There are two big tournaments on the schedule this week, so let’s break them down as we head into the weekend.
Brickyard Collegiate Championship
Dates: Oct. 7-9
Course: The Brickyard at Riverside, Macon, Ga.
2010 team champion: Georgia
2010 medalist: Russell Henley
The field: Air Force, Augusta State, Chattanooga, College of Charleston, Colorado State, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, Mercer, Mississippi, North Florida, Oklahoma, Texas-Arlington and Virginia Tech
The scoop: Each year, the Brickyard is a great tournament with a strong and competitive field. This year, there will be some smaller schools that will see some unusual competition. Schools such as Gonzaga, Air Force and College of Charleston will see how they stack up against some of the elite schools in the country. One team to watch this weekend will be Georgia Tech, which will look to rebound from a poor eighth-place showing at the Golfweek Conference Challenge. Chattanooga, which finished runner-up at the Conference Challenge, will also be looking to have a better finish after the Mocs took sixth last weekend at the Rees Jones Invitational. Most of the schools in the field have gotten their feet wet this year, and have played in tournaments, but not UNF. Tomorrow will be UNF’s first tee shots of the season, and coach Scott Schroeder will get a good look at his squad with Sean Dale back in the lineup after red-shirting last season.
Wildman’s pick: Georgia Tech
Perhaps the Yellow Jackets need some home cooking in their home state? Bruce Heppler’s squad is just too talented to be winless, and I think this week they get the job done at the Brickyard. Freshmen Anders Albertson and Ollie Schniederjans have played in a couple of tournaments, and now it’s time to see them dominate a tournament like they can. James White is one of the best players in the ACC, and he could win medalist honor this weekend. With all the talent this team has, it would seem wrong not to pick Georgia Tech.
Sleeper pick: Augusta State
Is a back-to-back defending national championship team really a sleeper? It is when you have five new players and a new coach to start the year. The Jags opened the year at Olympia Fields and the team finished in 10th place out of 15 teams, nine of which were top 20 teams from a year ago. Sophomore Alex Wennstam was the team’s top finisher, placing 23rd, but a couple of his teammates struggled. Derek Chang, who opposing coaches said through out the summer could be a real surprise this year for the Jags, got off to a rocky start and finished 58th. For years, Augusta State had a core group of guys they could rely on each week, but now it’s time for those who have been waiting for their turn to rise to the occasion.
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Tar Heel Invitational
Dates: Oct. 7-9
Course: UNC Finley Golf Course, Chapel Hill, N.C.
2010 team champion: Alabama
2010 co-medalists: Brooke Pancake and Megan McChrystal
Field: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Chattanooga, Coastal Carolina, Duke, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Michigan State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Tennessee, Tulane, Virginia and Wake Forest
The scoop: Eighteen of the top women’s programs in the country will tee off for the Tar Heel Invitational in a tournament that will most likely go to the wire. At first glance, the field seems like an NCAA Championship. In fact, all 18 teams made it to an NCAA regional last spring, with nine advancing to the national championship. Alabama won the event by 12 strokes over LSU last year, but the gap between those two schools and several others in the field is a lot smaller. North Carolina, LSU, Duke and Tennessee will challenge defending tournament champion Alabama.
Wildman’s pick: North Carolina
It’s hard to pick against ‘Bama, but I’m going to do it because I smell some home cooking. To start the year, UNC finished second at the Cougar Classic and fifth at the Fall Preview. Last year, this team finished fifth at its home event, but this year, the Tar Heels will be a favorite. Leading the way for UNC early has been sophomores Casey Grice and Jackie Chang. Just think how much more competitive this team will be when seniors Allie White and Catherine O’Donnell play to their potential. This may be the most talented Tar Heels team we’ve seen in a while, and playing on their home course should be a nice advantage.
Don’t think Duke’s a sleeper? The Blue Devils haven’t won a tournament in more than a year! Led by Lindy Duncan, Duke will be looking to get off the schneid, and what better place than in its rival’s backyard. Laetitia Beck is becoming a better player each week, and Irene Jung and Stacey Kim have the talent to be top-50 players. Duke has been in a bit of a slump for the past year and a half, but I’m looking for the Blue Devils to possibly step back into the winner’s circle this weekend. How great is this? I have UNC vs. Duke in my picks this week. That’s the way it should be at the Tar Heel Invitational, right?