Forget the football. This is one of the biggest weekends of the year for college golf, with two of the year’s best events overlapping in the Southeast this weekend. The U.S. Collegiate Championship began Friday at the Golf Club of Georgia outside Atlanta. The Isleworth Collegiate Invitational gets underway Sunday near Orlando. Here’s 4 Things you need to know before this big weekend:
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1. THE BIG 3: Texas, Alabama and Cal were paired together as the NCAA Championship’s top three seeds. They’ll see each other again at Isleworth in what promises to be a matchup of college golf’s heavy hitters. Cal has won all four of its starts this year. Texas, the defending NCAA champion, won the Carpet Capital and was third at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. Preseason No. 1 Alabama, which lost to Texas in last season’s NCAA final, lived up to its expectations with a win in its last start, the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate.
Alabama won at Isleworth in 2010, while Texas was last year’s champion. California arrives as the nation’s No. 1 team, while Texas is ranked second.
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2. SHOOTING STARS: Texas sophomore Jordan Spieth is the defending individual champion at Isleworth. He’ll be back to defend in his title in what could be his final collegiate start. Spieth is scheduled to play in the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School next month. Alabama sophomore Justin Thomas, last year’s national player of the year, comes to Isleworth after a victory at the Jerry Pate.
Neither Spieth nor Thomas is the highest-ranked player in the Isleworth field. That honor belongs to Spieth’s freshman teammate from South Africa, Brandon Stone, who won his collegiate debut at the Carpet Capital.
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3. WHICH TECH WILL WE SEE: Georgia Tech is the U.S. Collegiate Championship’s host. The Yellow Jackets shared the title at the last tournament they hosted, the Ping/Golfweek Preview. The Yellow Jackets, a preseason top-10 team, are on the rise after a disappointing start to the season. The No. 16 Yellow Jackets finished 11th at the Carpet Capital before sharing the title at the Preview and finished second at the Brickyard. All four of Georgia Tech’s fall tournaments were in the state of Georgia, including two in Alpharetta; the Yellow Jackets played host for three of them.
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4. PAN’S THE MAN: Washington’s Cheng-Tsung Pan is the highest-ranked individual at the U.S. Collegiate. He’s No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings after finishing in the top-3 in his first three starts this season. He won the Husky Invitational, was second at the Ping/Golfweek Preview and third at the Pac-12 Preview. Pan will be one of the favorites to win next month’s Asian Amateur; the winner of that event earns an invitation to the Masters.
Pan’s Washington teammate, Chris Williams, is the world’s No. 1 amateur. Williams has been runner-up in three consecutive tournaments: the Husky, Ping/Golfweek Preview and World Amateur Team Championship.
Washington’s No. 3 player, Trevor Simsby is coming off a victory at the Pac-12 Preview. He also was runner-up at the Husky. Washington, at No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, is the highest-ranked team at the U.S. Collegiate.