• Player to watch: Chase Marinell, Liberty. The senior finished three of his four tournaments in the fall in the top 10 and at least two strokes under par. Marinell finished the fall with a 72.17 scoring average despite an uncharacteristic 80 at the Rees Jones Invitational. The question is: can he beat out teammate and reigning Big South individual champ Mathieu Fenasse for conference medalist honors?
• Freshman to watch: David Long, High Point. Long leads a strong group of freshmen at High Point. He jumped into collegiate play with a 73 scoring average this fall.
• Conference championship: April 21-23, The Patriot GC, Ninety Six, S.C.
• Past champions (since 2009): Coastal Carolina (2013), Liberty (2011-12), Coastal Carolina (2009-10)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
Liberty (36): Liberty did not win – or even finish second – at any tournaments this fall, but still showed why they’re the class of the Big South this year. Liberty’s top four golfers posted stroke averages of 74 or lower, its top three golfers shot rounds of par or better more than 50 percent of the time, and its top golfer, senior Chase Marinell, carries a sub-73 career scoring average into the spring. All three of Liberty’s All-Big South selections from last year return and all three are upperclassmen. The Flames bring the experience to the table needed to win their third Big South title in four years.
Winthrop (55): Winthrop closed out the fall season with two top-3 finishes. It faced tough competition in each of its four fall tournaments. Freshman Zach Seabolt led the team in scoring average at 72.75. The first-year player shot three rounds in the 60s and took a T-2 finish at the Pinetree Intercollegiate. Junior Taylor Dickson earned medalist honors at the Pinetree Intercollegiate, where he closed with rounds of 68 and 70. Winthrop lost two of its contributors from last year’s Big South Championship, but three of its top four players in terms of scoring average this fall are underclassmen.
Coastal Carolina (75): The defending champs return four of five contributors from the Big South Championship last season, including All-Big South first-team selection Andrew Dorn. Coastal Carolina got a look at some of the country’s top teams at the Gifford Collegiate, where it finished eighth and junior Ben Wheeler finished at 1 under. Before Gifford, Dorn shot six rounds of par or better in three tournaments, showing he’ll be a force in the Big South Conference this spring.
Presbyterian College (113): The Blue Hose played to a top-five finish in each of its five fall tournaments, including a win at the Pirate Intercollegiate. The win was Presbyterian’s first in six seasons. The team started the fall off strong, with senior Carter Davis shooting a school 54-hole record of 206 in a medalist performance at the Springhill Suites Intercollegiate. The Blue Hose finished the tournament with a school-record 854, good enough for second place. Presbyterian will look to take a fall season full of firsts and improve upon its T-7 finish at the Big South Championship last year.
Radford (150): Consistency was the name of the game for Radford in the fall, as it returned four of its five top players from a year ago and the Big South Freshman of the Year, Conner Hayden. The same five golfers played in all five of Radford’s tournaments in the fall, with each of the five Highlanders holding a stroke average between 73.08 and 74.08. But someone may have to break out of the pack, as Radford only posted two top-five finishes in five tournaments, one of which was a last-place showing in a four-team field.
Charleston Southern (157): Charleston Southern did not shy from the competition in the fall, playing tough teams in its four fall tournaments. But the Buccaneers failed to post a top-five finish as a team in the fall. The team, which returns all five of its contributors from a fifth-place finish at the Big South Championship last year, did not feature a player with a sub-75 scoring average in the fall. The Buccaneers have also tried out a variety of lineups, with nine different golfers playing in at least one of the team’s four tournaments this fall.
Gardner-Webb (164): Gardner-Webb posted three three top-5 finishes in the fall, led by junior Matt Yelverton, sophomore Clement Kurniawan and freshman Vincent Blanchette. Blanchette and Yelverton ended the fall with sub-73 scoring averages, and Kurniawan fired three rounds in the 60s. Yelverton finished three tournaments in the fall under par.
Campbell (170): Campbell showed it has a well-rounded roster, despite playing to zero top-5 finishes in six tournaments this fall. Four different golfers took team-high finishes in six tournaments, and four golfers posted a scoring average less than 75. Freshman Craig Hornberger played well, posting a 74.2 scoring average and taking a runner-up finish at the Colorado Invitational.
High Point (206): High Point did not put up a strong showing in the fall, but its future could be bright. Three freshmen played in every fall tournament for High Point – David Long, Phil Oweida and Jack Sides. Long finished the fall second on his team in scoring average (73), and first in rounds under par (3) and top-10 finishes (2). The freshman trio finished the fall with a collective 73.91 scoring average, but will they improve or regress come spring?
Longwood (217): Longwood features a team with only four upperclassmen, but they produced in the fall. Three of Longwood’s four leaders in terms of stroke average this fall are upperclassmen, including junior Blake Carter, who led the Lancers at 71.86. The team did not light up any tournaments in the fall, with no top-five finishes as a team and only one golfer owning a top-10 individual finish, but they showed potential. Five of the Lancers six golfers to play in the fall posted a round in the 60s.
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Lance Ringler weighs in on the conference title race
Led by senior Chase Marinell, Liberty will be the favorite and rightfully so, but don’t overlook Winthrop. Winthrop should be an at-large lock into the postseason, but if the Eagles are on the bubble it could make things interesting.