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. 23 on the board with the Ohio State men and Tulane women.
OHIO STATE MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 23
Coach: Donnie Darr (third year)
Top returnees: Dan Charen, Alex Redfield
Top newcomers: Freshman Boo Timko of Canfield, Ohio, freshman Grant Weaver of Wooster, Ohio
Projected starting 5: Dan Charen (Sr.), Alex Redfield (Sr.), Jamie Sindelar (Jr.), Matt Turner (Jr.), No. 5 spot TBA
Key losses: Bo Hoag, Brad Smith, Michael Cress
Key fall tournament: Jack Nicklaus Invitational
2010-11 recap: Ohio State had a break-out season under coach Donnie Darr, making it all the way to the Elite Eight match-play portion of the NCAA Championship. The Buckeyes won two regular-season titles (Marshall Invitational, FAU Spring Break Championship). “We played real well last year,” Darr said. “Last year was a strong step in the right direction for our program.”
After advancing out of NCAA regionals, the Buckeyes continued to impress at nationals. Ohio State finished a surprising sixth in 54-hole stroke play to advance to match play. Ohio State had a tough draw in the quarterfinals, however, falling 3-1-1 to top-ranked Oklahoma State on their home course at Karsten Creek.
Player to watch: Jamie Sindelar. Said Darr of the son of former Buckeyes standout Joey Sindelar, a longtime PGA Tour player who is now on the Champions Tour: “If he gets comfortable with his driver and his tee ball, then his upside is phenomenal. I’m excited to see what he can do in a full year for us. I hope he is comfortable this year to get it done.”
2011-12 preview: Before Darr was named head coach at Ohio State, the Buckeyes were a borderline top-50 team. Now, heading into Darr’s third season, he has turned them into a legitimate top-25 squad. “It’s been fun to change the culture here,” Darr said. “The direction this program is going is exciting, and I want to see who will step up and lead for us this year.”
This year could be a challenge for the third-year coach, however. Not only did Ohio State lose No. 1 player Bo Hoag to graduation, but they lost their Nos. 2 and 3 players as well: Brad Smith and Michael Cress. The only two starters back from the team’s postseason run a year ago are seniors Dan Charen and Alex Redfield, who have yet to show they can consistently beat top competition.
Despite their struggles the past few years, Darr believes in his seniors. “Dan will be our leader, but needs to know how to do damage control on his bad days,” Darr said. “Alex will surprise people this year because he is great with his putter 8 feet and in.”
Juniors Jamie Sindelar and Matt Turner also are likely to begin the season in the starting lineup, Darr said. With a fairly deep roster and two incoming recruits, however, Ohio State will have plenty of competition for its last few starting spots.
“You lose players every year,” Darr said. “It comes with the territory, but you need to make sure you have the next group of guys that can step in.”
Bottom line: It’s tough to see Ohio State repeating its success from a year ago. The Buckeyes don’t have a true No. 1 player in their lineup as the season begins, and that likely will hurt them in big tournaments. Darr is putting a lot of faith in his players to take big leaps with their games. Expect OSU to take a slight step backward this year, unless multiple players have breakout seasons.
2010-11 final ranking: 23
Coach: John Thomas Horton (fifth year)
Top returnees: Marybel Lopez Porras, Ashley McKenney, Meghan Chapman
Top newcomers: Freshmen Ines Lescudier of France, freshman Gemma Dryburgh of England
Projected starting 5: Marybel Lopez Porras (Jr.), Ashley McKenney (Sr.), Meghan Chapman (Sr.), Ines Lescudier (Fr.), Gemma Dryburgh (Fr.)
Key losses: Linn Gustaffson, Janine Fellows
Key fall tournament: Fall Preview
2010-11 recap: It was another solid year for Tulane, as the Green Wave six top 5s – including five top 3s – in 10 starts. At one point in the spring, Tulane was ranked 10th in the nation. “It was a good year, but we struggled down the stretch,” coach John Thomas Horton said. “For whatever reason, when we finished 11th at LSU we lost confidence.”
Tulane entered the Conference USA Championship as a prohibitive favorite and the only team from their conference ranked in the top 30. The Green Wave were stunned, however, when UTEP snuck away victorious and denied them of a C-USA three-peat. Tulane was chosen to play in the NCAA Central Regional, but finished 12th and ended its season on a disappointing note.
Player to watch: Marybel Lopez Porras. Said Horton: “She’s a consistent, great ballstriker. We have really been working hard to solidify her putting and short game. She should go to a whole new level with a greater confidence level, and if we can get her short game to match her ballstriking ability, she will have a fantastic year.”
2011-12 preview: Tulane again enters this season as the heavy favorite in Conference USA. Horton, however, said the level of competition is getting better. “The conference is gaining more and more depth and talent,” Horton said. “We’ll be the favorites, but it won’t mean anything if we don’t win when it counts.”
Coming off an individual appearance at the NCAA finals is junior Maribel Lopez Porras, who was named Conference USA Player of the Year as a sophomore, when all but one of her rounds counted towards the team score. After finishing 65th at nationals, Porras ended the year at No. 50 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
For Tulane to continue to build on its recent success, its two seniors must step up their games. Ashley McKenney was a solid contributor a year ago, playing in all but two tournaments for the Green Wave, usually out of the team’s No. 3 spot. Meghan Chapman, however, struggled to be a regular contributor. “The seniors need to step up and play great,” Horton said. “If not, then we have great freshmen coming in that will hopefully take us to an elite level.”
Bottom line: Tulane is not just a one-year wonder mid-major team. For the past three years, Tulane has impressed and should do so again this season. You can pretty much mark down the Conference USA Championship after last year’s stunning third-place finish, and, barring another late-season swoon, the Green Wave should be one of the 24 teams that make it to the NCAA Championship this year. Expect freshmen to have a big impact this year for Tulane, as Horton will put the best five players out there regardless of seniority.