No. 22: Oregon men, Texas 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 from last year's Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Today, it's No. 22 on the board with the Oregon men and Texas women.
2010-11 final ranking: 22
Coach: Casey Martin (sixth year)
Top returnees: Daniel Miernicki, Eugene Wong
Top newcomers: Freshman Rak Cho of Brea, Calif.
Projected starting 5: Daniel Miernicki (Sr.), Eugene Wong (Sr.), Andrew Vijarro (Sr.), Robbie Ziegler (Jr.), Jack Paton (Sr.)
Key losses: Jack Dukeminier
Key fall tournament: Corde Valle
2010-11 recap: Oregon was a completely different team in the spring from the fall. Entering the fall with high expectations after a breakthrough 2009-10 season, Oregon failed to finish in the top 5 at any of its first six tournaments. In their next six starts, the Ducks didn’t finish outside the top 5, including a playoff loss to USC at the Pac-10 Championship.
“Last year was a mixed bag for sure,” coach Casey Martin said. “The year before, we had such an amazing year and I think our guys put too much pressure on themselves.”
In the spring, though, it seemed Oregon was peaking just in time for a postseason run. In late March, the Ducks won the Santa Barbara Invite, and they finished third or better in their last six events leading up to NCAA regionals. However, Oregon failed to return to the NCAA Championship for a fourth consecutive year after failing to advance out of regionals with a disappointing tie for 10th.
Player to watch: Eugene Wong. Said Martin: “We need him to play at the level he is capable of. If he plays well, he puts us over the top. His sophomore year, him and Daniel carried the team, and I’m hoping he comes back this year with a vengeance.”
2011-12 preview: Oregon returns four starters from a year ago, which should be a good thing, but those starters also need to perform better this season. Eugene Wong, once considered to be the team’s best player, struggled last year, ending the season as the fourth-highest-ranked Duck in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings at No. 159.
Daniel Miernicki, whose game has gotten better each year at Oregon, won two titles last season (Amer Ari Invitational, Santa Barbara Invitational) to solidify himself as the Ducks’ new No. 1 and finished the year ranked No. 67. But Miernicki will need more help if the Ducks are to make it back to nationals.
Martin hopes to see senior Andrew Vijarro and junior Robbie Ziegler step up their games this season. “Andrew has been getting better every year and is looking sharp,” Martin said. “Robbie hasn’t quite lived up to his potential, and I am waiting to see him break out.” Vijarro is a top-100 player, and if Wong also can return to at least the top 100 and Ziegler can crack the top 150, then the senior-laden Ducks could be quite dangerous.
Even with Oregon’s talent, the Ducks will be an underdog in an extremely competitive Pac-12 Conference. “My guys like going up against the best players and being told they aren’t suppose to beat them,” Martin said. “Hopefully, we take that hungry and aggressive attitude and play our best golf with it.”
Bottom line: Once again the Pac-12 may arguably be the most competitive and talented conference in college golf. Someone on Oregon needs to step up, and if it’s Eugene Wong, that could go a long way for the Ducks. Other teams in the Pac-12 have gotten better. Have the Ducks?
2010-11 final ranking: 22
Coach: Martha Richards (Fifth year)
Top returnees: Madison Pressel, Nicole Vandermade
Top newcomers: Freshman Bertine Strauss of South Africa
Projected starting 5: Madison Pressel (Jr.), Nicole Vandermade (Sr.), Haley Stephens (Jr.), Katelyn Sepmoree (Jr.), Bertine Strauss (Fr.)
Key losses: Rebecca Lee-Bentham (turned pro after freshman year)
Key fall tournament: Betsy Rawls Intercollegiate
2010-11 recap: Texas had a rough start last fall but turned things around quickly. After tying for 13th at the Fall Preview and posting another 13th at the Mason Rudolph, the Longhorns rattled off six top-5 finishes in their last seven regular-season events. “I was pleased with what we did in building all spring,” coach Martha Richards said. “Scoring averages got lower, and winning the Big 12 championship was huge.”
Texas won the conference crown for the first time since 2004 and was selected to play in the NCAA Central Regional. After a sluggish start there, the Longhorns never contended. The team finished 11th and failed to qualify for the NCAA Championship.
Player to watch: Bertine Strauss. Said Richards: “It was a big recruiting battle for us with LSU, and she’s a great player who I think can really play. I think she’ll be a player who can come in and won’t need much time to adjust to college. She’s wiry strong, and swings at it like an athlete.”
2011-2012 preview: Texas returns four of its five starters from a year ago, after Rebecca Lee Bentham, the Longhorns’ No. 5 player much of the season, decided to turn pro after her freshman year. However, if Texas is to repeat as Big 12 champs, its role players must continue to improve their games.
This year’s squad will be led by junior Madison Pressel, younger sister of LPGA player Morgan Pressel. Last year, Pressel was No. 48 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. The junior won the Big 12 Championship and posted several other top-10 finishes. “She plays a huge role for us,” Richards said. “She was a rock for us last year (and) rarely turned in a score that didn’t count.”
If Texas is to take the next step and earn a trip to the NCAA Championship, improvement will be needed from experienced upperclassmen such as senior Nicole Vandermade and junior Katelyn Sepmoree.
“As a senior, we need her to step up in her final year and shoot lower numbers,” Richards said of Vandermade. “Katelyn has shown flashes of brilliance, but needs to put all of her pieces together to be a real super player.”
Also expected to be a key part of the Longhorns’ success will be freshman Bertine Strauss, who will most likely start out in the No. 5 spot this fall, but could end up as the team’s No. 2 or No. 3 player by spring.
Bottom line: Texas is improving, but is still a bit away from becoming a top-15 team. Madison Pressel is a talented player, but without an individual victory, is not a proven star just yet. She will need to notch some wins for her and the Longhorns to climb the rankings. If Texas were to make it to the NCAA Championship, the Longhorns could be dangerous. Before going to Texas, Martha Richards coached at Vanderbilt, which is hosting this year’s finals. So you know Richards would have her team ready to play on a course with which she is extremely familiar. First, though, the Longhorns have to get there. If Strauss is as good as advertised, expect that to happen.