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. 6 on the board with the Florida men and California women.
2010-11 final ranking: 6
Coach: Buddy Alexander (24th year)
Top returnees: Tyler McCumber, Tommy Mou
Top newcomers: Junior transfer T.J. Vogel from USC, freshmen Eric Banks of Truro, Nova Scotia, James Monnerville of Vero Beach, Fla., Thomas Stewart of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and J.D. Tomlinson of Gainesville, Fla.
Projected starting 5: Tyler McCumber (Jr.), T.J. Vogel (Jr.), Tommy Mou (Jr.), rest to be determined
Key losses: Bank Vongvanij, Phillip Choi, Andres Echavarria
Key fall tournament: Olympia Fields
2010-11 recap: Florida entered last year with many question marks. However, led by the resurgent Vongvanij, the Gators were one of the biggest surprises of the year. Florida won five times, including the SEC Championship and an NCAA regional. “We had a hell of a year,” Alexander said, “but the way we played at nationals was incredibly disappointing.”
Florida struggled during all three rounds of stroke play at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., and finished 23rd. Nonetheless, the Gators were among the national contenders all year.
Player to watch: Banks. “He played on the Canadian junior national team last year and came out of nowhere two summers ago,” Alexander said. “He has great fundamentals with a nice-looking golf swing. He’s got some adjusting to do to Bermuda greens and Florida weather but can contribute this year and be a good player for four years.”
2011-2012 preview: After three key departures, Florida once again will start the season with more questions than certainties. McCumber, No. 135 in last year’s Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, is the top returnee, but he struggled last spring after a strong fall season. Alexander has high hopes for McCumber to return to form. “I want to see Tyler maintain a great game for the entire year,” Alexander said. “He won the Florida State Amateur this summer, and I’m hoping he rides that momentum into the fall.”
T.J. Vogel, a junior transfer from USC, likely will be penciled in as the No. 2 player, though four newcomers are certain to push McCumber, Vogel and Mou for playing time. “I don’t really have a lot of expectations or thoughts on what’s going to happen,” Alexander said. “We are an unknown entering the year, even to ourselves.”
Over the years, Florida has proved to be a school that can develop talent. This year could be one of Alexander’s greatest coaching challenges. Seven of the 11 Gators are freshmen or sophomores, and only five lettermen have tournament experience. Florida’s youthful roster could produce a different lineup until well into the spring season.
Bottom line: Every time Florida is forecast to have a down year, Alexander tends to produce an overachieving team. To exceed expectations this year, he’ll have to get stellar play from his freshmen. The Gators lack a dominant No. 1 man, but McCumber is capable with more consistency. Vogel is a nice addition. Expect Florida to struggle in the fall before fielding a solid lineup by the spring.
2010-11 final ranking: 6
Coach: Nancy McDaniel (17th year)
Top returnees: Emily Childs, Daniela Holmqvist, Joanne Lee
Top newcomers: Freshman Jo Ee Kok of Singapore, freshman Morgan Thompson of Tualatin, Ore.
Projected starting 5: Emily Childs (Sr.), Daniela Holmqvist (Sr.), Joanne Lee (Sr.), Nicola Rossler (So.), Jacqueline Williams (Jr.)
Key losses: Pia Halbig
Key fall tournament: SEC/Pac-12 Challenge
2010-11 recap: In the Pac-10 last year, almost all of the attention went to USC and UCLA, teams that were fighting for the No. 1 ranking week in and week out. However, California was the most overlooked team in the conference. Even last fall, when Arizona State failed to play in a tournament as a team, the Sun Devils received more publicity than the Bears.
Cal won three times last year, and all of those titles came at strong events – the Edean Ihlanfeldt in the fall, then consecutive wins in the spring at the Peg Barnard Invitational and Juli Inkster Spartan Invite. After advancing out of the NCAA East Regional, the Bears finished a disappointing 12th at nationals. “It was a solid season,” coach Nancy McDaniel said. “In the end, it was disappointing because we just didn’t bring it at the time we needed.”
Player to watch: Daniela Holmqvist. Said McDaniel: “She wants to turn pro and is very serious about everything she does. She took the way she played at nationals as motivation to make her game even better and stronger. She is determined to be a great professional.”
2011-12 preview: This may be California’s best shot at a Pac-12 title – or even to compete for a national title – for a while. The Bears are experienced at the top with three seniors leading the way. Joanne Lee, Daniela Holmqvist and Emily Childs are as good of a top three as you could ask for in college golf. Each member of the trio finished last season in the top 65 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, with Lee the highest at No. 18. “They are the meat and potatoes,” McDaniel said. “They are what make us tick, and all bring different experiences.”
Sophomore Nicola Rossler of Germany played in 10 events last year as Cal’s No. 5 player and will be expected to make great strides this year. If Rossler struggles, then junior Jacqueline Williams may be next in line to be a key contributor. “She went after it this summer,” McDaniel said of Williams. “She worked on strength and conditioning and how she practices, plus she made her first (U.S.) Women’s Am this summer.”
McDaniel believes that her team stacks up with anyone in the loaded Pac-12. What that also means is that she thinks the Bears can be a national contender. In the past four seasons, three teams from the Pac-12 have won the national title. UCLA won last year, Arizona State in 2009 and USC in ’08. Cal strongly believes it can make it four out of six.
Bottom line: The headlined rivalry in California over the years has been between L.A. rivals UCLA and USC. This year it may be a battle of Bears, as in Bruins vs. Golden. Cal has a great senior class that will have one more shot at a national title before graduating. If McDaniel can find that fourth consistent scorer to rely on, then the Golden Bears could definitely win it all.