No. 30: Wake Forest men, Ohio State women
College golf is just a few short weeks away. To get you ready, Asher Wildman is breaking down the top 60 men's and women's teams. Today, it's No. 31 on the board with the Wake Forest men and Ohio State women.
WAKE FOREST MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 30
Coach: Jerry Haas (15th year)
Top returnees: Senior Lee Bedford and junior Evan Beck
Top newcomers: Freshman Brandon Ng of Canada, freshman Cyrus Stewart of Raleigh, N.C., sophomore Thomas Birdsey (transfer from Kansas State)
Projected starting 5: Lee Bedford (Sr.), Evan Beck (Jr.), Thomas Birdsey (So.), Brandon Ng (Fr.), No. 5 spot TBA
Key losses: None
Key fall tournament: U.S. Collegiate Championship
2010-11 recap: Wake Forest played decently throughout the season, but consistently came up short when it counted. Last season, the Demon Deacons had three runner-up finishes and two third places, but no victories. “We just never won,” coach Jerry Haas said. “We had two top guys, but we were weak at the back of our rotation.”
Wake Forest also struggled down the stretch, tying for eighth at the ACC Championship, then posting another T-8 at NCAA regionals and ending its season shy of the NCAA Championship for a second consecutive year. That’s a major disappointment at a school with a proud golf pedigree such as Wake.
Player to watch: Evan Beck. Said Haas: “He has grown a lot and is an extremely flexible kid. He’s a real smart kid who is organized, focused and does well in school. I really believe that there is a correlation with the way you do in school (and how that) transitions to the golf course. Him and (Lee) Bedford have the team’s two highest GPAs.”
2011-2012 preview: With two players – Beck and Bedford – who ended the season in the top 35 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, Wake is set at the top two positions better than almost anyone. Instead, Haas’ offseason goal was to find players to fill out the back end of the starting five. Junior Charlie Harrison, ranked third-highest among the returning Demon Deacons, finished last season at No. 286.
A pair of new faces are expected to fill two of those lineup spots – sophomore Thomas Birdsey, a transfer from Kansas State, and freshman Brandon Ng, a highly regarded junior player.
“Birdsey hits it straight and is a very good putter,” Haas said. “Ng could be the best player from inside 100 yards this year in college golf.” The fifth spot will be determined in the fall.
This summer was a busy one for Haas and the Deacons, who were not satisfied with their postseason performance this past spring.
“It was like having an NBA team and working an offseason,” Haas said. “We feel we made our team a lot better, and I’m very excited about the upcoming season.” With the new additions to the program, it appears that Wake’s two stars, Beck and Bedford, won’t have to shoulder all the pressure alone.
Bottom line: Wake Forest has two of college golf’s best players in Evan Beck and Lee Bedford. Last season, the two standouts had little help from their teammates but that shouldn’t be a problem this year. Now the only thing to determine is who the fifth starter will be. If Bedford and Beck shoot their usual scores, expect to see Wake make it back to the NCAA Championship in Hollywood with a new and improved supporting cast.
OHIO STATE WOMEN
2010-11 final ranking: 30
Coach: Therese Hession (21st year)
Top returnees: Vicky Villanueva, Rachel Rohanna
Top newcomers: Freshman Kendall Prince of Lake Oswego, Ore., freshman Jan Chanpalangsri of Boca Raton, Fla.
Projected starting 5: Vicky Villanueva (Sr.), Rachel Rohanna (Jr.), Kendall Prince (Fr.), Susana Benavides (Jr.), Jan Chanpalangsri (Fr.)
Key losses: In-Hong Lim
Key fall tournament: The Landfall
2010-11 recap: After a strong fall that consisted of a runner-up finish at the Dick McGuire Invitational and two third-place finishes (Notre Dame Invitational, Lady Northern), the Buckeyes appeared to be a serious Big Ten contender. Ohio State played a tougher schedule in the spring, but still held its own with one third place (SunTrust Gator Invitational) and a few middle-of-the-pack finishes. “We never had our strongest team for most of the year,” coach Therese Hession said. “We were short-handed at times, with only six players on the team.”
OSU was hopeful that it could contend for the Big Ten crown and use a strong finish as a springboard into the postseason. Instead, Ohio State finished fifth. The Buckeyes did advance out of the NCAA Central Regional, but struggled at the NCAA Championship, finishing 21st out of 24 teams.
Player to watch: Rachel Rohanna. Said Hession: “She’s got a lot of potential. I don’t think we’ve seen her best golf in college yet. Her physical strength is her biggest asset, and she is really maturing into a great golfer.”
2011-2012 preview: With three returning starters from last season, Hession is excited about her team’s prospects. The only problem is that Ohio State doesn’t have one player who finished in the top 100 of the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings last year. Vicky Villanueva and Rachel Rohanna were the highest-ranked Buckeyes at 104th and 114th, respectively.
Two incoming freshman – Kendall Prince and Jan Chanpalangsri – could make a difference this f all. “Kendall is a top-ranked junior player who I’m excited to plug in there,” Hession said. “Jan was the Florida State high school champion and finished 11th at a pro event in Thailand earlier this summer.” Either freshmen could end up as the team’s highest-ranked player by the end of the season.
The lineup should have a nice mix of experience and youth. The additional depth is an added bonus. Last year, the Buckeyes got hit with a couple of injuries, and it hurt their results.
“This team has a lot of potential,” Hession said. “This could be one of my top five teams ever at Ohio State.”
Bottom line: Despite making it to the NCAA Championship last season, this team still is not a national contender, and there is no guarantee the Oiho State freshmen will have an immediate impact. OSU should be better than last season, but by how much remains to be seen. Expect to see the Buckeyes jump up a few spots and make a repeat trip to nationals, where, odds are, they will finish better than 21st.