No. 60: Ole Miss men, Furman women
Believe it or not, we are only a few weeks away from the start of another college golf season. Our resident expert, Asher Wildman, will take the next 60 days to break down the top 60 teams for both the men and women. Today, we kick it off with the Ole Miss men and Furman women.
OLE MISS MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 60
Coach: Ernest Ross (16th year)
Top returnees: Joe David, Billy Brozovich, Tom Brown
Top newcomers: Freshman Blake Morris of Waterbury, Conn. (won 2008 Fidelity Investments Junior Classic); freshman Joe Lewis of Savannah, Ga. (No. 146 junior boy in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings)
Projected starting 5: Joe David (sr.), Billy Brozovich (sr.), Tom Brown (so.), Blake Morris (fr.), Joe Lewis (fr.)
Key losses: Jonathan Randolph.
Key fall tournament: The Brickyard
2010-11 recap: Ole Miss had a mediocre season a year ago and its overall record of 73-72-1 proved it. The Rebels failed to win a tournament and had only three top-5 finishes. The team’s best showing was a third at the Mason Rudolph in the fall, but Ole Miss never could get on the right track. Returning All-American Jonathan Randolph was asked to carry the load, but the task proved to be too much for just one player.
The Rebels finished eighth at the SEC Championship, then saw their season end with a 10th-place NCAA regional finish.
Player to watch: Joe David. “Joe had a great season a year ago with ballstriking and continued to improve on his short game,” coach Ernest Ross said. “He has first-team All-American ballstriking, but needs to improve on his short game.”
2011-12 preview: The big question for the Rebels is who will step up as the go-to guy now that Randolph is gone?
Ole Miss is projecting a pair of incoming freshmen to be plugged into the lineup with two seniors – Joe David and Billy Brozovich– who have yet to win individually, but Ross is optimistic.
“I think we will be more consistent through the lineup this year,” Ross said. “Randolph led us at the top, but we were not good at the bottom, and I think these incoming freshman (Blake Morris and Joe Lewis) have proved they can handle it.”
What hurts Ole Miss is the fact that it competes in arguably the toughest conference in college golf. Six teams from the SEC finished last season in the top 15, and the conference should be just as good if not better this season. As Ross says, “A bunch of schools in this conference have the ability to recruit a bunch of the top junior golfers in the country.”
Bottom line: Without Randolph, it is tough to see the Rebels improving much on their ranking of 60th from a year ago, but if the seniors excel and the freshman don’t have any early struggles, then the Rebels can be a top-50 team and again earn an NCAA regional berth.
2010-11 final ranking: 60
Coach: Jen Hanna (seventh year)
Top returnees: Laura Wearn and Alexa Rancourt
Top newcomers: Freshman Daffodil Sanchez of Mesa, Arizona; freshman Laura DeMarco from Ontario, Canada; sophomore Inga Gunnars, a transfer from McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas
Projected starting 5: Laura Wearn (jr.), Alexa Rancourt (jr.), Daffodil Sanchez (fr.), Nos. 4 and 5 TBD
Key losses: Stefanie Kenouer and Jackie Hilea
Key fall tournament: Cougar Classic
2010-11 recap: The Paladins had an extremely disappointing season, with no victories and only three top-5 finishes. “ I felt it was one of my best teams on paper as far as work ethic and talent,” coach Jen Hanna said. “Every tournament I left thinking that was, like, the worst round from everyone.”
Furman compiled an overall record of 59-77-2, but only eight of those head-to-head victories came against teams ranked in the top 50. Depth was an issue, and the Paladins lost No. 1 player Stefanie Kenouer to graduation after the season. Furman, once a perennial top-30 team, finished third at the Southern Conference Championship and failed to earn an NCAA regionals berth.
Player to watch: Laura Wearn. “She gets better every day,” Hanna said. “In the spring, she had some real good tournaments. She can be an All-American. She hits it long, but needs to understand golf a little bit better. She (has the potential to) be incredible.”
2011-12 preview: The Paladins are looking for a fresh start after the struggles of a year ago. However, Hanna will have challenges throughout the season. Stefanie Kenouer, who made it to NCAA regionals as an individual, has graduated, leaving the team without a true go-to player.
Hanna said she may have to rely heavily on incoming freshman Daffodil Sanchez. “Daffodil has had a great career as a junior player,” Hanna said. “I think she can be a spark for the team and one (who can) climb the rankings as the year progresses.” If Sanchez adjusts well to the college game, it is possible she will be the Paladins’ No. 1 player by season’s end.
Returning starters Laura Wearn and Alexa Rancourt must step up their games if they hope to take Furman back to the postseason. Of all the Paladins’ starters last year, Wearn was the only player to see her scoring average go down. “The older players need to avoid putting pressure on themselves,” Hanna said. “They need to trust their teammates and see that the players coming in will be ready to go.”
Bottom line: Furman will be young, and it may take another season to see positive results. Expect to see the Paladins go through the ups and downs of youth this season and build for the following season, when all of their top players should return. Still, if Sanchez hits the ground running, the Paladins could contend for the Southern Conference title, a must if they want to make it back to regionals.