care one way or another. It's our decision, and we let her go. If she makes it though, all the best to her and I hope she does great. I do think every time you go, it's going to give you more experience.

"Of course, it makes you nervous ... I don't think any team wants to lose one of its best players, and she is one of our best players, but at the same time if she truly feels like she is ready and she goes and makes it through then, like I said, all the best to her."

  • LAST YEAR'S Alabama squad was just the second in school history to claim the SEC title, ending a 29-year winless draught. Yet is the 2008 SEC title team better than the 1979 squad that won the first conference crown? We'll get to see it on the course as the two teams will play exhibition match Oct. 3 at Ol' Colony in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Only one player from the '79 squad can't come back to play (Gary Trivisonno). The other four starters-- Cecil Ingram,Kevin Canada,Steve Hudson and Barry Harwell--will be joined by__Allen Yielding__, who had exhausted his eligibility that year but was finishing school. That group will face 2008 graduating seniors__Michael Thompson__,Mark Harrell and Joseph Sykora, plus returning players__Matthew Swan__ and Matt Hughes. The two teams will play 18 holes, the '79 squad from the members' tees and the '08 team from the championship tees.

That same weekend, the 2008 team will receive their SEC Championship rings and will be honored on the field at the Alabama/Kentucky football game.



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TOURNAMENTS TO WATCH__

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Carpet Capital Classic

(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

The Farm GC, Dalton, Ga. (Par 72, 7,012 yards)

Sept. 12-14

Host: Georgia Tech

Field: Alabama, Auburn, Chattanooga, Clemson, East Tennessee State, Florida, Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas Tech, UAB, UCF, Wake Forest

Defending champion: Alabama (five-over 869) in playoff over South Carolina; Chesson Hadley, Georgia Tech (eight-under 208)__

Skinny:__ Increased depth is the buzzword for many teams, including the host Yellow Jackets who are sitting out Hadley, the defending champion, after he finished seventh on the team in an 108-hole qualifier. ... Alabama is the two-time defending team champion.

Gopher Invitational

(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Spring Hill GC, Wayzata, Minn. (Par 72, 7,020 yards)

Sept. 12-14

Host: Minnesota

Field: Arkansas, Iowa, Iowa State, LSU, Marquette, Minnesota, Pepperdine, SMU, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, Yale__

Defending champion: __Lamar (four-over 868) by 22 strokes over Arkansas, Wisconsin; Casey Clendenon, Lamar (one-under 215) in a playoff over Wisconsin's Danny Zimmerman

__Skinny:__Minnesota won the inaugural event in 2005 and finished third at the NCAA Championship in 2006; Stanford won in 2006 and finished first at the NCAA Championship in 2007.

Wolf Run Intercollegiate

Wolf Run GC, Zionville, Ind. (Par 71, 7,195 yards)

Sept. 13-14

Host: Indiana

__Field:__Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, IUPUI, Kent State, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Missouri, North Florida, Princeton, Purdue, Toledo

Defending champion: Penn State (10-over 862) by six strokes over Michigan; Nick Pumford, Michigan (three-under 210) by two strokes over Indiana's Seth Brandon

Skinny: Pumford won the tournament last fall playing as an individual for the Wolverines.

Ron Moore Invitational

Green Valley Ranch GC, Denver

Sept. 15-16

Host: Denver


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WOMEN

Wolverine Invitational__

(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

University of Michigan GC, Ann Arbor, Mich. (Par 71, 6,098 yards)

Sept. 13-14

Host: Michigan

Field: Bucknell, Detroit-Mercy, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Ferris State, Illinois State, Indiana State, Kennesaw State, Michigan, Minnesota, Oakland, SMU, Toledo

__Defending champion:__Notre Dame (52-over 904) by four strokes over Wisconsin; Stephany Fleet, Eastern Michigan (six-over 219) by two strokes over SMU's Kate Ackerson, Indiana's Laura Nochta and Notre Dame's Lisa Maunu

__Skinny:__This is the 24th women's college tournament held at U of M's course; the Wolverines have won seven of the previous 23.

Cougar Classic

(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Yeamans Hall, Charleston, S.C.

Sept. 14-16

Host: College of Charleston

Field: Alabama, College of Charleston, Charleston Southern, Florida State, Furman, Georgia, LSU, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina, UNC Greensboro, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Richmond, South Carolina, South Florida, Tennessee, Tulane, Virginia, Wisconsin

__Defending champion:__Notre Dame (six-over 870) by one stroke over Tennessee; Lisa Maunu, Notre Dame (six-under 210) by three over Notre Dame's So-Hyun Park

__Skinny:__Tulane returns to the women's golf course after a two-season absence; this was the tournament Tulane was to play in before Hurricane Katrina cut their 2005 fall season short and ultimately forced the team to disband.

Chip n Club Invitational

(For live scoring, link here to Golfstat)

Wilderness Ridge GC, Lincoln, Neb. (Par 72, 6,068 yards)

Sept. 15-16

Host: Nebraska

Field: Arkansas-Little Rock, UC Riverside, Creighton, Drake, East Carolina, Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri-Kansas City, Nebraska, South Dakota State, Texas State

__Defending champion:__Texas State (45-over 897) by five strokes over Kansas State; Linn Gustafsson, Texas State (one-under 212) by eight strokes over Kansas State's Kali Quick, William & Mary's Morgan Stepanek and UALR's Sara Wikstrom

__Skinny:__Huskers have been poor hosts of late, winning four of the last five playings of the tournament.

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