No. 21: Virginia men, Iowa 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 from last year's Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Today, it's No. 21 on the board with the Virginia men and Iowa State women.
2010-11 final ranking: 21
Coach: Bowen Sargent (eighth year)
Top returnees: Ben Kohles, Bruce Woodall
Top newcomers: Freshman Denny McCarthy of Rockville, Md., freshman Ji Soo Park of Centreville, Va., freshman Nick Tremps of Williamsburg, Va.
Projected starting 5: Ben Kohles (Sr.), Denny McCarthy (Fr.), Benjamin Rusch (So.), Ji Soo Park (Fr.), Bruce Woodall (Sr.)
Key losses: Will Collins, Henry Smart
Key fall tournament: U.S. Collegiate
2010-11 recap: Virginia once again was a team that flew under the radar. Despite making it to three consecutive NCAA finals, the Cavaliers were out to prove they are a legitimate top-25 team. “This was my best team since I’ve been here,” coach Bowen Sargent said. “I was upset that we couldn’t make it to nationals for a fourth straight year, though.”
The Cavs notched three victories last season, and Ben Kohles won Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year honors for a second consecutive year. After wins at the Gary Koch Intercollegiate, The Ridges and the Cavalier Classic, Virginia received a bid to the NCAA East Regional in Radford, Va., but posted a disappointing eighth-place finish that ended its season.
Player to watch: Denny McCarthy. Said Sargent: “He’s probably the best recruit we have ever gotten here. We are expecting great things from him. The best thing about him is his determination and competitive nature. Not a big kid, but can hit it long and has a great putter.”
2011-2012 preview: Virginia enters the season looking to get back to nationals. Over the past five years, Virginia may be one of the most overlooked programs in college golf and will look to get back on track with a new supporting cast surrounding No. 1 player Ben Kohles, who ended last season at No. 30 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
“He’s just a winner,” Sargent said. “He’s won five times already, and plays great every single day of the week.”
Hoping to be a key member of the team and take hold of the No. 2 spot is freshman Denny McCarthy, whom Sargent hopes can be an instant impact player in a starting five that lacks another star.
Despite so much attention going to McCarthy, another difference maker could be fellow freshman Ji Soo Park, who reached the finals of the Virginia State Amateur earlier this summer. He is a player Sargent feels other programs missed out on. “He has been the highest-ranked (junior) player in our state the last three or four years,” Sargent said. “He’s a great ballstriker, but is streaky with his short game.”
For the Cavaliers to get back to nationals, they also will need strong play from senior Bruce Woodall, who needs to display more consistency.
Bottom line: Virginia enters the year with a lack of experience and depth. Kohles can carry only so much of the load, and the Cavs are pinning a lot of their hopes on freshman Denny McCarthy being a top player. Virginia has an above-average first three, but they will have to get decent scores from the Nos. 4 and 5 spots. As of right now, that remains a question mark. If it happens, the Cavs make it back to nationals; if not, the road ends again at regionals.
IOWA STATE WOMEN
2010-11 final ranking: 21
Coach: Christie Martens (eighth year)
Top returnees: Sasikarn On-iam, Prima Thammaraks
Top newcomer: Freshman Chonlada Chayanun of Thailand, freshman Beth Wagner of Ankeny, Iowa
Projected starting 5: Sasikarn On-iam (So.), Prima Thammaraks (So.), Punpaka Phuntumabamrung (Jr.), Kristin Paulson (Sr.), Chonlada Chayanun (Fr.)
Key losses: Victoria Stefansen, Laurence Herman
Key fall tournament: The Landfall
2010-11 recap: Iowa State was perhaps the surprise team of last season. The Cyclones finished outside the top 5 only twice all year (both sixth-place finishes). With victories at the Challenge at Onion Creek, the Central District Invitational and the Mountain View Intercollegiate, Iowa State became a top-25 team. “We had moments of great play,” coach Christie Martens said. “As good as we played during the regular season, not making it to nationals was a real big disappointment.”
After finishing fourth at the Big 12 Championship, the Cyclones were chosen to play in the NCAA West Regional, the team’s second consecutive trip to the postseason. Iowa State’s dream season came to end, though, with a 10th-place finish at the NCAA West Regional.
Player to watch: Sasikarn On-iam. Said Martens: “She was all Big-12 last year, is a real hard worker and super committed to everything that she does. She thinks every shot is the most important.”
2011-12 preview: The Cyclones will be looking to build on the momentum from last season. Iowa State returns three starters who all played well last season. After winning twice last year, the Cyclones will look to match or better that total playing a tougher schedule this year and qualify for the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Championship.
“We have a lot of talent at the top end and are excited about what it can bring,” Martens said. “Last year, we had two freshmen be big contributors for us, and they gained valuable experience.” Sophomores Sasikarn On-iam and Prima Thammaraks were a nice surprise last season and will look to take the next step with their games this season.
One player who may be ready to make a big jump this year is Kristin Paulson, who won the Iowa State Amateur over the summer, a sign of what Martens believes is good things to come for the senior. “Her games and scores this summer have been impressive,” Martens said. “If she can bring that play to college, then it would be huge for our team.”
Freshman Chonlada Chayanun of Thailand should be a nice addition to the back of the Cyclones’ lineup. According to Martens, Chayanun had a successful summer in Thailand defeating some of her future teammates, as several of Iowa State’s Thai players returned home for competition. The incoming freshman has been a member of the Thai national team.
Bottom line: The biggest weakness for Iowa State will be a lack of experience at the back of their rotation. Their three returning starters all had solid seasons a year ago, but the Nos. 4 and 5 spots will be question marks to start the fall. As big a step as this program took a year ago, it could take a step back in the rankings this year with a tougher schedule. The Cyclones are no longer a surprise team, but if everything clicks just right, they could make history with a trip to nationals.