The spring season is under way and the journey to late May has started for most teams, whether that means actual competition or just practice. With that being said, it’s time to examine the top five things that have caught my eye since the ball got rolling again.
There might be a theme with this list that has to do with a recent tweet. I tweeted about not understanding why many teams, who have not yet had a chance to hit a ball outside, would begin the spring season in an event that included teams that have been practicing outside all winter. I did get some very good responses, but I stand my ground on my opinion that teams simply should take a little more time before getting the spring under way. Perhaps try to squeeze in another fall event for those cold-weather schools to help relax a bit longer in the spring. According to NCAA guidelines, a team only has to participate in eight contests to be eligible.
Whatever the case may be, this does create a bit of an imbalance in the college golf world. This is very important for bubble teams who are trying to gain a spot in the postseason and maybe not such a big deal to a good program with players who just need to get some reps in. There is a difference here.
Ringler’s top 5 to start the spring …
1. The big winner this past week would probably have to be the TCU women, which went to the Lady Puerto Rico Classic well outside the number to get an at-large bid into the postseason and took advantage of a great opportunity. The Horned Frogs placed fourth, which was well ahead of many teams from the North who were in better shape for a postseason bid after the fall. TCU is now ranked No. 56 by Golfstat and No. 53 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
2. The TCU men’s team is doing the exact opposite of what I think more northern teams should do. Bill Montigel’s team played just two events in the fall and will play 10 events, counting the conference championship, this spring. Already this spring, TCU has placed second and third and climbed to No. 13 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and No. 15 in the Golfstat poll. Maybe this will be a trend we see more with southern schools if this works well for TCU.
3. Washington ended the fall campaign ranked No. 1 and looked anything like a top team in the opening round of the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge. However, the Huskies bounced back to finish in a tie for ninth place. Washington had lost to just two teams all fall, but lost to eight in its spring opener, which dropped them to No. 7 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. The interesting part of this for the Huskies is that this was their first event in a five-week stretch in which they’ll play every week. We will know a lot more about this group after this stretch and if they will be a title contender in May.
4. Nobody really knew what to make of the UCLA women this past fall after three eighth-place finishes and one ninth place. Surely they just needed to get the best five players on the course at the same time, right? Or get senior Tiffany Lua in the lineup. The Bruins did get Lua back in the lineup for the first time this year and won the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge to let everyone know they are back in the picture. And Lua could now be a top candidate for player of the year – if she plays all spring.
5. I am not sure Florida State’s victory at the SunTrust Gator Invitational got enough attention. This was a big victory for Trey Jones’ team out of the gate. Winning by a margin of 15 strokes over second-place North Florida and topping host Florida by 19 on its home course is certain to give the Seminoles confidence moving forward in its quest to be a top-8 team at the NCAAs. Individually, this inserted Daniel Berger, who won by three shots, into player-of-the-year talks.