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. 9 on the board with the San Diego State men and Arizona women.
SAN DIEGO STATE MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 9
Coach: Ryan Donovan (ninth year)
Top returnees: J.J. Spaun, Todd Baek
Top newcomers: Freshman Tad Darland of Henderson, Nev., freshman Wilson Bateman of Canada
Projected starting 5: J.J. Spaun (Sr.), Todd Baek (So.), Alex Kang (Sr.), Tom Berry (Jr.), Wilson Bateman (Fr.)
Key losses: Johan Carlsson
Key fall tournament: The Prestige at PGA West
2010-11 recap: While much of the attention last season went to Oklahoma State’s eight victories, San Diego State was nearly as impressive, winning seven titles of its own. Despite victories such as the Barona Collegiate Cup and USC Invitational, the Aztecs were most ecstatic about their first Mountain West Conference Championship. “Last year will go down as one of those years that could be the best ever,” coach Ryan Donovan said. “Winning seven times is special, but you never forget winning a conference for the first time in school history.”
After an impressive six victories in the regular season, the Aztecs weren’t done. San Diego State continued to take care of business at NCAA regionals, winning the competition in Tucson, Ariz., and advancing to nationals. At the NCAA Championship, however, the Aztecks played their worst tournament of the year, tying for 16th at Karsten Creek.
Player to watch: J.J Spaun. Said Donovan: “Continues to work hard on his game and has the best hands that I’ve seen around this program. I hope he wins two or three times this year for us.”
2011-12 preview: It will hard for San Diego State to repeat its success from a year ago, even though the Aztecs return four of their five starters, if for no other reason that winning seven times in a season is quite a task. “Our biggest goal and challenge is to keep all our seniors in the moment,” Donovan said. “It’ll be hard to match what we did last year, that is for sure.”
Rejoining the team this season will be Matt Hoffenberg, a senior who is a former Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year (2008). Hoffenberg left the team for academic reasons, but did a complete turnabout in school. “Matt got his GPA up and came to my office for a second chance,” Donovan said. “He asked for a roster spot without a scholarship, and I wanted to give him (that) chance.” Donovan says Hoffenberg will have to work his way back into a deep and talented lineup.
Spaun, Alex Kang and Todd Baek all are top-100 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and again will be steady leaders atop the Aztecs lineup. Joining them could be incoming freshman Wilson Bateman, who earlier this summer lost to two-time champion Jordan Spieth at the U.S. Junior and finished third at the Canadian Amateur. Donovan says the Canadian is a player who is not afraid to play anybody, and he backs it up with a phenomenal short game.
Bottom line: Winning multiple titles is an accomplishment for a college golf team. Winning seven times is darn near impossible. With three mature starters at the top of the lineup, Donovan can sleep easy knowing he has positions 1-2-3 covered at each tournament. Donovan is hopeful Bateman can surprise as a freshman and have an instant impact, and if Hoffenberg can work his way back into the lineup, the Aztecs can be an extremely dangerous team come the postseason. An Elite Eight appearance would not be a surprise.
2010-11 final ranking: 9
Coach: Laura Ianello (second year)
Top returnees: Isabelle Boineau, Margarita Ramos, Kyndall Ardoin
Top newcomers: Freshman Paige Spiranac of Scottsdale, Ariz., freshman Andrea Vilarasau of Spain, freshman Manon Gidali of France (arrives in January)
Projected starting 5: Isabelle Boineau (Sr.), Margarita Ramos (Sr.), Kyndall Ardoin (Jr.), Nikki Koller (Sr.), No. 5 spot TBA
Key losses: Alejandra Llaneza
Key fall tournament: Fall Preview
2010-11 recap: Arizona put together an impressive regular season, winning the Topy Cup to start the fall and its home event, the Wildcat Invitational, to start the spring. During the regular season, the ’Cats posted only one finish outside the top 5, a seventh place finish at the Battle at Rancho Bernardo. “Overall, we had a real successful year,” coach Laura Ianello said. “We played well in big tournaments during the season, but struggled in the postseason.”
After finishing fifth at the NCAA West Regional, Arizona struggled at nationals, posting three 300-plus team scores in four rounds en route to a 15th place finish.
Player to watch: Isabelle Boineau. Said Ianello: “She is an extremely hard worker and is excited about turning pro at the end of the year. She’s driven to give it her all in her senior year.”
2011-12 preview: Arizona enters this season with plenty of experience. Led by seniors Boineau, Margarita Ramos and Nikki Koller, the Wildcats have three players who should crack the top 100 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “I’m hoping with the experience and leadership we have, it will help us win more events,” Ianello said. “Our girls are already thinking about the spring and how they’ll do at the end of the year.”
One player who could add some depth to the team in the spring is Manon Gidali. France’s top-ranked junior will be a spring enrollee who could become a fixture in the Wildcats’ lineup. Ianello expects Gidali to go through an adjustment period but said her game is solid and she make an instant impact.
If Gidali or one of the other incoming freshmen can’t secure the fifth spot, it could be won by sophomore Haley Andreas. The tall California native has spent the offseason getting stronger, and she hopes to become a starter. “She’s a player who realizes there is a huge opportunity to bust into our lineup,” Ianello said. “She spent a lot of last year learning, practicing and observing, but she has been driven all summer to make the starting lineup.”
Bottom line: Even with a strong nucleus coming back, the Wildcats still have to face Pac-12 powers UCLA, USC and California on a regular basis, making it tough to tally a lot of tournament titles. Arizona is a good team, but it has had problems beating its top conference rivals. The ’Cats are certainly talented enough to be in the top 10 and earn another NCAA Championship berth, but they again start this season one player shy of the three elite Pac-12 teams ranked ahead of them.