During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the spring season for each conference. Check out all of the previews here.
Today, we look at the Big Sky Conference:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: Portland State
• Player to watch: A Ram Choi, Portland State: Last year’s Big Sky Player of the Year looked the part in the fall. Choi was named Golfer of the Week three times, earning a medalist and runner-up finish in the process. She shot rounds in the 60s on two occasions en route to a 72.9 stroke average.
• Freshman to watch: Madisen Bentley, Portland State. Bentley showed the ability to post consistent scores for what could be the conference’s top team. She posted a stroke average of 75.81 through four tournaments.
• Conference championship: April 20-22, Ocotillo Golf Resort, Chandler, Ariz.
• Past champions (since 2009): Northern Arizona (2013), Northern Colorado (2012), Portland State (2011), Portland State (2010), Northern Arizona (2009)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
- Portland State (93): If Portland State’s fall results are any indication, first-year head coach Kailin Downs could have the Vikings back to a familiar spot – the top of the Big Sky Conference. Portland State has won six conference championships since 2003 and brings back Big Sky Player of the Year, A Ram Choi in its quest for a seventh. The Vikings pulled in three top-5 performances in the fall, including a win in their final tournament, Price’s Give ‘Em Five Intercollegiate. Portland State will have to find consistent support behind Choi, with only one other golfer (Riley Leming) earning a top-10 finish in the fall.
- Sacramento State (124): Team balance was the name of the game for Sacramento State in the fall. Only one Hornet posted a top-5 finish individually, and the team played to three top-10 finishes, including a win at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational. Sacramento State returns four of its five contributors from the Big Sky Championship one year ago, including the team’s leader in terms of stroke average, senior Tiffany Nichols.
- Montana (147): Montana showed that it has the ability to take over a tournament, with all five of its golfers placing in the top 10 at the Grizzly Invitational en route to a 56-stroke victory. All-Big Sky second-team selection Tara Green led Montana with a 76.4 stroke average in the fall. Freshman Barbora Bakova stepped in with a 77.2 stroke average, earning a runner-up finish in her first collegiate tournament.
- Northern Arizona (166): Northern Arizona has seen the effects of losing former All-Big Sky first-team selection Stephanie Kim this fall. The team took only one top five finish in four tournaments. The Lumberjacks do, however, return last year’s Big Sky Freshman of the Year Stephanie Bezdicek. She did not pull in a top-10 finish in the fall, finishing the stretch with a 78.67 stroke average. Providing the bright point of the spring was senior Kaitlen Parsons, who took second place at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational and a Big Sky Golfer of the Week honor.
- Eastern Washington (171): Eastern Washington did not put up a lot of support around sophomore Marissa Borja, and it showed in the standings. Borja was the only Eagle to post a stroke average less than 80 in the fall (75.7). Borja led the team individually in three of four tournaments, including a third-place finish at the Wyoming Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate. But, with only three upperclassmen on roster, Eastern Washington may continue its lack of support for Borja in the spring.
- Southern Utah (178): Southern Utah lost two of its top golfers from a third place finish at the Big Sky Conference Championship one year ago, including All-Big Sky first-team selection Sadie Palmer. The team played in five tournaments, ending the fall stretch with a fifth-place finish at the Cal Poly Invitational, where junior Monica Jung placed in a tie for fourth.
- Weber State (189): Weber State’s top two players in terms of scoring average played out their final year of eligibility last year, leaving the Wildcats with big shoes to fill. Weber State had a solid fall, but did not make any major statements. Weber State nabbed four top-10 finishes as a team, but its top showing was a runner-up finish in a field of four teams.
- Northern Colorado (209): Northern Colorado struggled in the fall, finishing in the bottom two in each of the four tournaments it played. No Bears earned a top-10 finish individually during the fall. Northern Colorado tied for third place at the Big Sky Conference Championship last year, but lost three of its five golfers from that tournament.
- Montana State (214): Montana played in four tournaments this fall and finished in last place in its final two tournaments. It finished in ninth place at the Big Sky Championship last season, and only returns two players from that competition.
- North Dakota (227): North Dakota posted four top-5 finishes, all at tournaments with a field of six teams of less. The team loses three of its four leaders in terms of stroke average from one year ago, but none of those golfers posted an average less than 83.
- Idaho State (253): Idaho State finished last year’s Big Sky Championship 11th out of 11 teams and has not made any moves this fall. The team played in four tournaments this fall, placing last in each of them.
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Lance Ringler weighs in on the conference title race
Always a win-and-you-are-in scenario with the Big Sky Conference Championship. With the best lineup 1-5, Portland State will be the favorite to win this league and earn the AQ into the postseason. However, with a lot on the line, this is the big event on each team’s schedule and upsets can happen.