No. 8: Augusta State men, Duke 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. 8 on the board with the Augusta State men and Duke women.
AUGUSTA STATE MEN
2010-11 final ranking: 8
Coach: Kevin McPherson (first year)
Top returnees: Taylor Floyd
Top newcomers: Freshman Jack Heasman of England, freshman Robin Petersson of Sweden, freshman Cody Shafer of Evans, Ga., senior Devon Komline (transfer from East Tennessee State)
Projected starting 5: Taylor Floyd (Sr.), Derek Chang (Jr.), Jack Heasman (Fr.), Brendan Gillins (Sr.), Alex Wennstam (So.)
Key losses: Patrick Reed, Henrik Norlander, Carter Newman, Mitchell Krywulycz, Olle Bengtsson
Key fall tournament: Olympia Fields
2010-11 recap: After an up-and-down regular season, the defending national champions went into Stillwater, Okla., and did the unthinkable: The Jaguars won back-to-back national championships. “It was unbelievable,” former assistant coach and now head coach Kevin McPherson said. “There’s 300 plus D-I schools, and to win two years in a row in this format is just unreal.”
The Jaguars won only once (General Jim Hackler Invitational) in the regular season, then finished as runner-up at NCAA regionals before their NCAA Championship run at Karsten Creek. At nationals, Augusta State earned the seventh seed in match play and defeated Georgia Tech, host school and top-ranked Oklahoma State and in-state rival Georgia to win its second consecutive title – the first team to accomplish the feat since Houston in 1984-85.
Player to watch: Derek Chang. Said McPherson: “The guy works his butt off. He works on the right things and is always trying to get better. He has a great head on his shoulders and doesn’t have many distractions. He won the 2009 and 2010 Southeastern Amateur, but he has flown under the radar because he started his college career at Minnesota and he redshirted last year because of our depth.”
2011-12 preview: The head coach from last year is gone, along with all five starters from nationals. It’s safe to say this will be a rebuilding year for the back-to-back national champions, who will trot out five new faces and a new leader. Former Augusta State women’s coach and men’s assistant Kevin McPherson is making the jump to the men’s game and is anxious to take on the challenge. “Many think this will be a rebuilding year for us,” McPherson said. “If we are a top-30 team that makes it back to the finals, then I think it’s safe to say we had a good team.”
It’s tough to say who the team’s top player will be, as most of the roster has little to no college experience. Players from last year’s title-winning team always praised Minnesota transfer Chang, who redshirted last season. This season, Chang hopes to prove his former teammates right when given the chance to play. Also returning to the team this fall is seldom-used senior Brendan Gillins. McPherson is hopeful Gillins’ attitude rubs off on his teammates. “He’s a 4.0 GPA genius in physics,” McPherson said. “I think there are more players who are gifted then him, but he has more passion and heart than any of them to go and take advantage of this opportunity.
Like Chang, sophomore Alex Wennstam didn’t play much last year simply because he had too many good players ahead of him. This year, the Swede will be looking to step in and show his talent. Also back in the lineup is senior Taylor Floyd, part of the Jags’ first championship team at The Honors Course in 2010. A thumb surgery kept Floyd out for most of last spring, and his coach says he is completely healthy.
Bottom line: We will see how deep the Jaguars’ roster really is. Last year, the big four of Patrick Reed, Henrik Norlander, Carter Newman and Mitchell Krywulycz combined to play in 43 events, leaving only a handful of opportunities for others. Augusta State doesn’t have the big names any longer, giving their understudies the chance to take the spotlight. It would not be surprising to see this team miss out on nationals, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Jags make it there, either.
2010-11 final ranking: 8
Coach: Dan Brooks (28th year)
Top returnees: Lindy Duncan, Laetitia Beck
Top newcomers: Freshman Irene Jung of Bedford, Nova Scotia
Projected starting 5: Lindy Duncan (Jr.), Laetitia Beck (So.), Stacey Kim (Jr.), Courtney Ellenbogen (Jr.), Alejandra Cangrejo (So.)
Key losses: Kim Donovan
Key fall tournament: Fall Preview
2010-11 recap: Last year was a major disappointment by Duke standards. The Blue Devils failed to reach the NCAA Championship for the first time in 13 seasons, and it was the first time in 29 years a Duke team had failed to win a tournament“I don’t know what happened last year,” coach Dan Brooks said. “To be successful takes dedication and maturity. Last year, something was missing.”
Duke had its chances to win tournaments. The Blue Devils were either runner-up or third at five tournaments. However, Duke was left wondering how it finished ninth at the NCAA Central Regional and missed out on a trip to nationals.
Player to watch: Lindy Duncan. Said Brooks: “She’s a very talented player and made the cut in the (U.S.) Open. She has learned a lot about herself and is passionate about the game. A hard worker who knows herself very well. Golf development isn’t just about physical attributes but mental as well, and she’s very good at it.”
2011-12 preview: For Duke to return to the winner’s circle, the Blue Devils need to put the past behind them and move on. “We’re going to develop games,” Brooks said. “We’ve won a lot of tournaments over the decades by developing games.”
Atop the lineup will be Player of the Year candidate Duncan, who finished last season at No. 9 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and sophomore Laetitia Beck (No. 35). Last year, it was the dropoff after those first two spots that wasn’t very “Duke-like.” Senior Kim Donovan played well last year and finished the year ranked No. 92. However, junior Courtney Ellenbogen has yet to live up to the expectations many had for her after an accomplished junior career. Ellenbogen finished last season off the postseason roster and at No. 236 in the Golfweek rankings.
One player who could be asked to be an instant contributor is freshman Irene Jung of Nova Scotia. The incoming Canadian is one that Brooks is excited about. “She is somebody who when she sets her mind to something she’ll work and work to get it done,” Brooks said. “She shot an opening 69 at the U.S. Girls’ (Junior) this summer, and I am excited about her approach to the game.” Jung will battle for a starting spot to start the year, but may cement herself in the starting five by the spring.
Bottom line: As talented as Duke was a year ago, it’s a mystery how it failed to reach nationals. There is no way the Devils can miss for a second consecutive year. It also seems unlikely they go another whole year without winning a title. Expect Duke to have a bounce-back year and start another NCAA finals streak. Duke also wants its Atlantic Coast Conference crown back after three years without one, and if Ellenbogen and Jung step up, the Devils can challenge defending ACC champion North Carolina.