No. 15: Arkansas men, Auburn 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 Nos. 15 on the board with the Arkansas men and Auburn women.
2010-11 final ranking: 15
Coach: Brad McMakin (sixth year)
Top returnees: Ethan Tracy, Sebastian Cappelen
Top newcomers: Freshman Thomas Sorensen of Denmark (will arrive in January), freshman Kolton Crawford of Fort Worth, Texas
Projected starting 5: Ethan Tracy (Sr.), Sebastian Cappelen (So.), Austin Cook (Jr.), Kolton Crawford (Fr.), No. 5 spot TBA
Key losses: Jamie Marshall
Key fall tournament: Jack Nicklaus Invitational
2010-11 recap: It was a great season for Brad McMakin and his Razorbacks, who won four tournaments last year (John Hayt, Border Olympics, Cabo Collegiate, Seminole Intercollegiate). “For the young team we had, I thought we were very successful,” said McMakin. “We were competitive all year, and only missed the match play (at the NCAA Championship) by eight shots.”
Perhaps most impressive about Arkansas last season: In nine of their 10 tournaments, the Razorbacks were in the final group going into the final round. “We had our blood flowing because we had a chance,” McMakin said.
After advancing out of NCAA regionals, the Razorbacks finished 15th at the NCAA finals.
Player to watch: Thomas Sorensen. Said McMakin: “He has had a nice career in Europe and is a big physical kid. When he gets over here and gets his feet wet, he’ll be one of the best to watch in the spring. He could really make our season. “
2011-12 preview: McMakin is pumped about his team’s chances this season. For the first time in his six years in Fayetteville, he won’t have to replace the core of his lineup. This year, the Razorbacks return their top three starters. “It’s nice to return our best players instead of losing them,” McMakin said. “We finished 15th last year and will get better this year, so I’m excited.”
Arkansas will know quickly where it stands in relation to other top teams. The Razorbacks will face last year’s No. 1 (Oklahoma State) and No. 2 (Georgia Tech) teams at the Golfweek Conference Challenge in an early measuring stick.
One big addition, however, won’t arrive until the spring. Denmark’s Thomas Sorensen will not enroll until January, but McMakin thinks he can be as good as any of the other big-name freshmen entering college golf this year.
“This kid can compete.” McMakin said. “I know this is a stellar incoming class this year in college golf, but when the spring comes, pay attention (to Sorensen).”
Atop the Arkansas lineup is senior Ethan Tracy, who this summer won the Western Amateur. Tracy finished last season at No. 49 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and teammate Sebastian Cappelen quietly was even better, finishing 25th as a freshman. In the No. 3 spot is junior Austin Cook, who had a coming-out party to finish the year – posting top 10s at NCAA regionals and the NCAA Championship. Add Sorensen, and that’s a first four that can compete with anybody.
Bottom line: Arkansas is experienced, deep and already knows how to win. If Sorensen is as good as McMakin says, then the Razorbacks can be a dangerous team heading into the postseason. Look for Arkansas to be in the final eight at Riviera come June.
2010-11 final ranking: 15
Coach: Kim Evans (18th year)
Top returnees: Patricia Sanz, Haley Wilson
Top newcomers: Freshman Victoria Tratani of Hollywood, Fla., freshman Nicole Quinn of Windermere, Fla.
Projected starting 5: Patricia Sanz (Sr.), Haley Wilson (Sr.), Carlie Yadloczky (Jr.), Marta Sanz (So.), Diana Fernandez (So.)
Key losses: Cydney Clanton
Key fall tournament: Pac-12/SEC Challenge
2010-11 recap: After winning the SEC Championship on their home golf course, it appeared Auburn was ready to make a postseason run. Instead, the Tigers played poorly at the NCAA East Regional, finishing in a shocking 13th place. The Tigers never were in the hunt, as they finished 13 shots behind the coveted eighth spot.
“We didn’t have the year we should have,” coach Kim Evans said. “We stepped up at certain events, but I didn’t feel like last year was our season.”
Other than their victory at the SEC Championship, the Tigers posted only two other top-5 finishes.
Player to watch: Victoria Tratani. Said Evans of the freshman: “She’s a real savvy player (who) has played a pretty good and extensive schedule. She comes to the course with a lot of energy (and) is long off the tee. She has solid swing mechanics and is powerful.”
2011-2012 preview: Auburn enters the season with a few solid players but no true star. “The lineup is anyone’s to take,” Evans said. “I feel good about the talent, and this is a bunch that is grindy and is super competitive.”
Senior Patricia Sanz, No. 85 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings last season, presumably will step in as the new No. 1 player for Auburn, but she had only three top-20 finishes last season and must be more consistent if Auburn plans on getting back to the finals. Another player Evans also expects to take a step forward with her game is junior Carlie Yadloczky, who was ranked No. 155 playing out of the fifth spot for the Tigers. “She has had a couple of years to play and has all the talent in the world,” Evans said. “This is her year to put it together – she’s a storm waiting to happen.”
Two freshmen are expected to compete for starting spots: Tratani and Nicole Quinn, both from Florida, are quality players who will push the returning upperclassmen. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least one of them become a fixture in the starting five by spring.
Bottom line: Despite not having a big-name star, Auburn has quality and depth. All five projected starters are top-150-type players and will be counted on for this team to succeed. Without a player who has shown she can go low on a regular basis, Evans will rely on a team that she thinks can be consistent and not have too many blow-up rounds. The Tigers most likely will have four decent scores each day of a tournament, but may not have many low enough to help them win tournaments. Auburn is a legit top-20 team, but if Sanz or another player steps up to play like a true No. 1, the Tigers could rise to the top 10.