This past week didn’t offer as many A-list tournaments as the week before, but there’s still props to give out. Let’s see who gets a thumbs up or thumbs down:
1. Middle Tennessee State. While all eyes were on Florida State at the USF Invitational, MTSU took care of business in grand fashion with a 19-stroke victory over FSU. The Blue Raiders have come out this spring with back-to-back victories, at the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate and USF Invitational, and have looked like a completely different team. The fall was tough on MTSU, which had finishes of ninth, fifth, sixth, 10th and fourth before starting the spring on fire. Leading the way for MTSU in Dade City, Fla., was junior Hunter Green, who earned medalist honors with a two-stroke victory over Central Florida’s Greg Eason. Green shot rounds of 67-67-71 to finish the tournament at 11 under. At the start of the spring, coach Whit Turnbow’s squad was ranked 66th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, but with the back-to-back titles, the Blue Raiders have climbed to 46th, with a strong record of 68-29-1. Next up for MTSU is the Bulldog Invitational, next week in Ruston, La.
2. San Diego State. Of all the teams ranked in the top 10, the Aztecs may be the one you know the least about. No. 10 SDSU just won its fourth tournament of the year, with a 26-stroke victory at the Fresno State Lexus Golf Classic. San Diego State had a complete tournament, with all five players finishing in the top 20. Even sixth man Johan Carlsson contended, finishing T-23. In seven tournaments this season, the Aztecs have finished outside the top 3 only once. Their one hiccup – if you can even call it that – was a seventh-place finish at a loaded Battle at the Beach. San Diego State is quietly surprising as it creeps up the rankings, but in reality the Aztecs’ play shouldn’t be a surprise. They have been a solid program for the past couple of years and have proved this year to be a legitimate top-10 team.
3. Eastern Michigan (women). There has not been much to cheer about this year for the Eagles out of the Mid-American Conference. Before its victory at the Rio Verde Invitational, Eastern Michigan had fared no better than four sixth-place finishes. In their other three tournaments this season, the Eagles finished 14th, ninth and 14th. Eastern Michigan is ranked 125th in the country, but with its one-stroke victory over 86th-ranked Northern Arizona, the Eagles picked up some other impressive head-to-head victories. Also in the field at the Rio Verde were 62nd-ranked Michigan, Penn State (71) and Arkansas-Little Rock (58). It appears as if Eastern Michigan will have to win the MAC to earn a spot in the postseason, but with a win in a field like this, it shows that it’s possible. Next week, the Eagles are back in action at the Lumberjack Invitational.
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1. Central Florida. A sixth-place finish in a 21-team field doesn’t sound that bad, but when you check the field at the USF Invitational, one would wonder how the Knights didn’t finish in the top 3. Entering the tournament, UCF was the second-highest ranked team in the field, but fell to sixth and lost to five teams ranked below them: MTSU (46), FSU (50), Florida Gulf Coast (77) and Arkansas State (129). Even though Connor Arendell shot 77 in Round 1 and later withdrew from the tournament, the Knights still should have been OK. The Knights started the spring with back-to-back fifth-place finishes at two strong fields, the Gator Invite and John Hayt Collegiate. A sixth-place finish at the USF Invitational is a head-scratcher, and a poor finish for this team at that field. UCF will look to rebound next week when it hosts the Rio Pinar Invitational.
2. Michigan. One team that wishes it could hit the restart button to the spring would have to be the Wolverines. To kick off the spring, Michigan lost its opening match at the Big Ten Match Play Championship, to Northwestern. Yes, the Wolverines did defeat Minnesota and Iowa, but those were consolation prizes. Michigan followed up the Match Play with a 12th-place finish at the Puerto Rico Classic, seventh at the USC Collegiate Invitational and now, most recently, a T-10 at the Fresno State Lexus Classic. I know the Northern schools have had a brutal winter, but other Big Ten schools have fared pretty well this spring. Michigan had a strong fall in which it had only one finish outside the top 5, but the Wolverines have now gone three consecutive events without a top-5. Next up for Michigan is the LSU Intercollegiate in April.
3. Arkansas-Little Rock (women). The Trojans had an opportunity to really make a statement at the Rio Verde Invitational as the highest-ranked team in the field. Instead, the 58th-ranked Trojans finished seventh and took some bad losses to teams ranked below them. To close out the fall, Arkansas-Little Rock won the MSU/Payne Stewart Memorial and was runner-up at the Challenge at Onion Creek. However, a seventh-place finish to start the spring isn’t what coach Bridgett Norwood had in mind. Being from the Sun Belt Conference, the Trojans had a legitimate chance to make headlines with victories over Michigan and Penn State. Not only did they fall to schools from the Big Ten, but the Trojans lost to 125th-ranked Eastern Michigan, which won the tournament. UALR will have a chance to rebound next week when it travels to Georgia for the Lady Jaguar Invitational.