Take a look at the top five surprise teams of the fall:
2010-11 ranking: 22
Current Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 2
Team titles: St. Mary’s Invitational and The Prestige
Current head-to-head record: 29-0
The reason: By Oregon’s standards, last season was a disappointing one. Still, the Ducks look like a new team this year despite a nearly identical roster. After a great freshman year three years ago, Eugene Wong has had his ups and downs but looks to be back to top form for the Ducks. Daniel Miernicki is still the top player for the second-ranked team in the country. Freshman Rak Cho has played superbly and is 39th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. Senior Andrew Vijarro also has been a key contributor for a team that seems to be overlooked in a highly competitive Pac-12. Last year, the Ducks won only one tournament, and so far this year the team has won twice, likely with more on the way. Junior Robbie Ziegler has struggled to start the year but has proved to be a reliable player for coach Casey Martin. Oregon is one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12, and that maturity is coming through for the Ducks this year.
2.) Kent State
2010-11 ranking: 32
Current Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 12
Team titles: Inverness Intercollegiate and Bank of Tennessee at Blackthorn Club
Current head-to-head record: 38-10
The reason: In the wake of losing key players to graduation at the end of last season, Kent State has had its returnees step up this fall. John Hahn was a fixture to the Golden Flashes’ starting five, and Brett Cairns also was a solid contributor. This year, other players are getting their chance to shine. Sophomore Corey Conners is coming on after playing at the bottom of the lineup for much of last year, and Ole Miss sophomore transfer Kyle Kmiecik has earned a spot in the middle of the lineup. Senior Mackenzie Hughes has not had the type of finishes he or coach Herb Page would like just yet, but he is still the clear leader for this team as the reigning Mid-American Conference champion. Kent State returned four starters from a year ago and looks like a comfortable team on the course each week.
3.) San Jose State
2010-11 ranking: 69
Current Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 20
Team titles: Washington State Invitational, Dash Thomas Memorial Invitational, Wolf Pack Classic
Current head-to-head record: 29-0
The reason: Starting the season with three straight victories certainly will bring confidence along with a solid ranking. Senior Jay Myers has been the leader for the Western Athletic Conference team, but the Spartans will start to see tougher challenges in the coming weeks. SJSU will be tested at the Amer Ari Intercollegiate, Bandon Dunes Invite and Stanford U.S. Collegiate in the spring. The Spartans quietly have climbed the rankings in recent years, but this year could be the breakthrough year coach for which John Kennaday has been waiting.
4.) Central Florida
2010-11 ranking: 35
Current Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 22
Team titles: Northern Intercollegiate and Adams Cup
Current head-to-head record: 37-7-1
The reason: Even with Greg Eason, the 2009 Conference USA Freshman of the Year, suffering an injury in the team’s first tournament, the Knights have won twice this year. Senior Brad Schneider is playing well, and Ricardo Gouveia and Jose Joia (sophomore transfers from Lynn University) have made a smooth transition to Division I. Bryce Wallor’s team earned back-to-back victories to start the year, and followed those with a T-8 at a very challenging Prestige at PGA West. Not many people may be too familiar with the Division II transfers from Lynn, even though Gouveia was the Division II Freshman of the Year last year, and Joia was named a first-team All-American. Schneider, a senior, is the only upperclassman in the Knights’ lineup, so this young team may be building success for years to come.
2010-11 ranking: 42
Current Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 24
Team titles: Turning Stone Tiger Intercollegiate
Current head-to-head record: 31-2
The reason: Despite making their 14th consecutive appearance at NCAA regionals a year ago, the Bears often are overlooked not just in the Big 12 but throughout Texas, as well. Senior Joakim Mikkelsen is the team’s go-to player, and has been all year. Baylor returned four starters from a year ago, but as coach Greg Priest said over the summer, “the team goes as Mikkelsen goes.” Priest has provided his team with a schedule that not only provides opportunities to win, but also to build confidence. During regional play last spring, Baylor was in the lead with 10 holes to go but finished seventh and missed nationals. This year, Baylor is concentrating on finishing strong and building momentum throughout the year. Look for Baylor to be a regular in the top 5 at every tournament.