Yesterday, we took a look at the top five surprise teams on the men’s side of college golf. Today, let’s examine at the top five from the women’s ranks. By the looks of things, it appears that the SEC has reclaimed the title of being the country’s top conference.
1.) LSU – Normally when you talk about Tigers being in the top 10, you’re referring to Auburn. This year, it’s the Bayou Bengals from Baton Rouge, who closed out the fall at No. 4 and at one time were the top-ranked team in the country. Karen Bahnsen’s squad came firing out of the gate with a runner-up finish at the Preview and then won the Mason Rudolph.
LSU continued to play well with a second-place finish at the Tar Heel Invitational. Senior Megan McChrystal is the top-ranked golfer in the country, and will be a key part of the Tigers’ success the rest of the year. In the one event that McChrystal did not play this fall, the Tigers finished 13th, at the Pac-10/SEC Challenge.
2.) Colorado – In five fall events, the Buffs won twice – the Ram Fall Classic and the Heather Farr Memorial – and finished no worse than fourth. Junior Jessica Wallace has helped get Colorado back in the top tier as the third-highest-ranked team in the Big 12 Conference, behind No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 21 Texas.
In her 14th year as head coach, Anne Kelly has Colorado constantly on the rise. In 2009, the team made its first trip to the post-season with an invite to the West Regional. This year, the Buffs will not only be a lock for post-season play, but it will be interesting to see just how high this team can climb in the rankings this spring.
3.) Iowa State – For the past couple of years, the Big 12 has not had a lot to brag about. This fall, the conference had four teams ranked in the top 30. Coming in at No. 26 were the Cyclones of Iowa State. The team won only one event in the fall, but played consistently. To start the year, ISU finished second at the Wolverine Invitational, fourth at the Mary Fossum, second at the Windy City and fourth at the Lady Northern before winning the Challenge at Onion Creek.
The Cyclones are climbing the rankings and should compete for the Big 12 crown this year.
4.) Mississippi – The SEC has several top teams and is competitive top to bottom. This year, the Rebels (No. 34) will try to make school history if they can advance to the NCAA Championship at College Station. Ole Miss played well to start the year, before a minor hiccup – a 15th-place finish at the SEC/Pac-10 Challenge. Before that, the Rebels finished second at the Cougar Classic and fourth at both the Suzie Maxwell and the Mercedes-Benz.
An SEC title still may not be within reach, but a trip to nationals certainly seems achievable.
5.) Florida International – Florida is known as the “Sunshine State,” but this year in the women’s golf world it may be known as the “Surprise State.”
The second-highest-ranked team in the state to end the fall was not Florida State, Central Florida or Miami. It was Florida International.
The Golden Panthers finished the fall campaign ranked 36th in the country and are only eight spots back of the Florida Gators. FIU had an extremely impressive fall season, finishing with a head-to-head record of 51-6. To start the year, FIU won its first two events: the Wolverine Invitational and UC Fall Invitational. The Golden Panthers don’t get a lot of recognition, but certainly should. Coach Joe Vogel has had some steady play from his lineup, notably from his senior Paula Hurtado, who won the Wolverine Invitational. FIU is a surprise team this year, but are the Panthers the best team in Florida? We will just have to wait and see.