No. 13: Texas men, Arkansas 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. 13 on the board with the Texas men and Arkansas women.
2010-11 final ranking: 13
Coach: John Fields (15th year)
Top returnees: Dylan Frittelli, Cody Gribble
Top newcomers: Freshman Jordan Spieth of Dallas, freshman Kramer Hickok of Plano, Texas, freshman Will Griffin of Lufkin, Texas, freshman Tayler Termeer of Austin, Texas
Projected starting 5: Dylan Fritelli (Sr.), Cody Gribble (Jr.), Jordan Spieth (Fr.), Toni Kakula (So.), Alex Moon (Sr.)
Key losses: Bobby Hudson
Key fall tournament: Olympia Fields
2010-11 recap: Last year, Texas had the most-difficult schedule in the country and held its own. The Longhorns had an impressive head-to-head record of 113-56-2, included a victory at their home event, the Morris Williams Intercollegiate. “We did some good things, but I think coming off the year before we had some high expectations,” Fields said. “Even with a 13th ranking, we were really disappointed.”
After finishing third in an extremely competitive Big 12 Championship, Texas barely survived NCAA regionals, as all five Longhorns birdied the 18th hole to leapfrog SMU for the fifth and final qualifying spot. At NCAA finals, the ’Horns struggled early but played well late on their way to a 12th-place finish.
Player to watch: Cody Gribble. Said Fields of the sophomore: “He’s genually dissatisfied with what happened last year. He’s motivated for bigger and greater things this year.”
2011-12 preview: Texas is loaded. Not only do the Longhorns return four starters, but they added arguably the best recruit in the country: two-time U.S. Junior champion Jordan Spieth. In addition to his two U.S. Golf Association titles, Spieth has made the cut twice in three PGA Tour starts, including a tie for 16th at the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship.
“I think he has already started to make an impact on our program,” Fields said. “The biggest lift he’s going to give us is his competitive desire.”
Hoping to improve on a rookie season that saw him earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors is Toni Kakula. According to Fields, Kakula’s game is getting better and better, making him another reliable scorer along with senior Dylan Fritelli, Gribble and Speith. Gribble is looking to have a bounce-back year after a somewhat disappointing freshman season.
With all the attention going to Spieth, another incoming recruit – fellow Texan Kramer Hickok – has been overshadowed but may also have an immediate impact in the lineup. “Kramer is a top recruit coming out of high school that kind of goes unnoticed,” Fields said. “He has a great set of teachers and has made significant cuts at events this summer, and made it to the (U.S.) Amateur.”
Qualifying for a starting spot on this team will be tough. With Frittelli, Gribble and Spieth locked in at the top three, there will be plenty of jockeying for the next two positions. Texas potentially has five players for only two spots. Kakula may have been Big 12 Freshman of the Year, but returnees Alex Moon and Julio Vegas as well as a couple of incoming freshman will challenge for his spot. For Fields, this is a good problem to have.
Bottom line: Fields believes the Longhorns can win any tournament they play this season and that his team is talented enough to win a national title. The talent and depth are there in Austin. It’s now time to see if the Longhorns can get it done.
2010-11 final ranking: 13
Coach: Shauna Estes-Taylor (fifth year)
Top returnees: Emily Tubert, Emma Lavy
Top newcomers: Hally Leadbetter (Fr.) of Bradenton, Fla., freshman Audrey Monssoh of Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
Projected starting 5: Emily Tubert (So.), Emma Lavy (So.), Emily Podzielinski (Jr.), Victoria Vela (Jr.), Hally Leadbetter (Fr.)
Key losses: Kelli Shean, Corinna Rees
Key fall tournament: SEC/Pac-12 Challenge
2010-11 recap: Arkansas had an impressive season last year, finishing fifth at the NCAA Championship and winning three times during the regular season (Susie Maxwell Berning Classic, Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown, LSU Invitational). “This was a team that worked hard all year and set high goals for themselves,” coach Shauna Estes-Taylor said. “I credit our win at LSU, which gave us huge momentum going into the postseason.”
After solidifying themselves as a top-15 team, the Razorbacks finished fourth at the NCAA Central Regional, then earned their first-ever top 5 finish at NCAA nationals.
Player to watch: Emily Tubert. Said Estes-Taylor: “I think she will do some special things. She has had a good summer and worked on her swing this summer. A super-talented golfer who is fired up to get going again.”
2011-12 preview: Arkansas will be an interesting team to watch this season. Led by sophomore Emily Tubert, who won three times last year, the Razorbacks will be a young, relatively inexperienced team. Tubert was Co-Freshman of the Year in the Southeastern Conference en route to a No. 12 finish in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Two freshmen will compete for starting spots for the Razorbacks, but one of the team’s new faces will be a veteran to college golf. Emily Podzielinski redshirted last season after transferring from Eastern Michigan, where she was their No. 1 player as a freshman. “She’s a sleeper, (and) I know people will ask me where I found her,” Estes-Taylor said. “I know after sitting out last year she is anxious to get out there and tee it up.”
Also joining the team is incoming freshman Hally Leadbetter, daughter of swing instructor David Leadbetter. “She has a lot of talent,” Estes-Taylor said. “I think going off to college will help her blossom and improve her game.”
Junior Victoria Vela is considered the seasoned veteran on the roster after spending two years in the starting lineup. Estes thinks this could be her breakout season and that she will have a more pivotal role in the Razorbacks’ success.
Bottom line: Arkansas may be a young team, but it is also a talented one. Tubert is a Player of the Year candidate, and her supporting cast is sneaky good. The addition of Podzielinski is huge for a team that starts the year looking for a No. 2 player to help out Tubert. There are plenty of players who can contribute, but the jury is out if they can all go low at the same time. The Razorbacks are built for the future, but the present isn’t bad either: This is a team that makes it to nationals.