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. 11 on the board with the LSU men and Arizona State women.
2010-11 final ranking: 11
Coach: Chuck Winstead (seventh year)
Top returnees: Sang Yi, Austin Gutgsell
Top newcomers: Freshman Stewart Jolly of Birmingham, Ala., freshman Myles Lewis of New Orleans, freshman Curtis Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla.
Projected starting 5: Sang Yi (Sr.), Austin Gutgsell (Sr.), Andrew Presley (So.), Nos. 4 and 5 spots TBA
Key losses: John Peterson, Andrew Loupe
Key fall tournament: Carpet Capital Intercollegiate
2010-11 recap: The Tigers used a top-heavy lineup to claw their way into the top 10 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings at times last year. Seniors John Peterson and Andrew Loupe carried a big load for LSU and were a large part of the team’s success. “It’s been a long time since LSU golf had been ranked so high,” coach Chuck Winstead said. “The ’07 recruiting class really got the job done here for us.”
The Bayou Bengals won four tournaments and advanced out of NCAA regionals. Many thought the Tigers would contend for a spot among the final eight teams for match play, but poor play from everyone except Peterson – who won the NCAA individual title – kept LSU from advancing and led to a disappointing 21st-place finish.
Player to watch: Sang Yi. Said Winstead of the senior: “He’s been a starter for us since he’s stepped onto campus as a freshman. He’s finished top 5 for us before (but) hasn’t accomplished what we feel he can accomplish. Heading into this year, I really think we can have a breakout year from him.”
2011-12 preview: LSU is about to go through a youth movement. With a roster that has four sophomores, three freshmen and only two seniors, Winstead may shuffle his lineup more than he’d like during the regular season. “I’m looking at nine guys to come and and see who will emerge to be our new go-to guys,” Winstead said. “We will have a lot of youth and inexperience, so it will be crucial to get off to a good start in the fall.”
The Tigers aren’t without any experience, though. Yi and fellow senior Austin Gutgsell played in nearly every tournament last season, including the postseason. Playing as the Nos. 4 and 5 players, respectively, Yi finished 115th in the Golfweek rankings and Gutgsell was 323rd.
One sophomore who may emerge is Andrew Presley. The Fort Worth, Texas, native played in eight events last year for the Tigers and made some solid contributions. “Even last year in a group of talented guys, he ended up playing the majority of the spring for us,” Winstead said. “We relied on him in March and April for counting scores.”
Incoming freshman Curtis Thompson, brother of professional golfers Alexis and Nicholas, will no doubt feel a little pressure to live up to his last name and siblings, but his coach just wants him to concentrate on working to get better. “His future is very bright, but he needs to take it one step at a time,” Winstead said.
Bottom line: It’s clear this team will start the year with holes and questions throughout the line up, so this could be a wait-and-see type of year. LSU will lack true No. 1 and No. 2 players when it starts the season at the Carpet Capital Intercollegiate. The Tigers’ fall schedule will be brutal, as they also play at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational and Isleworth, but it will give them an opportunity to see what they need to do to compete against the nation’s top teams. Expect a rough fall, a better spring, a trip to NCAA regionals and an early start to their summer.
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ARIZONA STATE WOMEN
2010-11 final ranking: 11
Coach: Melissa Luellen (10th year)
Top returnees: Giulia Molinaro, Daniela Ordonez
Top newcomers: Freshman Noemi Jimenez of Spain, freshman Emilie Alonso of France (arrives in January)
Projected starting 5: Giulia Molinaro (Sr.), Daniela Ordonez (So.), Justine Lee (So.), Laura Blanco (So.), No. 5 spot TBA
Key losses: Carlota Ciganda
Key fall tournament: The Pac-12/SEC Challenge
2010-11 recap: At one point last season, it was unclear if ASU would field a team at all. After several players turned pro and transferred after the 2009-10 season, the Sun Devils had only two players on their fall roster and did not play in a single team event before the holiday break. “It was not very much fun,” coach Melissa Luellen said. “it was just a lot of individual practice, but it felt very strange not to have more people at practice.”
In the spring, ASU added enough newcomers to field a team at events, and when the Sun Devils finally did tee it up, they exceeded expectations. With three victories (M&M Wigwam, Donnis Thompson, Paradise Classic), the Sun Devils rapidly climbed to the top 25 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. After a third-place finish at the NCAA East Regional, ASU’s young squad struggled to a 17th-place finish at nationals.
Player to watch: Noemi Jimenez. Said Luellen of the freshman: “She was just the medalist at the British Girls and has been a member of the Spanish team for several years. She is a dedicated player with very high aspirations.”
2011-12 preview: Even though it will start three sophomores along with senior Giulia Molinaro, ASU remains a relatively experienced team. Last year, the Sun Devils crammed an entire year’s worth of events into a single spring semester. This fall will be a good indicator of how good this team really is, as well to see how ASU will fare without Carlota Ciganda, last year’s No. 1 player who is now a pro. Luellen thinks it could take her all season to determine who the starting five will be for the postseason.
ASU will be even younger this season with the addition of incoming freshmen Noemi Jimenez and Emilie Alonso, a French player who won’t arrive until January. In Jimenez, the Sun Devils add yet another Spaniard, and Luellen figures that she will be as good as the ones they have had in the past. “This girl will add more fuel to the fire,” Luellen said. “I think she will be a great addition to this team.”
One player Luellen expects to step up: Laura Blanca, a sophomore from Colombia who struggled last spring. “Laura is a great ballstriker, good putter and has the ability to improve the most,” Luellen said. “I’m excited to see how she can adjust, practice and play over the course of our season.”
Bottom line: ASU is young but talented. As the team’s lone senior, Molinaro will lead the way to start the year, but don’t be surprised if one of the team’s new freshman end up as the team’s new No. 1. Last year, the new Sun Devils rushed to adjust to a hectic college lifestyle, but this year they should feel comfortable with a more relaxed schedule. Expect ASU to have its ups and downs but be a top-15 team by the postseason, when Alonso could be a difference-maker.