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. 2 on the board with the Georgia Tech men and UCLA women.
GEORGIA TECH MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 2
Coach: Bruce Heppler (17th year)
Top returnees: James White, Richard Werenski
Top newcomers: Freshmen Anders Albertson of Woodstock, Ga., Ollie Schniederjans of Powder Springs, Ga., and sophomore transfer Drew Czuchry from Akron
Projected starting 5: James White (Sr.), Richard Werenski (So.), Bo Andrews (RS-So.), Ollie Schniederjans (Fr.), Anders Albertson (Fr.)
Key losses: Kyle Scott, J.T. Griffin, Paul Haley
Key fall tournament: U.S. Collegiate Championship
2010-11 recap: For the second consecutive year, Georgia Tech made it to the match play at the NCAA Championship, and for the second year in a row the Yellow Jackets were ousted by eventual champion Augusta State. Georgia Tech had a strong season winning three times, including a third consecutive ACC Championship. “I really thought we had a good team,” Heppler said. “Augusta State made a few more putts then us on a day when we needed it the most.”
After victories at the U.S. Collegiate, Yellow Jacket Classic and ACC Championship, Georgia Tech finished second at the NCAA East Regional. Through stroke play at the national championship, Heppler’s squad finished second. The Yellow Jackets then lost to in-state rival Augusta State in match play.
Player to watch: Bo Andrews. Said Heppler: “Was very competitive as a freshmen, but took last year off. He hits it really straight and has tried to work on his wedges and scoring better. He’s a hard worker that will work until the cows come home.”
2011-2012 preview: Some will think that Georgia Tech has a depleted roster, but that’s not the case. Two Yellow Jackets recruits (Ollie Schniederjans and Anders Albertson) enrolled a semester early to get more acclimated to life as a student-athlete. Both will be ready this fall, and should be able to provide instant productivity. “They are very talented and outrageously competitive,” Heppler said. “We know those guys were highly-ranked juniors and I want to see them work to be All-Americans.”
For the Yellow Jackets to be successful, Werenski needs to step up. As a freshman, Werenski played in 10 tournaments, but only had two top-10 finishes. “He had a chance to play a lot of the courses and gain valuable experience last year,” Heppler said. “If he can come in and improve on his year and take advantage of his experience, then, one and two we’re pretty good.”
In the No. 1 spot will be James White, who ended last year ranked 10th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. White won two tournaments last year (U.S. Collegiate and Puerto Rico Classic). White also had six other top 10s, including a T-8 at the NCAAs.
Bottom line: With all the hype going to incoming freshmen Patrick Rodgers, Jordan Spieth and others, some will overlook Schniederjans and Albertson. Schniederjans could finish the season as the team’s No. 2 player. The fact that Werenski played in such a deep lineup last year was a big plus for him. This year, Werenski will get the chance to be a key contributor and will be relied upon heavily if this team wants to make it back to match play.
2010-11 final ranking: 2
Coach: Carrie Forsyth (13th year)
Top returnees: Stephanie Kono, Tiffany Lua, Lee Lopez
Top newcomers: Freshmen Erynne Lee of Silverdale, Wash.; Kyle Roig of Pembrooke Pines, Fla.
Projected starting 5: Stephanie Kono (Sr.), Tiffany Lua (Jr.), Lee Lopez (RS-Jr.), Erynne Lee (Fr.), Kyle Roig (Fr.)
Key losses: Glory Yang
Key fall tournament: Pac-12/SEC Challenge
2010-11 recap: Last year could not have gone better for the Bruins. They won the NCAA Championship, and all five starters finished the year ranked inside the top 40 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. “It was a dream year,” Forsyth said. “We had a great season, and it doesn’t get a whole lot better then what we had last year.”
In addition to the NCAA title, the Bruins also won five other events: Landfall Tradition, Pac-10/SEC Challenge, Bruin Wave Invitational, Ping/ASU Invitational and the NCAA Central Regional. UCLA only finished outside the top three once, a T-7 at the NCAA Fall Preview to start the year.
Player to watch: Stephanie Kono. Said Forsyth: “She has an all-around game. A great ballstriker, that people may be think doesn’t hit it as long as she does. Her chipping and putting is great, but needs to work on her fearlessness.”
2011-2012 preview: The scariest thing about UCLA – this team may have improved. All-Americans Kono, Lua and Lopez are back. The Bruins arguably have two of the best incoming recruits in Lee and Roig. Also back is Brianna Do, who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links this summer. Yang, last year’s No. 4 player who finished 33rd in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, is the only starter gone.
“It will be interesting with intra-squad competition with our roster,” Forsyth said. “I’m looking forward to see how it all pans out, we have so many quality players that can all bring something.”
This season, Forsyth plans on playing events where players can compete as individuals. Forsyth doesn’t want great players just practicing.
Lee (2010 U.S. Women’s Amateur medalist) and Roig (2011 Harder Hall champion) bring some top credentials to California. “They are both two great players that could be in the line up instantly,” Forsyth said. “They both can spark this team and make qualifiers very interesting.”
Bottom line: It’s not unimaginable to see all five starters finish in the top 25 in the rankings this year. There is no doubt UCLA is loaded with depth and top talent. No matter what tournament UCLA enters, the Bruins will be the favorite. That tag includes the national championship where the Bruins will look to go back-to-back.