Events to watch this weekend
Fire up your computers, because these are three events you are going to want to pay attention to in the next couple of days.
Mason Rudolph Championship
Date: Sept. 24-26
Site: Vanderbilt (Tenn.) Legends Club
Field: Akron, Arkansas State, Belmont, Chattanooga, Davidson, Georgia State, Lipscomb, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee-Martin, Vanderbilt and Western Carolina
The scoop: When you first look at this field, it is hard to say who the clear-cut favorite should be. When you take a second look at the field, you can think of numerous reasons as to why a certain team in the field may or may not win. Vanderbilt will probably be the favorite playing on its home course, but this tournament seems to be wide open for any team in the field. Several programs are looking to have bounce-back years (Georgia State, Chattanooga, Oklahoma and Vanderbilt), where as others (Akron, Arkansas State, Tennessee-Martin and Western Carolina) are looking to gain some national recognition by pulling off an upset.
Wildman’s pick: Mississippi. It was a tossup between the Rebels and Gamecocks, but I think Ole Miss’ Jonathan Randolph can be the difference-maker. When it comes to SEC talk, most of it goes to the guys on Georgia – Russell Henley, Hudson Swafford and Harris English – but Randolph may the best player many people still don’t know about. Ole Miss started the year with a 10th-place finish at the Carpet Capital, but I think this week could be different for the Rebels.
Sleeper: Oklahoma. Ryan Hbyl enters his second year at the helm of the Sooners, and the coach will get a chance to see where his team stands after it plays in its first event of the year. Last season, the Sooners won Hybl’s first event, at the Kansas Invitational. Now, Hybl will continue to get the Sooners back in to the conversation of being one of the top teams in the Big 12 with a strong fall. We’ll learn quickly whether this team is on the rise.
• • •
Golfweek’s Women’s Conference Challenge
Date: Sept. 25-27
Site: Red Sky Golf Club in Wolcott, Colo.
Field: Campbell, Virginia, Minnesota, Texas A&M, Sacramento State, UC Davis, Tulane, Harvard, Missouri State, UNLV, Arizona, Tennessee, Chattanooga, Central Arkansas, San Jose State, Pepperdine and Denver.
The scoop: For some teams, this is their national championship; for others, this will be a measuring stick to see how they stack up against great competition. What makes this tournament so great is that it will showcase smaller programs who will give it their all to compete against some dominant women’s programs. Last year, it went down to the wire between Pepperdine and Chattanooga, two teams with completely different traditions. Pepperdine is a program that competes for national titles each year, and the Mocs are a young program that are constantly climbing the rankings. Who will be the “small” school that plays big this week?
Wildman’s pick: Arizona. With so much talk being about the “Big Three,” perhaps that third team we should reference as part of that is now the other team from Arizona. The Wildcats may be the team to beat in the Pac-10 this year. Arizona won the Topy Cup to start the year, and I see it being very realistic for them to start the year with back-to-back victories.
Sleeper: Tennessee. Which Vols team will show up this week? Will it be the one that nearly won the East Regional last year, or the one that finished ninth at the SEC Championship? This team is just so hard to figure out, but if it’s one of those weeks it can go low, then I think Tennessee may be in the winner’s circle.
• • •
Date: Sept. 26-268
Site: Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., site of the 2011 NCAA Championship
Field: Oklahoma State, Augusta State, Texas A&M, Oregon, Texas, UCLA, USC, Texas Tech, TCU, Virginia, Arizona State, Clemson, UNLV, Georgia Tech and Georgia.
The scoop: What a treat golf fans will have from this one. This field is championship-caliber, and will provide plenty of headlines in the next few days. Oklahoma State and Augusta State tied for second at Olympia Fields last week, and that seems to be a nice little rivalry developing. The Pac-10 is a conference that is wide open, and with four of their top teams in the field, bragging rights will be on the line. However, Karsten Creek just may prove to be the biggest home-course advantage in college golf.
Wildman’s pick: Oklahoma State. If the Cowboys didn’t win, I think that would be the biggest surprise of the tournament. OSU should feel quite comfortable at Karsten Creek, especially with the local knowledge on one of the toughest courses anywhere. This pick seems like a no-brainer, so hopefully it comes true so I can say I at least got one pick right this year.
Sleeper: The field. If any team can go out to OSU’s backyard and beat them on their home course, then as Harry Caray would say, “Holy Cow!” Top teams from across the country will be facing the top-ranked college team on its home golf course. Teams also will have a chance to see how they stack up on Karsten Creek, because it is the site of this year’s NCAA Championship. Before I can say a team will beat OSU, I need to see a team beat Karsten Creek first.