While spring may be months away in many areas of the country, it’s right around the corner as far as the college golf season is concerned.
In just over a week, teams will begin to make their three-month run toward the postseason.
It may not take long to separate the pretenders from the contenders. February offers plenty of top competition stretching from Puerto Rico to Hawaii.
Here’s a look at five tournaments that start and end in February that will certainly have an impact on the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings:
Event: Arizona Intercollegiate
Date: Feb. 1-2
Location: Arizona National Golf Club, Tucson, Ariz.
Skinny: Once again this tournament kicks off the spring season and should provide some good insight. The 13-team field features six schools ranked in the top 50, headed by No. 3 Florida, which is making its first appearance in quite some time. Joining the Gators are No. 6 Texas A&M, the defending NCAA champs, UNLV (18), San Diego State (24), California (30) and New Mexico (43), along with host Arizona, Pepperdine, Fresno State, Nevada, Northern Colorado, UTEP and UT-San Antonio.
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Event: Hawaii-Hilo Big Island Classic
Date: Feb. 3-5
Location: Mauna Lani Resort, Kona, Hawaii
Skinny: With 22 teams in the field, expect some very long days on the golf course. But there will also be some low scores, as 13 teams in the field are ranked in the top 50. No. 1 Oklahoma State makes its spring debut and will encounter some stiff competition from No, 2 Stanford, No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Florida State. Other solid contenders include Arizona State (7), Washington (8), UCLA (13), Texas (15), USC (16), Oregon State (17), Texas Tech (19), Georgia Tech (22) and Oregon (29). Host Hawaii-Hilo may be a Division II school, but head coach Earl Tamiya has a knack of attracting some of the nation’s top D-1 teams year in and year out.
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Event: Sun Trust Gator Invitational
Date: Feb. 13-14
Site: Mark Bostick Golf Club, Gainesville, Fla.
Skinny: Who might be favored in this one? Florida is No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and is playing on its home course. The Gators have won this event the last six years and nine out of the last 11. Still, they will face some formidable foes. Also in the field of 14 are five other top-50 ranked teams: Florida State (5), North Florida (25), Duke (31), LSU (32) and Chattanooga (40).
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Event: Battle at the Beach
Date: Feb. 14-16
Location: Pelican Hill Resort, Newport Beach, Calif.
Skinny: This may be a first-year event, but already it’s gaining plenty of attention. Co-hosted by UCLA and Long Beach State, the 14-team field boasts eight top-50 squads. Heading the list is No. 7 Arizona State and No. 8 Washington. They will be joined by UCLA (13), Tennessee (14), Oregon State (17), San Diego State (24), Colorado State (34) and Arkansas (47), runner-up at the 2009 NCAA Championship. Rounding out the field are Colorado, UC-Davis, Notre Dame, Texas-Arlington, San Francisco, and Long Beach State. The event will feature a six-count-five format.
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Event: Puerto Rico Shootout
Date: Feb. 21-23
Location: Rio Mar Resort, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Skinny: An impressive field will gather on this tropical island, all from the East and Central regions. With top-ranked Oklahoma State leading the way, there will be 10 top-50 teams in the field. Joining the Cowboys will be Alabama (12), Texas (15), defending tournament champion Georgia (21), Georgia Tech (22), Clemson (28), Kent State (33), Michigan (36), Virginia Tech (38) and East Tennessee State (44). Host team Purdue, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Ohio State and UNC-Greensboro round out the field. The winning school will have to go low to hoist the trophy. Georgia won last year with a 38 under total.
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One final event merit recognition, though it doesn’t feature a Division I school. This one is all about Division II and will feature some of the country’s best.
It’s the inaugural Golfweek Spring Invitational and is unique in that – at least in my memory – I can’t remember a major D-II tournament being held this early in the spring season.
The 54-hole event will take place Feb. 7-9 at the Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla.
It will be the spring opener for the 18 teams involved and should give a good indication as to what we might look for the rest of the season within the D-II ranks.
Top-ranked Chico State headlines the 18-team field. Joining Chico State will be St. Edwards, Indianapolis, Washburn, Lynn, Clayton State, West Florida, Carson Newman, Central Oklahoma, Queens University, Cal State-Monterey Bay, Barton, Lander, Nova Southeastern, Grand Canyon, Rollins, Dixie State and Coker College.
The tournament will be played on the Independence Course designed by Tom Watson.