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 from last year’s Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Today, it’s No. 24 on the board with the San Diego men and the Texas A&M women.
SAN DIEGO MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 24
Coach: Cory Scoggin (first year)
Top returnees: Alex Ching, Manav Shah
Top newcomers: Freshman Alexis Gemme-Piacente of Canada, freshman Grant Forrest of Scotland, freshman Linus Vaisanen of Finland, sophomore Joe Carlson (transfer from Villanova)
Projected starting 5: Alex Ching (Sr.), Manav Shah (So.), Grant Forrest (Fr.), Alexis Gemme-Piazente (Fr.), Leon Knoll (Jr.)
Key losses: Kenneth McCready, Ben Murray, Gunner Wiebe
Key fall tournament: The Prestige at PGA West
2010-11 recap: After laying a solid foundation with the Toreros over the past eight years, Tim Mickelson left San Diego to coach Arizona State. Before leaving, Mickelson built a top 25 program that won two times last season. San Diego’s two victories came at the Wolf Pack Classic and Kauai Collegiate Invitational.
Over the summer, assistant coach Cory Scoggin was named as Mickelson’s replacement after four years with the program. “I really thought we had a team that was primed and ready to make a run at nationals,” Scoggin said. “We thought we had a top-8 team, but just didn’t get the job done.” After two poor rounds to start the NCAA finals in Stillwater, Okla., San Diego played well in Round 3 and finished T-16 out of 30 teams.
Player to watch: Manav Shah. Said Scoggin: “He really stepped up last year for us, which was huge. He is very consistent with his play off the tee and his iron shots. He keeps his game very simple and has nerves of steel.”
2011-12 preview: San Diego will start the year with a revamped roster and a new coach to go along with it. Fortunately for Scoggin, he still has two of his top players in senior Alex Ching and sophomore Manav Shah. Gone, however, are three starters from last year’s team that made it to nationals, as well as Mickelson, who was the face of the program and put San Diego on the college golf map. “There’s no doubt how much Tim meant to this program,” Scoggin said. “I think players and recruits are comfortable knowing I’m staying, which won’t mess up our routines too much.”
Already penciled in to the Nos. 1 and 2 spots are Ching and Shah. The other three starting spots are pretty much up for grabs. It is possible that San Diego could go through a youth movement this year and start three freshmen on a regular basis. One of those players may not have even considered playing college golf if Scoggin hadn’t stumbled upon him at a junior tournament in Las Vegas a few months ago.
“Alexis Gemme-Piacente was completely under the radar with no one watching him,” Scoggin said. Before meeting Scoggin, college golf was a foreign idea to the Quebec native. Scoggin describes him as a tall kid with a great short game and says his game is a bit raw but that he is the type of player who will only get better.
Scoggin also is hoping junior Leon Knoll will make big strides this season. The South African played in only four events a year ago, and failed to hold a spot in the lineup. “He was a stand-out recruit, but came in and struggled.” Scoggin said. “There’s so much talent in there somewhere, but he needs the confidence to see that he can do it at this level.”
Bottom line: From the outside, it seems Scoggin is ready to build a program of his own. Alex Ching is an outstanding player and will play a crucial role in San Diego’s success, but with five new players, it appears to be something of a rebuilding year season for the Toreros. Even with the uncertainties in the lineup, however, Scoggin believes he has the talent in place to be a dangerous postseason team.
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TEXAS A&M WOMEN
2010-11 final ranking: 24
Coach: Trelle McCombs (fifth year)
Top returnees: Katerina Ruzickova, Sarah Beth Davis
Top newcomers: Junior Mary Michael Maggio (transfer from LSU), freshman Patricia Garcia of Puerto Rico
Projected starting 5: Katerina Ruzickova (So.), Mary Michael Maggio (Jr.), Sarah Beth Davis (Jr.), Susy Grunden (Jr.), No. 5 spot TBA
Key losses: Sarah Zwartynski
Key fall tournament: Fall Preview
2010-11 recap: The Aggies got off to an extremely sluggish start last season, starting with a 16th-place finish at the Fall Preview on their own course. After that, Texas A&M placed 11th at the Golfweek Conference Challenge and tied for 13th at the Tar Heel Invitational. “We got off to a real slow start,” coach Trelle McCombs said. “In the spring, we got better and were able to do some trial and error to get our postseason roster ready.”
Had it not been for Oregon, the Aggies may have not have had the chance to compete for a national championship on their home golf course. A&M trailed Oregon by eight shots for the final qualifying spot with four holes to play at the NCAA West Regional, but got some help as the Ducks struggled down the stretch. Texas A&M advanced, then went on to finish seventh in the NCAA finals at the Traditions Club.
Player to watch: Katerina Ruzickova. Said McCombs: “She’s a kid that’s sneaky. She’s not going to just impress you like a Cydney Clanton that can hit it forever. She can sneak it in and make a lot of birdies.”
2011-12 preview: There are high expectations in College Station this season, as Texas A&M is a contender for the Big 12 Conference Championship. The Aggies have sophomore Katerina Ruzickova atop their lineup after she ended her freshman season at No. 32 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Ruzickova won the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate last year, was runner-up at the Big 12 Championship and finished sixth at the NCAA Championship. Ruzickova flew under the radar last season, but could make some headlines this year by winning multiple times.
A&M’s biggest offseason addition was junior Mary Michael Maggio, who transferred from LSU. Last year, Maggio ended the year ranked No. 80 by Golfweek. “She will bring a lot of energy and personality to our team,” McCombs said. “You may think parts of her game aren’t quite fundamental, but she has no fear and just goes for it.” With the addition of Maggio, the Aggies now have two top-100 players and have a strong 1-2 combo at the top of the lineup.
The rest of the Aggies line-up is above average, but they will need some help from their four and five spots. One player that has surprised many this summer is sophomore Chelsea Mocio. Last season, Mocio played in seven events and her best finish was a tie for 45th at the Central District Invitational. Over the summer though, Mocio qualified and played in both the U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.
Bottom line: Texas A&M is top heavy with Ruzickova and Maggio, but questions abound at the back end of the rotation. Chelsea Mocio struggled for Texas A&M last season, but has excelled in amateur events this summer. If she can transfer that strong play to college events, that will be a huge lift for the Aggies. A&M will be a top-20 team and may be favored in the Big 12, but they are still a couple of players away from being a national contender.