1.) Unbeatens: Just shy of two months into the fall season, only two teams remain unbeaten: the UCLA women and the Oregon men. Both could be a bit of a surprise, if you look a little past the surface.
The Bruins won the Mason Rudolph (NCAA) Fall Preview and the Stanford Intercollegiate – each time without the services of top returnee Stephanie Kono. Kono, who finished last season ranked No. 11 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, did not play in the Preview (she already had committed to the second stage of LPGA Q-School, played later that week) and played the Stanford event as an individual, finishing runner-up. Kono is in the lineup this weekend for the Bruins as they look to make it 3-for-3 at the Mercedes-Benz SEC/Pac-12 Championship.
Oregon, ranked No. 3 this week, is a big surprise this year. Sure, the Ducks are talented and certainly were going to be a good team this year, but to start with three team wins and be the only team left in Division I men’s golf that is unbeaten is something not many, if any, would have predicted. Casey Martin’s squad includes a trio of top players in Eugene Wong, Andrew Vijarro and Daniel Miernicki, who were members of the team that reached the semifinals of the 2010 NCAA Championship and won five times that season. The Ducks have won the Saint Mary’s Invitational, The Prestige at PGA West and the Alister MacKenzie Invitational (where they shared the title with California). The Ducks are a cumulative 84-under in those three events. Oregon will next put its streak on the line at The Gifford Collegiate at CordeValle.
2.) Spot you 40 shots: It’s rare when you see giant winning margins in college golf. A double-digit win in the team standings happens every now and then, but by 20, 30, 40 … or 43? That’s what the final scoreboard looked like at the Bill Ross Intercollegiate hosted by the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
Central Arkansas won the 11-team tournament by 43 shots over Arkansas State. The Bears posted rounds of 277-282-284 for an 843 total on the par-72, 7,054-yard Milburn Country Club in Overland Park, Kan. Freshman Pep Angles beat the program’s 18-hole scoring record by one shot with an 8-under 64 in the second round. Angles, who is from San Andres de Llavaneras, Spain, went on to win his first collegiate title by five shots.
3.) Another big win: Sticking with the theme of large winning margins, take notice of Campbell’s Vaita Guillaume.
The senior closed with back-to-back rounds of 67 to go along with an opening-round 72 and won the Georgetown Intercollegiate by nine shots. Guillaume was the only player to finish in red numbers (7 under) and picked up his first collegiate victory in his 35th career start at Campbell. It also marks the third top-10 finish in four starts this fall.
4.) More frosh hardware: Freshmen winning tournaments has been common on the men’s side, so why not in the women’s game? Washington rookie Soo Bin Kim, playing in just her third college event, took the spotlight at the Stanford Intercollegiate with rounds of 66-68-66 to finish at 13 under par and win by two shots over UCLA’s Kono.
“What an impressive week,” head coach Mary Lou Mulflur said of her freshman from Coquitlam, British Columbia. “Here you are in your third college start, you know you’re tied for the lead and you go out and play a bogey-free round. It was just absolutely spectacular.”
What made it more spectacular was that the Stanford Intercollegiate is ranked as the second-toughest field in women’s college golf to date this fall. Kim’s 200 total is the lowest 54-hole total in program history. Washington placed third in the team standings.
5.) An early look at the top 8: We are just far enough into the season to start making some predictions. So, here are the eight men’s teams (in no particular order) that I think will advance to match play next spring at Riviera Country Club, site of the NCAA Championship:
• Texas: It’s a no-brainer to pick the Longhorns to be in the top 8 after 54 holes of qualifying.
• Arkansas: Winner of three events this fall, the Hogs are really strong at Nos. 1 through 5.
• New Mexico: A sleeper pick now, but not sure this truly is a sleeper team.
• Georgia Tech: Bruce Heppler may be doing some of his best work as a coach with this team.
• Auburn: A lot of talent should keep the Tigers in the mix at Riviera.
• Oregon: Off to a great start … if the Ducks can stay loose and enjoy the ride, this core of veterans has been there before.
• Stanford: You have to think this group is one of the top 8 but will have to get it done when it matters.
• Washington: Going with the X-factor here, and coach Matt Thurmond usually wins that category; also, Williams and Pan are pretty good.