College golf is just a few short weeks away. To get you ready, Asher Wildman is breaking down the top 60 men’s and women’s teams. Today, it’s No. 29 on the board with the Washington men and Florida State women.
2010-11 final ranking: 29
Coach: Matt Thurmond (11th year)
Top returnees: Chris Williams, Charlie Hughes
Top newcomers: Freshman Cheng-Tsung Pan of Taiwan
Projected starting 5: Chris Williams (Jr.), Charlie Hughes (Jr.), Cheng-Tsung Pan (Fr.), Cory McElyea (So.), Trevor Simsby (So.)
Key losses: None
Key fall tournament: Kikkor Golf Husky Invitational
2010-11 recap: It was an up-and-down season for Washington, something that might have been expected with four underclassman in the starting five. “We had a young and inexperienced team,” Washington coach Matt Thurmond said. “My hope was we would have been good enough to get through regionals, but it just didn’t happen.”
The Huskies started strong with runner-up showings at the Kikkor Golf Husky Invitational and The Prestige at PGA West, last fall but was inconsistent the rest of the way. Four top 5s, which included a victory at the Bandon Dunes Championship, were mixed with five finishes outside the top 10. After placing sixth at the Pac-10 Championship, Washington started slowly at NCAA regionals and fell just shy in a final-round rally. Despite shooting 4 under the final day, Washington finished one shot behind host Arizona and Pepperdine for the fifth and final qualifying spot for the NCAA Championship.
Player to watch: Cory McElyea. Said Thurmond: “I think he’s our “X” factor. He was a big recruit for us, and at times last fall showed signs of brilliance. He’s a little unconventional with a real long swing and stroke. This year could be a breakout year for him.”
2011-2012 preview: Thurmond is putting high expectations on the table for his Huskies this year. “We are contending for a Pac-12 title and a national title,” Thurmond said. “I’m not going to back down; I think we’ll be awesome.” With the three players atop the Washington lineup, the coach’s bold predictions might just come true.
Washington’s No. 1 will be Chris Williams, who had a fantastic summer with victories at the Sahalee Amateur and Pacific Coast Amateur, was selected to play for the U.S. Walker Cup team in September in Scotland. No. 2 in the lineup is fellow junior Charlie Hughes, who finished last season ranked No. 71 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “Chris and Charlie are the dynamic duo and leaders of our program,” Thurmond said. “Last year, they felt they had to carry the load for us, but that won’t be the case this year.”
A big reason less pressure will be on Washington’s top two is incoming freshman Cheng-Tsung Pan, who is No. 10 in the world in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Player Rankings. Thurmond thinks Pan could be a first-team All-American this year and challenge Williams for the team’s No. 1 spot.
For Washington to be considered a national contender, however, sophomores Trevor Simsby and Cory McElyea must step up. The two combined to play in 18 tournaments last season, but often were Nos. 4-5 in the line up. Thurmond believes they are talented enough to provide strong scoring at the back end of the lineup after a year of getting accustomed to college.
Bottom line: Washington could have the best 1-2-3 combo of any team in the Pac-12 Conference – and perhaps the country. There’s no reason to think that Williams and Hughes won’t continue to lead the way for the Huskies this year. Pan will enter the year with hype and expectations, and if he is as good as advertised, Washington could have three players ranked in the top 50 by the end of the season. Washington will be at Riviera come May, and for the Huskies, anything short of the Elite Eight would be a disappointment.
FLORIDA STATE WOMEN
2010-11 final ranking: 29
Coach: Amy Bond (second year)
Top returnees: Maria Salinas
Top newcomers: Junior Malin Jansson (transfer from Western Carolina), freshman Laure Castelain of France, freshman Carlton Kuhlo of Tallahassee, Fla., freshman Alex Milan of Lutz, Fla.
Projected starting 5: Maria Salinas (Sr.), Hannah Thomson (Sr.), Jessica Negron (Jr.), Laure Castelain (Fr.), Malin Jansson (Jr.)
Key losses: Macarena Silva
Key fall tournament: “Mo”morial at Texas A&M
2010-11 recap: Amy Bond returned to her alma mater last season after spending four years coaching in the Ivy League at Princeton. “It was a dream come true,” Bond said. “It was kind of like I never left, and the girls helped me funnel right back into the FSU lifestyle.”
Bond’s start was a little rocky, however. The Seminoles finished 15th and 16th at a pair of events in the fall, and did not record their first top-5 finish until the first event of spring, with a third place at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic. After that, the team rattled off two more top 5s at the Kinderlou Forest Challenge and SunTrust Gator Women’s Invitational. FSU was chosen to play in the NCAA East Regional, but barely missed advancing to the NCAA Championship, losing to Vanderbilt in a one-hole playoff for the eighth and final qualifying spot.
Player to watch: Jessica Negron. Said Bond: “This is a player who always seems to come alive in the postseason. You never can count her out because she can always string together good rounds and tournaments. She’ll surprise some people and could win a tournament or two this year.”
2011-2012 preview: Florida State enters the year with experience, depth, and talented recruits coming in. Senior Maria Salinas, who finished last season at No. 42 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, will be the team’s No. 1 player. Joining her at the top of the lineup will be fellow senior Hannah Thomson and junior Jessica Negron. “We will go as far as our three main returners take us,” Bond said. “We need them to play well for us to be successful.”
One player who could make an instant impact for the Seminoles this season is incoming freshman Laure Castelain of France. “She has won in Europe, and was on the French team that won the Euro Team Championship this summer,” Bond said. “She has average length, a great short game and is an excellent putter.”
Also joining the team this year will be Malin Jansson, a junior transfer from Western Carolina, where the Swede was a key contributor for the Catamounts, often playing as the team’s No. 2 player. “Her game is solid tee to green,” Bond said, “but she needs to make a few more putts.”
Bottom line: The top three spots are secure with talent and experience. It’s the Seminoles’ last two spots that could be interchangeable during the season. If incoming freshman Laure Castelain can play as well as she did this summer in Europe, then FSU will have a deep first four. The talent is there for this team to be top 25 and make a trip to nationals.