Believe it or not, the start of another college golf season is just a few short weeks away. To get you ready, Asher Wildman will break down the top 60 teams for both the men and women. Today, it’s No. 57 on the board with the North Florida men and BYU women.
NORTH FLORIDA MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 56
Coach: Scott Schroeder (seventh season)
Top returnees: Kevin Aylwin, Kevin Phelan, Sean Dale
Top newcomers: Freshman Joey Petronio of Orlando, Fla.; freshman M.J. Maguire of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Projected starting 5: Kevin Aylwin (sr.), Kevin Phelan (jr.), Sean Dale (jr.), Joe Byun (sr.), Joey Petronio (fr.)/M.J. Maguire (fr.)
Key losses: None
Key fall tournament: Isleworth Collegiate Invitational
2010-11 recap: Coming off its 14th-place 2009 NCAA Championship finish and a top-20 ranking, North Florida had high hopes of making it back to nationals last season. Unfortunately, the Ospreys finished last at the Colorado regional in May. “Last year was tough,” coach Scott Schroeder said. “We didn’t get a lot of strong play out of our 4 (and) 5 guys, and our seniors didn’t step up.”
UNF continued to play a tough schedule (ranked 39th nationally), but struggled against the teams ranked ahead of them. Last year, UNF was a combined 11-54-2 vs. teams in the top 50 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. With former No. 1 player Sean Dale sitting out the season for academic reasons, the Ospreys failed to win a tournament, though they did post six top 5s, including runner-up finishes at the Jacksonville University Invitational and Atlantic Sun Conference Championship.
Player to watch: Kevin Aylwin. “Extremely talented kid who plays the game with a bit of an unconventional swing,” Schroeder said. “Lots of talent and someone we think can win some tournaments this year.”
2011-12 preview: Expectations will again be high for a team that is typically overlooked in the Sunshine State. UNF plays an extremely competitive schedule and isn’t afraid to face anyone. Perhaps the Ospreys’ biggest test will come in October at the loaded Isleworth Collegiate Invitational.
Back in the lineup this year will be Dale, who redshirted last year because of academics. When UNF was in the top 20 two seasons ago, Dale was a large part of the team’s success. Dale was No. 19 individually in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings at the end of the 2009-10 season.
UNF already has a solid top three, and adding Dale back to the lineup will be huge for the Ospreys.
“The guys that are returning need to play well,” Schroeder said. “This year, top 25 to top 30 is realistic for us.”
UNF golfers can fine-tune their games at a number of top-notch facilities, including Sawgrass Country Club and TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “We have a place (where) any kid can allow themselves to get better,” Schroeder said.
The Ospreys are counting on that this season.
Bottom line: With Dale back in the lineup, expect the Ospreys to contend for the A-Sun title and easily earn a trip to regionals. If the top four play as expected, a return trip to nationals is likely.
2010-11 final ranking: 56
Coach: Carrie Roberts (second year)
Top returnees: Maggie Yuan, Annika Afoa
Top newcomers: Freshman Viviana Micaias of Mexico; freshman Laura Atkinson of Bow, Wash.; freshman Maria Yacaman (redshirted last year because of a back injury); senior Ashley Malaska (transfer from Arizona).
Projected starting 5: Maggie Yuan (sr.), Annika Afoa (so.), Viviana Micaias (fr.), Nos. 4 and 5 TBA
Key losses: Kelsey Vines (transferred to Oklahoma State), Jade Bollinger
Key tournament: UNLV Spring Invitational
2010-11 recap: In her first year at BYU, head coach Carrie Roberts had her hands full in trying to turn around the Cougars. But tangible progress was made.
The season before Roberts got there, in 2009-10, the Cougars finished at No. 91 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and finished last at the Mountain West Conference Championship. In Roberts’ first season, BYU jumped 35 spots, finished third at their final MWC Championship and earned an invite to NCAA regionals, where they finished 12th.
The Cougars posted seven top-5 finishes in nine regular-season events. The year before, BYU was 1-61 vs. the top 50; last season, it improved that mark to 13-31.
Player to watch: Annika Afoa. “She was a redshirt freshman (last year) and surprised a lot of people,” Roberts said. “She struggled in the spring and mentally lost confidence, but came back strong. She is a great ballstriker, and as long as she continues to believe in herself she can go a long way.”
2011-12 preview: BYU makes the jump from the Mountain West to the West Coast Conference this season and will try to put an end to Pepperdine’s dominance in the conference. Roberts knows that will be no easy task. “Pepperdine is always very tough, but we feel we can win and compete,” she said.
With the loss of leading scorer Kelsey Vines, who transferred to Oklahoma State, BYU likely will rely on incoming freshmen to help the Cougars climb the rankings. Roberts is expecting good things from Mexico’s Viviana Micaias, calling her a “great scorer with a real competitive edge.”
Another freshman, Lauren Atkinson, also can push for a spot in the starting five, Roberts said. “Lauren is a hard worker and will do exactly what you say, and her work ethic is amazing,” Roberts said. “This is a girl that will develop and improve rapidly.”
Roberts is confident that Maggie Yuan, Afoa, and Micaias will be a solid trio of starters. Yuan was the highest-ranked Cougar at the end of last season at No. 260 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Bottom line: This could be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Cougars, who will be relying heavily on incoming freshman for improvement. Expect a few growing pains as the freshman get acclimated, but by the end of the season BYU should have a similar ranking as last season, meaning another postseason bid for the Cougars and an outside shot at reaching the NCAA finals.