College preview: Men’s teams

Senior writer Ron Balicki, aka “Wrong Ron,” makes his selections for the upcoming men’s season.

1. Stanford

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 5

Go-to guy: Steve Ziegler

Can win national title if . . . Joseph Bramlett has a successful return from last year’s wrist injury and Sihwan Kim finds the form that made him a first-team All-American in 2008. Bramlett resumed practicing in July, then qualified for the U.S. Amateur later that month; Kim had a strong amateur summer, with top 5s at the Porter Cup and Northeast Amateur.

The Cardinal’s top returning player is Ziegler, a junior who finished last season No. 17 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and was a member of the U.S. Palmer Cup team.

Incoming freshman Andrew Yun and sophomore David Chung, the North & South champion, also had strong summers.

“We’ve got the makings of exciting stuff, especially if Joseph (Bramlett) is healthy,” head coach Conrad Ray said.

Any of these players has the ability to play No. 1 for the Cardinal. That kind of depth excites Ray, who likes to note that a low throw-out score was key to the Cardinal’s 2007 NCAA title.

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2. Oklahoma State

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 1

Go-to guy: Morgan Hoffmann

Can win national title if . . . the Cowboys get good production out of the No. 5 spot. There’s no lack of candidates, starting with Mark Johnson, Bernhard Neumann, Sean Einhaus and freshman Kevin Dougherty. Hoffmann, Peter Uihlein and Kevin Tway are a more-than-solid top three, and Trent Whitekiller, No. 66 in last year’s Golfweek rankings, has shown flashes of brilliance. Those four will soften the loss of Rickie Fowler and Trent Leon. Now who else will step up?

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3. Washington

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 4

Go-to guy: Nick Taylor

Can win national title if . . . Taylor’s supporting cast, especially fellow seniors Richard Lee and Pac-10 champ Darren Wallace, continue their strong performances. Taylor is a Player of the Year candidate, and Lee and Wallace also finished last season ranked in the top 50. Freshman Chris Williams from Idaho, runner-up in stroke play at the Pacific Northwest Amateur, also could fit that mold.

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4. Texas A&M

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 12

Go-to guy: Andrea Pavan

Can win national title if . . . Pavan, the team’s lone senior, steps into the leadership role vacated by NCAA Championship hero Bronson Burgoon, and freshman Cameron Peck, the 2008 U.S. Junior champ, lives up to his billing. There will be a lot of competition to crack the top 5. “The good thing is, it’s a new mix of kids, so this team really hasn’t done anything yet,” head coach J.T. Higgins said about defending the NCAA title.

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5. Arizona State

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 11

Go-to guy: Chan Kim

Can win national title if . . . a player – Kim or anyone else – emerges as a strong No. 1. Depth is the Sun Devils’ strength – the NCAA stroke-play runners-up had four All-Americans for the first time since 1995. Last year’s No. 1 player, Germany’s Stephan Gross, did not return to Tempe, but Kim, who won the Pacific Coast Amateur and made the Sweet 16 at the Western Amateur, is the leading candidate to take over the top spot.

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6. Illinois

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 14

Go-to guy: Scott Langley

Can win national title if . . . experience works in its favor. The Illini return all five starters from the Big Ten Championship team and put on a strong showing at the Western Amateur. Five players qualified for the U.S. Amateur. “On paper, I think we’re as good as anybody,” head coach Mike Small said.

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7. Georgia

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 2

Go-to guy: Russell Henley

Can win national title if . . . senior Hudson Swafford and sophomore Will Kropp recover from shoulder injuries. Swafford will be out until the spring, but Kropp’s injury is not expected to be serious. The Bulldogs return three players who finished in the top 30 of last season’s rankings: Henley, Swafford and Harris English.

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8. Augusta State

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 36

Go-to guy: Patrick Reed

Can win national title if . . . the Jaguars get support from the back end of their lineup. All-American Henrik Norlander, a junior, will be joined by sophomore transfer Reed (Georgia), and senior Mitch Krywulycz, the 2008 Southeastern Amateur champion, who redshirted last year.

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9. Alabama

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 10

Go-to guy: Bud Cauley

Can win national title if . . . the Tide have more young guns step up to fill the Nos. 4 and 5 positions. Sophomores Cauley and Hunter Hamrick, both All-Americans last season, are a strong 1-2 punch, and fellow sophomore Spencer Cole has displayed flashes of the potential shown during his junior career. “We’re a bunch of young guys trying to find our way,” head coach Jay Seawell said. Redshirt freshman Scott Strohmeyer, the Alabama Match Play champ, will be a solid addition.

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10. Texas

2008-09 Golfweek rank: 26

Go-to guy: Dylan Frittelli

Can win national title if . . . Charlie Holland returns to form. Holland was a quarterfinalist at the 2008 U.S. Amateur and No. 23 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings in 2007-08. He fell to 302nd last season before advancing to the U.S. Amateur semifinals last month. Freshman Cody Gribble will be ready after posting top 10s at the Porter Cup, Sunnehanna and Jones Cup. Lance Lopez was an honorable-mention All-American, and sophomore Frittelli also showed improvement this summer, including a Sweet 16 berth at the Western Amateur.

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Preseason rankings: Nos. 11-30(with final ’08-09 Golfweek rank):

  • 11. Duke (39)
  • 12. LSU (19)
  • 13. Arkansas (9)
  • 14. TCU (16)
  • 15. UCLA (18)
  • 16. USC (3)
  • 17. Georgia Tech (7)
  • 18. Florida (8)
  • 19. South Carolina (13)
  • 20. Tennessee (17)
  • 21. Clemson (6)
  • 22. Oregon (33)
  • 23. Colorado State (27)
  • 24. California (32)
  • 25. Florida State (29)
  • 26. North Carolina State (22)
  • 27. Texas Tech (20)
  • 28. Wake Forest (30)
  • 29. UNLV (23)
  • 30. San Diego State (24)

Click here for Golfweek’s preseason top 10 individuals

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