More intimidating: Texas men or UCLA women?

Tiffany Lua
Tiffany Lua ( Tracy Wilcox )

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The UCLA women’s team or the Texas men: Which is the more intimidating team?

As the defending NCAA women’s champion, the Bruins entered the season with a target on their backs. Only problem is, they still managed to become a better team. In the summer Brianna Do won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, and coach Carrie Forsyth brought in two of the top recruits in the country, Erynne Lee and Kyle Roig.

Leading the way for UCLA is senior Stephanie Kono and Tiffany Lua. The two 2010 U.S. Curtis Cuppers have combined to finish in the top 20 in over 40 tournaments, winning six times. The starting five is extremely talented, but their bench is really good too. Lee Lopez, Ani Gulugian and Kezia Disney conceivably could start for about 90 percent of the other teams in the country.

To start the year, the Bruins won the Fall Preview, arguably the best field in women’s golf, by six shots over Alabama. The Crimson Tide are expected to give UCLA a run for its money this year, but UCLA will still be the favorite every tournament it enters. Last year UCLA won a total of four regular-season events, including an NCAA regional as well as the championship. All five of the Bruins’ starters from last year’s team ranked inside the top 40 of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

It’s interesting to note that the Oklahoma State men faced the same expectations last year. Throughout the year the question was not Can Oklahoma State win this week? but rather How many will the Cowboys win by? With a stacked lineup that featured Peter Uihlein, Kevin Tway and Morgan Hoffmann, the Cowboys won a total of eight times but couldn’t win The Big One. However, on a weekly basis, the Cowboys were still the team to fear.

As we are under way with the beginning of a new season, perhaps a new inferior, intimidating team from the Big 12 Conference is emerging.

Texas’ first tournament of the year was at a competitive Olympia Fields. The Longhorns finished fifth, but played the tournament without heralded freshman Jordan Spieth. The U.S. Walker Cupper and two-time U.S. Junior champion was a missing key to John Fields’ lineup.

In his collegiate debut at the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate, Spieth played well and finished in a tie for sixth. Co-Big 12 Player of a Year Dylan Frittelli was runner-up for the second straight tournament, and Cody Gribble placed fifth. The Big Three for Texas helped the Longhorns cruise to a 20-stroke victory over Alabama and Clemson.

The rest of the lineup for Texas wasn’t too shabby, either. Julio Vegas finished in a tie for 11th, and sophomore Toni Hakula tied for 24th.

It may be just one tournament, but a 20-stroke win over a field that included Alabama, Clemson, Auburn, UNLV and Arizona is impressive. With Spieth added in to the lineup, it only makes Texas that much better a team.

One factor that hurts Texas’ chances of winning a national title is that the Longhorns have to get through 54 holes, then survive three rounds of match play at the NCAA Championship. The ladder is tough to do. On any given course, for any given tournament, anything can happen. But for the UCLA Bruins, you know what to expect. The girls will line up for 72 holes in May and go out to win back-to-back national championships.

The Longhorns, on the other hand, will have the edge on paper when it comes to match play, but they still have to take care of business on the course. Match play creates an obstacle for the best teams in the country, and that is why now in men’s college golf there is no longer such a thing as a “favorite” or “intimidator.”

UCLA or Texas? I’ll take UCLA. Besides, when it comes to the national championship, the Bruins only play one tournament, whereas the Longhorns will, potentially, be playing in four – stroke play and three rounds of match play. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.