Cal, ‘Bama men: One, two deja vu
Golfweek’s 2013-14 preseason men’s rankings look a lot like last season’s final ranking. California and Alabama at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, and everyone else trying to keep the pair in sight. California won 11 tournaments in 13 stroke-play starts, ending last season No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings despite an upset loss to Illinois in the NCAA semifinals.
The Bears lost NCAA individual champ Max Homa, but return their other four starters, led by junior Michael Kim. Sophomore James Yoon and senior Pace Johnson are favorites to replace Homa.
No. 2 Alabama won eight times, including the Southeastern Conference Championship, NCAA regionals and, most importantly, the program’s first NCAA Championship.
’Bama lost senior Scott Strohmeyer and sophomore All-American Justin Thomas, who plans to turn pro after this week’s Walker Cup. Still, coach Jay Seawell has the Crimson Tide at a point where he doesn’t rebuild but reloads. This year, he likely will pencil in top freshmen Robby Shelton, Golfweek’s top-ranked junior, and Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan.
– Ron Balicki
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These Tigers are strong – just like their coach
Kim Evans, the Auburn women’s head coach, is slightly more than halfway through her aggressive chemotherapy regimen and eagerly looks forward to returning to her post.
Evans’ battle with ovarian cancer has left her feeling fatigued, but she took two weeks off from treatment last month to join dozens of Tiger supporters in Birmingham, Ala., at the Save the O’s 5K/Fun Run, an event that raises money for ovarian cancer research and awareness. Evans, 54, the race’s official starter, shared her journey with attendees.
Andrew Pratt left as the head coach of a successful Tulane program earlier this summer to join Auburn as associate head coach. Evans immediately handed the reins to Pratt, who hit the road recruiting. Evans’ goal? To be back with the Tigers in January.
“I think you’ll see a gutsy little Auburn team this year,” Evans said. “A more confident one, too.”
Now that’s what you call mirroring your leader.
– Beth Ann Baldry
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Will Clemson’s women find early success?
J.T. Horton has been in this position before. He rebuilt the Tulane women’s program after Hurricane Katrina, and has been laying the groundwork for Clemson’s first women’s team for the past two years.
The cast consists of four freshmen from Georgia and South Carolina. Ashlan Ramsey, who won the Women’s Western Amateur and Women’s Eastern Amateur over the summer and is Golfweek’s top-ranked female amateur, gets the early vote for MVP. Two redshirt freshmen – including Ashlan’s older sister Taylor – already have acclimated to campus.
The Tigers’ young talent and Horton’s experience suggest Clemson could find success right from the beginning. The Tigers led after 36 holes in their inaugural event, but finished second to Florida at this week’s Cougar Classic.
At the least, expect the Tigers to start as one of the top five teams in the ACC.
– Julie Williams
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Men: Surprise team and player
South Florida: The Bulls return their top four from last year’s squad that won the Big East Championship and just missed advancing to the NCAA finals. With sophomore Chase Koepka on the rise and a talented class of freshmen adding depth, expect this team to contend a lot more often.
Stewart Jolly, LSU: The junior from Birmingham, Ala., posted seven top-15 finishes as a sophomore and picked up his first collegiate victory last fall. Jolly made a big jump in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings last season (No. 369 to 97).
– Lance Ringler
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Women: Surprise team and player
Auburn: It’s tough to pin down predictions for Auburn after last year’s roller-coaster season. Stunned and stirred by head coach Kim Evans’ courage in the face of cancer, the Tigers battled their way through the postseason to a sixth-place finish at NCAAs. Before that run, Auburn had posted only two regular-season top 8s, and it finished the year at No. 34 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. There’s a lot of experience here (two seniors, three juniors), and Evans will continue to inspire.
Kelly Shon, Princeton: This talented senior tends to get overlooked because she’s tucked away in the Ivy League, but her non-college resume (victory at the South Atlantic Amateur; Round of 16 at U.S. Women’s Amateur) suggests she will succeed. Shon manages her game well and is a solid, accurate ballstriker.
– Julie Williams