No. 18: Florida women, Texas Tech men
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 Nos. 18 on the board with the Texas Tech men and Florida women.
TEXAS TECH MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 18
Coach: Greg Sands (11th year)
Top returnees: Chandler Rusk, Finley Ewing IV
Top newcomers: Freshman Clement Sordet of France, freshman Matias Dominguez of Chile, freshman Esteban Restrepo of Colombia, freshman Henry Todd of Dallas, freshman Nathan Weant of Hallsville, Texas
Projected starting 5: Chandler Rusk (So.), Finley Ewing IV (Jr.), Clement Sordet (Fr.), Matias Dominguez (Fr.), No. 5 spot TBA
Key losses: Nils Floren, Matt Smith
Key fall tournament: Isleworth Collegiate
2010-11 recap: For most of the year, Texas Tech was a top-15 team with hopes of making a run at a national championsip. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, they never got the opportunity after finishing a surprising ninth at NCAA regionals. “We had a disappointing ending,” coach Greg Sands said. “We played poorly at regionals, and it cost us a chance to be successful at nationals.”
Texas Tech notched a victory at the UTSA/Oak Hills Invitational to go with three other top-5 finishes.
Player to watch: Clement Sordet. Said Sands of the freshman: “He won a tournament in France on the Allianz Tour shooting 15 under. He’s been ranked inside the top 100 of the Scratch Players World Rankings, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended the year as our No. 1 (player).”
2011-12 preview: This seems to be a transition year for Texas Tech. Their top three players from last year are gone, and both Nils Floren (No. 21) and Matt Smith (No. 45) were top-50 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings a year ago. In the fall, the Red Raiders potentially could start three freshmen.
“You never know what you’ll get out of freshmen,” Sands said. “We could look good, but other times I doubt it because you just don’t know how the freshmen will adjust.”
One returnee Sands expects good things from is redshirt sophomore Chandler Rusk. Last year, Rusk didn’t truly show his potential until the end of the season. “He was really close to breaking out last year,” Sands said. “He finished (tied for fourth) at the Big 12 Championship and played well down the stretch. I’m excited about his potential.”
Looking to have a bounce-back season will be junior Finley Ewing IV. At times last season, Ewing showed he potentially could be the next star for Texas Tech but never could put three consecutive consistent rounds together, Sand said. Ewing injured his right shoulder over winter break, limiting him to three tournaments in the spring.
Bottom line: Success this season will depend on Texas Tech’s freshmen. Sands has a couple of returnees, but they are players who have been in and out of the lineup. With five new players arriving in Lubbock this fall, expect something of a rebuilding year. The Red Raiders should make regionals again, but a trip to nationals seems a bit ambitious.
2010-11 final ranking: 18
Coach: Jan Dowling (third year)
Top returnees: Mia Piccio, Evan Jensen
Top newcomers: Freshman Camilla Hedberg of Spain, freshman Lena Weichselgartner of Germany
Projected starting 5: Mia Piccio (Jr.), Camilla Hedberg (Fr.), Evan Jensen (Sr.), Isabelle Lendl (Jr.), Andrea Watts (Sr.)
Key losses: Jessica Yadloczky
Key fall tournament: Fall Preview
2010 recap: Florida had its ups and downs a year ago, but peaked at the end of the season. After finishing ninth at the SEC Championship, the Gators regrouped and advanced out of the NCAA East Regional. When Florida made it to nationals, it appeared the Gators were just happy to be there, but Dowling’s squad played well, tying for 10th. “We started to play to our potential in the spring, which was fun,” Dowling said. “We were on the bubble going in to the last day of regionals but played great to make it to nationals.”
Florida won the Lady Gator by 17 shots, their only victory on the year. The Gators came came in fifth at the Liz Murphy Invitational, played under an untraditional scoring format that counted a team’s best four scores per hole. If the tournament had used the typical five-count-four scoring system, Florida would have finished first.
Player to watch/on the rise: Camilla Hedberg. Said Dowling: “She is the No. 1 player in Spain, she won the Women’s Spanish Am and was medalist at the Women’s British Amateur. We are really excited to get her on our team and see how she can help us.”
2011-12 preview: Florida enters the season with few questions, which is a good thing when competing in the loaded Southeastern Conference. The Gators have four returning starters, including Andrea Watts, who really started to blossom late last season.
“Andrea has such a beautiful swing and has so much talent,” Dowling said. “Her game really picked us up in the spring.” For most of the year, Watts played the No. 4 spot for Florida, but she had a coming-out party at the NCAA Championship, where she tied for 15th.
In the fall, Florida will be without senior Marika Lendl, who is recovering from right-shoulder surgery. Dowling hopes to get her back in the spring so she can be a contributor to an already-deep lineup.
The Gators expect freshman Hedberg to push her new teammates and become a fixture in the lineup.
With junior Mia Piccio, who ended last year at No. 41 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, plus Hedberg, Watts, Isabelle Lendl and Evan Jensen, the Gators should have a solid starting five. And if Marika Lendl returns to full health in the spring, the Gators may just have the depth they need to win an SEC Championship for the first time since 2008.
Bottom Line: Florida has talent and depth. Mia Piccio has All-American potential, and if Hedberg dominates college golf like she did the amateur game in Spain, then the Gators could have one of the nation’s best 1-2 tandems. Four of the five starters return from the lineup that finished 10th at the NCAA Championship. However, the difference between being a top-10 team team at nationals and a true title contender is significant. The Gators don’t appear to be a legitimate threat to the top four or five teams just yet, but they will make their presence felt at this year’s NCAA finals.