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. 47 on the board with the Northwestern men and Tulsa women.
2010-11 final ranking: 46
Coach: Pat Goss (16th year)
Top returnees: Eric Chun, Jack Perry
Top newcomers: Freshman Bennett Lavin of Deerfield, Ill., freshman Matthew Negri of El Cajon, Calif.
Projected starting 5: Eric Chun (Sr.), Jack Perry (So.), Nick Losole (Jr.), Bennett Lavin (Fr.), Matthew Negri (Fr.) or Sam Chien (Sr.)
Key losses: David Lipsky
Key fall tournament: Olympia Fields
2010-11 recap: At one point in the spring, it appeared Northwestern might play its way out of the postseason with a sub-.500 winning percentage. After a pretty good fall, the Wildcats had three consecutive poor finishes at the Puerto Rico Classic (13th), FAU Spring Break Championship (11th) and ASU Thunderbird (ninth). Before heading to the Big Ten Championship, however, the team righted the ship, tying for third at the Illini Spring Classic. “We had a real solid fall,” Pat Goss said. “The poor start in the spring was a serious wake-up call, and I’m glad we responded down the stretch.”
Northwestern went on to be runner-up at the Big Ten, then advanced out of NCAA regionals with a third-place finish in Colorado. The Wildcats played poorly early at the NCAA Championship and ended its season with a 22nd-place finish at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla.
Player to watch: Eric Chun. “Our season will hinge a lot on Eric,” Goss said. “His good golf is absolutely spectacular. He’s solid from A to Z. He has good fundamentals, and if there is a weakness in his game, it could be his driving. If you walked up and down the range, he’s the guy you would gravitate to.”
2011-2012 preview: The biggest problem Northwestern will have this year is trying to replace David Lipsky, who played in every tournament for the Wildcats over the past four years. Not only was he an All-American, but he also was the team’s leader and No. 1 player. This season, the attention will switch to senior Eric Chun, who may have to carry a big load for the ’Cats to succeed.
Goss is hoping the development of sophomore Jack Perry will help ease the pain of losing a star such as Lipsky. “Perry got off to a slow start his freshman year,” Goss said. “I expect him to take a big step for the program this year.”
Northwestern may have two freshman see significant action this season. Incoming recruits Bennett Lavin and Matthew Negri will be asked to contribute early. If one of the two freshmen can have an instant impact, Goss will feel a bit more at ease.
Bottom line: This could be a down year for the Wildcats. Anytime you lose a top player such as Lipsky, it’s hard to fill his shoes. Eric Chun is a legit No. 1, but the next question is: Who is the team’s No. 2? Goss has built a consistent program, and the Wildcats will again advance to the postseason, but unless Perry and others make a giant leap, the Wildcats could see their season end at NCAA regionals.
2010-11 final ranking: 46
Coach: Randy Keck (fifth year)
Top returnees: Kristina Merkle, Marita Engzelius
Top newcomers: Freshman Anna Young of Canada, freshman Sarah Helly of Ireland, junior Kayla Riede (transfer from Sacramento Community College)
Projected starting 5: Kristina Merkle (Jr.), Shu-Yin Liu (Jr.), Marita Engzelius (Sr.), Anna Young (Fr.), Kamryn Ruffin (Sr.)
Key losses: None
Key fall tournament: Golfweek Conference Challenge
2010-11 recap: Tulsa had a strong season a year ago, finishing in the top 5 six times and winning at the Oral Roberts Shootout.
“We got better as the season went on,” coach Randy Keck said. “We played well for several tournaments but just never could get over that hump to win a few more.”
After a runner-up finish to Texas-El Paso at the Conference USA Championship, Tulsa earned an invite to the NCAA West Regional, where it finished a disappointing 18th. “We completely expected to get out of regionals,” Keck said. “It may have been our worst tournament of the year at the absolute wrong time.”
Player to watch: Shu-Yin Liu. “She’s the type of kid that everyone has forgotten about,” Keck said. “She has an amazing short game and is really long. She redshirted last year because of surgery to both feet to repair bunions. She’s back and will remind people how good she is.”
2011-12 preview: Keck is excited about the Golden Hurricane’s chances this season and thinks that this is the most talented team he has had since taking over at Tulsa.
“I’m feeling really good about this year,” Keck said. “Getting a player like Scooby (Shu-Yin Liu) back in the lineup will be a huge advantage for us.”
When Liu was in the lineup for Tulsa in 2009-10, she was the team’s No. 2 player, and should regain that spot if not push Kristina Merkle for the team’s No. 1 spot this fall.
One player who could battle for the fifth spot in the lineup is junior-college transfer Kayla Riede. She’s a 6-foot-tall big hitter who knows how to win. While at Sacramento (Calif.) Community College, Riede won multiple in-state events, including the California State Junior League title.
Although UTEP captured the conference crown last season, Tulsa and Tulane will be favored to win this year’s title. “Tulane is a great program,” Keck said. “But ECU is good, UCF is getting better, SMU is on the rise too, and top to bottom it’s a competitive conference.”
Bottom line: Returning everyone from a team that made it to the regionals a year ago is a good thing. To add to that mix another strong player who is back from injury is a great thing. With Liu’s return, Tulsa has high hopes for this season, and it should. Expect to see the Golden Hurricane return to the NCAA Championship.