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. 27 on the board with the Clemson men and Oklahoma women.
2010-11 final ranking: 27
Coach: Larry Penley (29th year)
Top returnees: Corbin Mills, Crawford Reeves
Top newcomers: Freshmen Billy Kennerly of Alpharetta, Ga., freshman Stephen Behr of Florence, S.C., freshman Hayden Garrett of Easley, S.C.
Projected starting 5: Corbin Mills (Jr.), Crawford Reeves (Jr.), Jacob Burger (Sr.), McCuen Elmore (Sr.), Thomas Bradshaw (So.)
Key losses: None
Key fall tournament: U.S. Collegiate
2010-11 recap: Clemson coach Larry Penley sums up last season quite simply: “ It was disappointing,” Penley said with a sigh. “Missing the finals by two shots when I thought we could have been competitive at Karsten Creek is really disappointing.”
Clemson started the year slowly, with only one top-5 finish in the fall. After tying for third at the Carpet Capital, Clemson finished 13th at the Ping/Golfweek Preview, seventh at The Brickyard and 12th at the U.S. Collegiate. In the spring, though, the Tigers were a different team, notching three consecutive top 5s to close out the regular season, including a victory at the Furman Invitational. Just when it looked like they were peaking, however, the Tigers finished seventh at NCAA regionals, failing to advance to the NCAA Championship.
Player to watch: Crawford Reeves. Said Penley: “He’s seen the success that Corbin has had this summer, and I think there were two shots that separated those two last year. He should gain a lot of confidence from what Corbin did this summer. Now it’s time to get it done, and I think he’ll have a great year.”
2011-2012 preview: One thing to expect from Clemson this fall: lineup changes on a regular basis. “I have done that as long as I have been here,” Penley said. “I’ll lock guys in before a qualifier, because I want to see what they can do when they gain experience.” Last year, Clemson didn’t have a set lineup until it won late in the spring at the Furman Invitational. This fall again will be competitive, as returnees and incoming freshmen jockey for playing time.
Incoming recruit Billy Kennerly won the AJGA FootJoy Boys this summer and could become a regular in the Tigers’ starting five. “Excellent putter and great ballstriker who doesn’t shoot bad scores,” Penley said. “I can see him being a very solid 3, 4 or 5 guy on a very good team, with scores counting every week.” Currently, Kennerly is the sixth-ranked junior in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings and the third-ranked player in the Class of 2011.
One player who will be expected to continue his strong play from a standout summer is junior Corbin Mills, who won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and the Players Amateur. Corbin finished last season at No. 116 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, but will be expected to make a big jump this year thanks to his summer success.
Penley also is hoping seniors Jacob Burger and McCuen Elmore will become key factors for Clemson. “This is their last shot,” Penley said. “Neither of those two have made All-ACC, and they need to go ahead and get that done.” Burger has at times played well, but Elmore struggled much of last season.
Bottom line: Clemson has the talent and potential to be a top-10 team. Corbin Mills has had a breakout summer, and if he can continue that type of play in college, he will be a candidate for first-team All-America honors. Junior Crawford Reeves completes a strong 1-2 combo atop the Tigers’ lineup. Add top freshman Billy Kennerly, and a host of talented players competing for the other two lineup spots and Clemson has the makings of a contender. The Tigers will settle on their best five by spring, and by then Penley should have a team that can contend for the ACC Championship and make an Elite Eight run at at the NCAA Championship.
2010-11 final ranking: 27
Coach: Veronique Drouin (third year)
Top returnees: Chirapat Jao-Javanil
Top newcomers: Junior Jacki Marshall (transfer from Tyler Junior College), sophomore Jade Staggs (transfer from Oklahoma State), freshman Viktoria Lager of Longboat Key, Fla
Projected starting 5: Chriapat Jao-Javanil (So.), Taylor Schmidt (Jr.), Brooke Collins (Sr.), Nos. 4 and 5 spots TBA
Key losses: Ellen Mueller
Key fall tournament: UNLV Fall Invitational
2010-11 recap: Considering Oklahoma fielded a lineup that regularly included three freshmen, Oklahoma had an impressive season. The Sooners failed to finish in the top 5 just twice during the regular season.
“What we did with the young lineup was impressive,” coach Veronique Drouin said. “It was great for those girls to gain valuable experience, and they are hungry for more.”
Oklahoma notched one team title last fall – at the 16-team Dale McNamara Invitational. After finishing fifth at the Big 12 Conference Championship, the Sooners were selected to play in the NCAA West Regional but failed to advance to nationals after an 11th-place finish.
Player to watch: Brooke Collins. Said Drouin: “She hits it real long and she’s worked with a new teacher this summer. They have been working on controlling her misses better. If she can keep her ball in the fairway, then she can be a really good player.”
2011-12 preview: Oklahoma enters the year with a roster that’s quite different despite the return of three sophomores who started at regionals. In the fall, Oklahoma lost one of its top players, junior Taylor Schmidt, to a torn ACL, and she missed the entire spring. She has undergone some swing changes and will bid for a spot this fall. “I know she is ready to come back,” Drouin said. “She was having a great fall before she got hurt.”
The Sooners also are adding two transfers, including a possible hidden gem in Jacki Marshall, Tyler (Texas) Junior College transfer. “She won multiple tournaments (at Tyler),” Drouin said. “At the end of last year, she was one of the top 5-ranked junior college golfers in the country.” If Marshall can make the adjustment to the NCAA Division I level, she will help solidify the top of the Sooners’ lineup.
Playing in the No. 1 spot for OU will be sophomore Chirapat Jao-Javanil, who ended last season at No. 78 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Senior Brooke Collins, who was ranked No. 235, also will start the season somewhere in the lineup, but she will have competition for her spot.
Bottom line: Oklahoma will have depth and be an interesting team to watch this fall. Expect Drouin to tinker with the lineup throughout the fall, then settle on one for the spring and postseason. With two transfers who can play, as well as incoming freshman Viktoria Lager, the Sooners will have some competitive team qualifiers. Count on another bid to regionals, and if the lineup comes together, a trip to nationals is a good bet.