A year ago, curiosity caused me to look a bit into the college golf schedule to see how many times the top programs would face off against each other prior to the NCAA postseason. I took all the teams that received at least one vote in the final fall Division I men's and women's coaches' poll, called up their schedules online and started comparing to identify the tournaments with the strongest fields of the spring and the schools with the toughest schedules.
Being no less curious this January, I went ahead and did the same thing for this coming spring. For today, I'm posting information on the top tournaments (I'll explore what programs face the stiffest competition tomorrow.)
Below is my list of the top men's and women's tournaments, ranked in order of which events have the most teams in their field that have received at least one vote in the coaches' polls. That chart also breaks down how many schools ranked in the top five, top 10 and top 25 are in the field, if you prefer those as barometers for how "strong" an event is. I also list how the event did compared to its "ranking" in 2011.
As was the case a year ago the toughest men's event was the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas, which will be held March 9-11 at Southern Highlands CC, hosted by UNLV. All told, 12 teams in this year's SHCM field received a vote in the final fall Golf World/Nike Golf men's coaches' poll (compared to 14 in 2011) with 10 teams from the top 25 (the same as a year ago).
On the women's side, the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge outside of Los Angeles took top honors for the spring, with last year's No. 1, the Liz Murphey Collegiate, falling to third. Played at Palos Verdes GC from Feb. 13-15, the Northrup Grumman will have 15 teams that received votes in the final fall Golf World/NGCA women's coaches' poll (the Liz Murphey had 18 in 2011).
The Northrup Grumman, however, does not have the most top-25 schools in its field; that honor went to the Ping/ASU Invitational, which will have 11 ranked programs playing at Karsten GC in Tempe (last year's Liz Murphey had 15 top-25 teams).