By RON BALICKI
One tournament does not a season make. Any coach will tell you that.
But for Trey Jones and his Florida State Seminoles, their 2007-08 season opener sure made for a pretty darn good start.
Not only did the Seminoles notch their first tournament title in almost 10 years, they did so against an impressive field and on one of the county’s most demanding and respected courses.
Click here for an Off Campus preview of the Ping/Golfweek Preview.
Earlier this month the team from Tallahassee captured the Inverness Intercollegiate, besting a field featuring six teams in the top 20 of the Golfweek pre-season rankings, including four in the top 10.
Led by senior Jonas Blixt, Florida State finished 10-over-par 862 at the Inverness Club, six shots better than Michigan State as it broke South Carolina’s seven-year old tournament record by 14 strokes.
It had been 109 tournaments between FSU’s win at the U.S. Collegiate in the spring of 1998 and the victory at Inverness.
Blixt, from Sweden, was co-medalist at 3-under-par 210 and got plenty of help from his teammates: junior Matthew Savage (T-5), sophomore Seath Lauer (14), senior Tommy Rymer (T-22) and freshman Drew Kittleson (T-36).
Said Jones after the victory, “To win a tournament like this against this quality field and on a golf course that has held five major (pro) championships speaks highly of the talent and potential this team has.”
Now it’s time to see if these Seminoles are the real deal this season.
Florida State, which finished 20th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings last season and were No. 13 in the pre-season, is among the 15 teams that will play this weekend in the 19th annual Golfweek/Ping Preview.
The tournament, held each fall at the site of the following spring’s NCAA Championship, is slated for Sept. 22-23 at Purdue’s Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex, Kampen Course, in West Lafayette, Ind.
Following a practice round on Friday, teams will play 36 holes Saturday and 18 holes on Sunday.
“We were close to winning last year,” said Jones, now in his fifth season at the Seminole helm. “We’d have two good rounds but always seemed to have that below average round. We had to learn to play 54 holes and not take nine holes off. We finally did that at Inverness.
“Confidence comes when you see a positive result. “Our guys are really starting to develop and I think they feel they are as good as anybody else.”
The Seminoles will have their work cut out for them if they hope to make it two in a row. Same holds true for Alabama, ranked third in the pre-season.
The Tide enters fresh off their second consecutive win at the Carpet Capital tournament where they beat South Carolina in a playoff. Prior to that, Alabama placed second at the Topy Cup in Japan.
The Preview features 14 teams ranked in the pre-season top 30, including 11 of the top 20 and five of the top 10.
Joining Florida State and Alabama are Southern Cal (5), which features last season’s player of the year Jamie Lovemark, defending Preview champion Florida (6), UNLV (8), Oklahoma State (10), Charlotte (15), Coastal Carolina (16), Texas A&M (17), Arizona State (18) and Louisville (20).
Rounding out the field are Lamar (24), Minnesota (25), Georgia State (28) and host team Purdue.
“The Preview is a great way to size up your strengths and weaknesses against some of the top teams in the country,” Jones said. “Plus you get to see the golf course and what it will be like when you hopefully return in the spring.”
UNLV is the only team to win both the Preview and NCAA in the same season, doing so at the University of New Mexico’s Championship course in 1997-98. Arizona State did win the Preview in 1995 and the NCAA title in 1996 at the Honors Course outside of Chattanooga, Tenn. However, that season the Preview was held at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon due to a scheduling conflict at the Honors Course.
“Playing in the Preview is one of the goals we set for our team every year,” said veteran UNLV coach Dwaine Knight. “It’s a great way to not only help size up your team, but to get a good look at some of the top teams in the country. You always get a strong field and a great golf course.”
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Ron Balicki is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach him email [email protected]