Never before in Mary Lou Mulflur’s 30-year head-coaching career at Washington had one of her Huskie teams claimed the No. 1 ranking. Not only did Washington accomplish that this fall, but the team held on to the top spot for the entire fall season. Behind the strong play of underclassmen SooBin Kim, ranked No. 2 individually by Golfweek, and Charlotte Thomas (No. 22), Washington surprised many an opponent.
With the fall season now over, the following teams could be considered overachievers in the first half of the 2012-13 season:
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Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of 2011-12 season: 30
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of fall season: 1
The hook: Washington, with its No. 1 ranking, is no fall flash in the pan
The story: Washington won twice and finished second twice during a season in which the team built a 58-2 head-to-head ranking. The Huskies only lost to Arizona (at the Windy City Collegiate) and USC (at the Stanford Intercollegiate). Also consider this statistic: In 12 competitive rounds, Washington averaged a team score of 290, or 2-under par.
While Washington’s early success was impressive, the Huskies validated their fall season at the Stanford Intercollegiate. USC (which finished runner-up at last year’s NCAA Championship while Washington failed to qualify for that tournament) only beat Washington by three shots at Stanford. That field included nine of Golfweek’s top-20 teams (as of Oct. 26 rankings).
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Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of 2011-12 season: 52
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of fall season: 26
The hook: The Camels are on the verge of a top-25 ranking
The story: Campbell’s 2011-12 season ended with a 10th-place finish at the NCAA East Regional, so few might have guessed the Camels would be knocking on the door of Golfweek’s top 25 teams come Fall 2012.
Campbell gave college golf fans reason to pay attention at its first start, winning the Golfweek Program Challenge by 40 shots. Head coach John Crooks, one of the veteran coaches in women’s college golf, brushed that blowout aside, and his team must have followed suit. In their next start, the Golfweek Conference Challenge, the Camels were T-4. In the three starts after that, Campbell won twice more.
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Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of 2011-12 season: 46
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of fall season: 36
The hook: The Bobcats accomplished a lot in a short fall season
The story: When a coach has to send four players to the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship, it can be considered both a dream and a nightmare. For head coach Mike Akers, that scenario served as validation that he had succeeded in recruiting the top international players, but it also meant an empty practice range for a large chunk of the fall.
Texas State made its four starts count, however. Before Krista and Mara Puisite (Latvia), Valdis Jonsdottir (Iceland) and Iman Nordin (Malaysia) left for Antalya, Turkey, to play in the World Am, the Bobcats won the Chris Banister Golf Classic and recorded another top-5 finish at the Michigan State Invitational. In addition, Texas State players claimed the individual title at both of those tournaments.
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Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of 2011-12 season: 81
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of fall season: 42
The hook: It’s been a while since the Hoosiers found a spot in the top 50
The story: Indiana owns one of the best stories of redemption from the fall season after rebounding from a disqualification (one that meant the difference between first and second) at its home invitational to win the following week. It helped the Hoosiers to a No. 42 ranking to end the fall. Indiana hasn’t ended a season inside the top 50 in Golfweek’s rankings since 2007-08 (No. 46).
But the bigger picture is this: Indiana put together a very solid fall season, which included victories at the IU Fall Kickoff and Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown. Give some of that credit to Indiana’s go-to players, graduate student Kristen Schelling, who formerly played for UNLV, and sophomore Elizabeth Tong.
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Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of 2011-12 season: 85
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of fall season: 61
The hook: Could Gonzaga earn an at-large bid for postseason?
The story: Gonzaga spent the fall season working toward great things. The Bulldogs played a tough competition schedule – with stops at the Cougar Cup and Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational – and finished inside the top 3 in three of four starts. At the Edean Ihlanfeldt, perhaps the toughest field, Gonzaga put up a solid T-7 in a field of 16 teams. At the season-ending Lampkin Grip Cal Poly Invitational, Gonzaga overcame an 11-shot deficit in the final round to win.
The Bulldogs have missed out on NCAA postseason play for the past seven seasons, but if the spring goes anything like the fall for Gonzaga, this team could earn a spot in an NCAA Regional.
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And a few more to watch…
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of 2011-12 season: 60
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of fall season: 56
The story: What do the Panthers have to show for their fall season? Three victories and a T-4. The team won most recently at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational.
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of 2011-12 season: 109
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of fall season: 71
The story: The team nipped at Campbell’s heels at the Fighting Camel Classic, and finished third at the Nittany Lion Invitational. It shows the Monarchs can compete with top-30 programs.
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of 2011-12 season: 88
Golfweek/Sagarin ranking at the end of fall season: 72
The story: Fullerton is a program that remains on the rise. With future LPGA player Pearl Sin-Bonnanni at the helm, the team continues to climb in the rankings. Victory at the Rose City Collegiate and three other top-4 finishes helped that effort this fall.