Wildman: Five surprise women’s teams this fall

Alan Bratton (right) with Peter Uihlein during the 2010 U.S. Amateur.

Oklahoma State

2010-11 ranking: 44

Current Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 6

Team titles: Dale McNamara Invitational and Windy City Invitational

The reason: Could it all be because of Alan Bratton? Tough to say, but it’s impressive to note that Oklahoma State had one win and two other top-5 finishes all of last year. This year, the Cowgirls have two wins and haven’t finished outside the top 5. Two transfers also have played a key role in the team’s success. Junior Kelsey Vines, a transfer from BYU, and sophomore Amy Ruengmateekhun, formerly of SMU, have established themselves as Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in the starting five and have turned in solid rounds in all events in which they have played. After playing in the lineup as a freshman last year, Jayde Panos has upped her play even more to become a top-25 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. Last year, the Cowgirls were 0-53 against the top 25 teams in the country. This year, they already are 10-4-0 to start the year.

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Washington

2010-11 ranking: 40

Current Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 12

Team titles: Cougar Cup

The reason: Washington hasn’t finished worse than third in three tournaments this season. Coach Mary Lou Mulflur overhauled her roster this past summer, bringing in five freshmen. Freshmen SooBin Kim and Jennifer Yang have led the way for the Huskies, while senior Sadena Parks and sophomore Kelli Bowers also have been steady contributors. Cyd Okino, the third freshman in the starting five, has been playing out of the team’s four spot. Despite the youth, the Huskies appear to have their freshmen playing up to any challenge. This year, the challenge for Washington will be to repeat its fall success in the spring. Last fall, Washington had three top-5 finishes in four starts, but in the spring had only two top 5s in six starts. This team is young, but it hasn’t shown any signs of inexperience or youth yet.

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N.C. State

2010-11 ranking: 57

Current Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 17

Team titles: Wild Eggs Cardinal Cup

The reason: Over the summer, Page Marsh was excited about her incoming freshman class. Canadian freshman Augusta James and Vivian Tsui have become instant success stories for the Wolfpack, playing as two of the team’s top players. Augusta James, 38th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, has been a nice surprise to a team that had only one top-5 finish all of last year. This year, junior Amanda Baker and sophomore Ana Menendez have stepped up their games and are trying to improve on last year’s team statistics: no N.C. State averaged better than 77.2. The season may be young, but it also is interesting to note that N.C. State had 50 head-to-head wins all of last year. This year, the Wolfpack already are 43-7-1.

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Baylor

2010-11 ranking: 70

Current Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 23

Team titles: Dick McGuire Invitational and Price’s “Give’Em Five” Intercollegiate

The reason: Freshman Haley Davis has made an instant impact for a Baylor team that struggled for most of last year. In her first collegiate tournament, Davis finished runner-up at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic, then followed with another second-place finish at the Dick McGuire. Davis has an impressive overall record of 266-10-2 in only three tournaments. Senior Jaclyn Jansen’s game has been getting better throughout the fall. To start the year, Jansen finished T-56 at the Ram Fall Classic, followed by a T-17 at the Dick McGuire. But most recently, she won the "Give’Em Five" Intercollegiate. Fellow senior Chelsey Cothran also has been a reliable player for the Bears, posting three consecutive top-20 finishes, with two in the top 5. Look for Baylor to continue to gain confidence as the season rolls on.

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Illinois:

2010-11 ranking: 61

Current Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 50

Team titles: None

The reason: Despite failing to win a tournament this year, the Illini have posted some good rounds that have produced three top-5 finishes in four starts. Illinois may be one of the most experienced teams in the country, starting four seniors and a sophomore each week. Sophomore Ember Schuldt has turned in two top-20 finishes and seen all of her scores count for the team. Illinois has come close to winning a few times, and coach Renee Slone has to believe her team is close to stepping into the winner’s circle. Look for Illinois to be a factor in the spring for a Big Ten title, particularly if it can keep up these kinds of performances.

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