1.) Arkansas women’s coach Shauna Estes-Taylor. The Razorbacks have had a disappointing fall season and are ranked 45th after a preseason No. 14 ranking. Rather than drop out of the Betsy Rawls Longhorn this week, Estes-Taylor did the admirable thing and kept her commitment even though it means playing without No. 1 player Emily Tubert, who will represent the U.S. at the Spirit International this week. Arkansas may not get the end result it wanted, but it was nice to see a team give the effort despite being down a key player.
2.) Oregon women. The 15th-ranked Ducks completed a solid fall season with freshman Cassy Isagawa in the lead. The Ducks have a very competitive spring schedule. In the team’s first three fall tournaments, the Ducks posted three consecutive top-5 finishes. Oregon’s best showing of the fall was a runner-up at the Edean Ihlanfeldt. To close out the fall, however, the Ducks finished 12th at the Pac-12/SEC Challenge. Not much was expected from the Ducks at the beginning of the season, but they have far exceeded predictions. Could Oregon have repeat success in the spring and be the surprise team of the year?
3.) Women’s college golf. The women’s golf teams continue to catch up to the parity that has existed on the men’s side for the past decade. There are now more women’s teams with players who can shoot rounds under par than ever before. Just like on the men’s side, any of the top 15 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings could be player of the year. Each week, we are seeing new winners, and the top players are battling with other up-and-comers. It’s great to see this much competition. There still might be only a handful of teams that can win a national title, but the individual race this year should be fantastic.
1.) Pac-12 women. Has the power shifted back east and to the SEC? UCLA is ranked No. 1 in the country, but the SEC has five teams ranked in the top 10 (Alabama, Auburn, Vanderbilt, LSU and Florida). The Pac-12 does have USC and Arizona State in the top 10, but for the past few seasons, all the talk has been about Pac-12 dominance. Washington is ranked 11th, Oregon 15th and California 16th, but then you’ll find Georgia at No. 12 and Tennessee at 18th. There is no doubt that the Pac-12 has great teams, but it just seems like the deeper conference this year is the SEC. The season is only half over, but in the race for best conference in the fall, my vote has to go to the SEC.
2.) The Spirit International. This tournament should not be played during the college golf season. The World Amateur Team Championship is every other year, and the Spirit’s attempt to hold this tournament in the off years causes conflict between college players and their teams and coaches. It takes top college players away from their schools’ tournaments.
3.) USGA & R&A. Can’t we all get along? Your rules changes – especially living expenses for 13-, 14-, 15- and 16-year-old international recruits – will create more problems for college coaches to comply with NCAA rules. The rules changes will help a few talented young golfers and hurt many more.