What players might be this year's sleepers?
It's hard to describe someone who earned second-team All-American honors a year ago as a sleeper, but Stanford sophomore Joseph Bramlett has all the talent to challenge for national player of the year honors this season. The 19-year-old Saratoga, Calif., native has an impressive inner motor that's hard to teach. A little more experience under his belt, and Bramlett could become a star.
Another guy a farther off the radar than Bramlett to keep an eye on is Clemson sophomore Luke Hopkins. After redshirting last year, the 20-year-old from Greer, S.C., won the South Carolina state amateur by an impressive seven shots and took the Palmetto Amateur title with a 65 in the final round. Tigers coach Larry Penley is high on Hopkins, particularly as a team-oriented player. The only catch: He has played in just two college events in his career prior to teeing it up in this week's Topy Cup.
A third person to consider is USC junior Tom Glissmeyer. You might remember him from having qualified for the 2003 U.S. Open as a high schooler. While struggling his freshman season with the Trojans, the 20-year-old started to come into his own last season, posting four top-10 finishes and putting his name up on the leader board early at the NCAA Championship with an opening-round 68 and second-round 69. This summer, Glissmeyer contended at the Southern Amateur (finishing T-2) and advanced to the third round of the British Amateur.
As for the women, I see a trio of players who have had loads of talent who are ready to have sustained periods of success:
â¿¢ New Mexico sophomore Jodi Ewart, an 19-year-old native of England who set the Lobos freshman scoring mark (73.35) a year ago while also claiming the Mountain West Conference individual crown. This summer she won the English Ladies' Amateur Stroke Play Championship; don't be surprised if she is in the GB&I Curtis Cup squad next year at St. Andrews.
â¿¢ Auburn sophomore Candace Schepperle, an 19-year-old from Birmingham who played well this summer (semifinals at the Trans-National, made play appearances at the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links) after earning SEC's top freshman honors in 2006-07. "She's the best natured kid I've ever coached," Tigers coach Kim Evans told me recently. "You've seen a couple of good rounds this summer where you can tell she's learning to close out a round. This spring you could just watch some incredibly good rounds fall away, but you could see this building. She's a special golfer."
â¿¢ Georgia junior Mallory Hetzel, a 20-year-old from Summerville, S.C. who was a stand-out junior golfer that has struggled to find her way with the Bulldogs in her sophomore season. With the turmoil of last spring's post-season and the resignation of coach Todd McCorkle behind her, Hetzel can enter the season with a re-newed focus ... and a little momentum from an appearance in the quarterfinals at the Women's North and South Amateur. The departure of Taylor Leon will mean more is expected of Hetzel from new coach Kelley Hester, but this might just be what she needs to ignite her ultra-competitive side.
Got any sleepers of your own? Don't be afraid to post your comments.