Events to watch: Landfall, Isleworth, U.S. Collegiate
It will be interesting to see what people refresh more over the weekend. Will it be their fantasy football scores, or – with three of the biggest college golf events of the season – will it be Golfstat?
The Landfall Tradition (women)
Date: Oct. 22-24
Field: Chattanooga, Duke, FSU, Michigan State, UNCW, UNC, NC State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, UNC-Greensboro, Virginia, Wake Forest
The scoop: Eighteen top-notch women’s golf teams are headed to Wilmington, N.C., to an event that has once again become premier. Landfall Tradition also was the site of last May’s NCAA Championship. Of all the women’s events I have covered, the Landfall Tradition gives more attention to players and coaches. The locals come out to watch, there is a never-ending supply of volunteers and the golf course is always in perfect condition. This tournament always draws a national field, and has done so once again. The team that wins this event gains an enormous amount of confidence by defeating not only a tough golf course but a top field, as well.
Wildman’s pick: Duke. I am going to stay instate for this one and say the Dukies drive back home with the trophy for the second straight year. For Duke, this could come down to their fifth player. Coach Dan Brooks’ lineup will consist of senior Kim Donovan, sophomores Lindy Duncan, Courtney Ellenbogen and Stacey Kim and freshman Alejandra Cangrejo. Freshman Laetitia Beck will miss the event because she is in Argentina competing at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship for Israel. Duke still is looking for its first win of the year after finishing fourth at the NCAA Preview, 10th at the Mason Rudolph and third at the Tar Heel Invitational.
Sleeper: Virginia. It’s a tough call on which Virginia golf program is overlooked more: the men’s or the women’s. The Cavs are constantly competing in top events across the country. To start the year, Virginia came in eighth at the Preview, but followed that with a win at the Golfweek Women’s Conference Challenge. Duke seems to be gaining momentum in the ACC, but I think that Virginia is the team to beat in that conference. If Virginia can win at Tradition, be prepared to hear the Cavs become a contender to win any tournament they enter.
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Isleworth Collegiate Invitational
Date: Oct. 24-26
Field: Alabama, Arizona, Central Florida, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, SMU, Stanford, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt.
The scoop: Each year, teams hope to be included in the top tournaments hosted around the country, and Isleworth is one of those. PGA Tour players roam the course watching the college golfers, and the course is second to none. Each year, Isleworth gets a top field that is loaded with teams ranked in the top 30, and they have done that once again. Oklahoma State, a team that many will consider a favorite, will be without Peter Uihlein as he competes at the World Amateur Team Championship in Argentina. Stanford’s David Chung also will trade in his Cardinal uniform for a week to represent the U.S.
Wildman’s pick: Georgia. In the tournament’s brief six-year history, Georgia has won this event four times. I don’t know if Coach Chris Haack has a secret house out there or what, but Georgia always is in the mix in Tiger Woods’ backyard. With Oklahoma State not having Uihlein and Stanford not having Chung, Georgia will be fully loaded with its top three guys: Russell Henley, Hudson Swafford and Harris English. No matter who wins this event, it’s one heck of a notch in the belt.
Sleeper: Florida. I’ll be honest when I say I’m still not sure I can buy what Florida is selling. Yes, the Gators won Olympia Fields. Yes, they finished second and nearly won the Jerry Pate, but where is this coming from? The Gators lost Tyson Alexander and Will MacKenzie, yet they are a top-5 team. Phillip Choi has played well, and Tyler McCumber is a name to start remembering. This week at Isleworth, the Gators will be looking to continue their strong play and impress everyone. Numbers and finishes don’t lie, so with that said, if Florida can crack the top 3, I’ll be convinced. I will be the first to say, “Look out for the Gators!”
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U.S. Collegiate Championship
Date: Oct. 24-26
Field: California, Clemson, Duke, East Tennessee State, Florida State, Georgia State, Kent State, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Texas A&M, USC, UCLA, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington
The scoop: What was once a staple on the spring schedule is now an event that will be sure to compete with Isleworth each fall for the attention of the best teams. The U.S. Collegiate also is one of those five events a year that players and coaches hope to attend. Once again, the U.S. Collegiate has a very strong field and will be exciting from start to finish. This is a very balanced field that will allow some schools that have had disappointing falls to right the ship and climb the rankings.
Wildman’s pick: UCLA. There always will be a lot of talk surrounding Georgia and Oklahoma State, but I think the one team that gets ignored at times is UCLA. The Bruins have played in only one tournament so far this year and earned a fourth-place finish at the Ping/Golfweek Preview. Coach Derek Freeman’s squad is just as talented as Oklahoma State and Georgia with Pontus Widegren (winner of the Preview), Patrick Cantlay (U.S. Amateur semifinalist), Gregor Main, Alex Shi Yup Kim and Pedro Figueiredo.
Sleeper: Virginia. The Cavaliers have won back-to-back tournaments at the Gary Koch and The Ridges. Last week, I had the Cavs as a sleeper to win The Ridges, and they came through. Despite the wins, somehow the Cavs still are believed to be an up-and-coming team. Virginia is no longer an up-and-coming team as it is ranked 20th in the country. Perhaps a hat trick will be enough to prove doubters wrong, or maybe it will be when people see them reach the top 10 in the rankings, something I predict will happen before the year is over!