Staff picks: NCAA Women's Championship
2011 NCAA Women's National Championship: May 18-21
Traditions Club, Bryan Texas
Hosted by Texas A&M
TEAM CHAMPION: UCLA. In Septemeber, my top team was UCLA and I see no reason to change that pick this week. The Bruins, ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, have played as well as any team this spring, winning three times in six starts.
INDIVIDUAL CHAMPION: Erica Popson. The Tennessee sophomore has won her last four starts and has climbed into the Player of the Year race. Look for Popson, who has a total of five wins on the season, to be in the mix late in this championship.
TEAM CHAMPION: Alabama. Mic Potter's squad has won in all the right places and at all the right times this year. Alabama started the year with a win at the Preview (same place as this week’s championship), and most recently at the NCAA East Regional. Look for 'Bama to win at the most important tournament of the season to close out the year.
INDIVIDUAL CHAMPION: Stephanie Meadow. No, not all red heads stick together, but I still like Meadow's chances. She has won three tournaments this year and has consistently finished in the top 15 most of the year. She's a big reason why I think Alabama wins this week, and her efforts will be rewarded with medalist honors as well.
TEAM CHAMPION: Alabama. Third-ranked Alabama will continue what Purdue started. First-time winners will be the new normal. OK, maybe not that extreme, but ’Bama has come back to Bryan, Texas, brimming with confidence. The Tide shot 15 under here in the fall, and played consistently solid golf all spring, never finishing outside the top 3. Besides, Mic Potter is due.
INDIVIDUAL CHAMPION: Lindy Duncan. Ninth-ranked Duncan is here without her team, which admittedly is a strange feeling, especially for Duke. Now Duncan has nothing to lose. She can fly under the radar with the help of Brooks and try to better her T-4 finish here last September. She has five top-5 finishes in 10 events this year. Perhaps she and Brooks can salvage the season for Duke.
TEAM CHAMPION: USC. The Trojans are the top-ranked team in the country, but this pick still is a bit of a gamble considering that junior Lisa McCloskey is benched with a rib injury. Wins at the Pac-10 Championship and the NCAA West Regional (the latter without McCloskey, on a tough track and in nasty weather, no less) prove that USC is playing well enough right now to capture a national title.
INDIVIDUAL CHAMPION: Erica Popson. Tough to argue with wins at the SEC Championship and an NCAA Regional. Popson has the length, and with a thumb/wrist injury limiting her range time, has put an increased focus on short game. She has all the pieces to succeed in Bryan.