No. 5: Texas A&M men, LSU 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. 5 on the board with the Texas Tech men and LSU women.
2010-11 final ranking: 5
Coach: J.T. Higgins (11th year)
Top returnees: Senior Jordan Russell and junior Cameron Peck
Top newcomers: Freshmen Tyler Dunlap of Westlake, Texas, Andrew Lister of San Diego, and sophomore transfer Johannes Veerman of Sugar Land, Texas, via Tulsa
Projected starting 5: Jordan Russell (Sr.), Cameron Peck (Jr.), Case Cochran (Jr.), Tyler Dunlap (Fr.), and Greg Yates (RS-Fr.)
Key losses: Ignacio Elvira, John Hurley, and Conrad Shindler
Key fall tournament: U.S. Collegiate
2010-11 recap: The Aggies had an outstanding season, winning the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate and the Aggie Invitational and finishing among the top 5 in all but one tournament during the regular season. Russell won the season-opening Topy Cup of Japan and had six other top-5 finishes. Peck, steady if unspectacular for most of the year, turned it on in the postseason, finishing third at the NCAA Arizona Regional and tying for third at the NCAA Championship.
“Last year was really a great year for us,” Higgins said. “We were in a lot of tournaments with chances to win a lot of events last year.”
After finishing runner-up to Oklahoma State at the Big 12 Conference Championship, the Aggies finished second at the Arizona Regional. When the Aggies arrived at Karsten Creek for the NCAA finals, they were considered a favorite to make the top 8 and advance to match play. However, A&M faltered down the stretch and missed match play by a shot.
Player to watch: Jade Scott. “He red-shirted last year after transferring from Rice,” Higgins said of the sophomore from Daingerfield, Texas, “and his game has really come on since the spring. He’ll have a chance to get in the lineup and really be a breakout player for us this year.”
2011-2012 preview: A&M has two strong starters in Russell, a U.S. Amateur semifinalist, and Peck. After that, the lineup is a bit more of a mystery. Without Elvira, Shindler and Hurley, who combined to play in 33 tournaments last year, other Aggies will have the chance to shine this season. “This the first time we’ll see some new faces in a while,” said Higgins, whose Aggies won the 2009 NCAA Championship. “We’ve had a good run the last four years and feel we were one of best team over the last four years.”
Cochran, the son of longtime PGA Tour player Russ Cochran, adds experience, having played in seven events last year. But he had only one top-25 finish, a tie for fourth at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate. Yet Higgins sees a big future for the 6-foot-4-inch power player. “Case may be the team’s best ball striker,” Higgins said. “This guy can hit it a mile, and he can attack a golf course. There is no limit on his potential.” The Aggies will need for Cochran to take his game to the next level. After him, there’s a big drop in experience.
With a few open spots in the lineup, Dunlap, who won Texas’ 5A state title for private schools, has a good shot at starting as a freshman. Higgins says Dunlap has the distance but needs to sharpen his short game. If he does, expect an immediate impact this fall.
Bottom line: The Aggies have two stars in Russell and Peck. Will the rest of the lineup respond? In recent years, several top recruits have had the chance to work on their game and learn from the Aggies’ leaders. If A&M can continue that formula, the wave of success should continue. This will be a good team but perhaps not quite a top-8 squad at nationals.
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2010-11 final ranking: 5
Coach: Karen Bahnsen (28th year)
Top returnees: Austin Ernst, Jacqueline Hedwall and Tessa Teachman
Top newcomers: Freshman Madelene Sagstrom of Enkoping, Sweden; sophomore transfer Lindsay Gahm (Big Ten Freshman of the Year at Indiana last year) and junior transfer Katrina Hegge from San Francisco
Projected starting 5: Austin Ernst (So.), Jacqueline Hedwall (Sr.), Tessa Teachman (Sr.), Lindsay Gahm (So.) and Katrina Hegge (Jr.)/Madelene Sagstrom (Fr.)
Key losses: Megan McChrystal, Mary Michael Maggio, who transferred to Texas A&M
Key fall tournament: The Fall Preview
2010-11 recap: Often times a large part of LSU’s success relied upon how Megan McChrystal played. The Bayou Bengals were runner-up to start the year at the Fall Preview, won by McChrystal. Then, McChrystal tied for fourth as LSU won the Mason Rudolph Championship. After a successful fall, the Tigers struggled in the spring.
“I felt like we had a really good team,” Bahnsen said. “We weren’t really playing our best at the finals, but still finished near the top and we want to carry that in to this year.”
LSU finished third at the NCAA finals, while freshman Austin Ernst emerged as medalist and became a new face to watch over the next few years.
Player to watch: Austin Ernst. Said Bahnsen: “She is a huge competitor. She doesn’t get rattled very easily. She’s a really strong ballstriker that hits it really far. All summer she worked on her short game so she will keep getting better and better.”
2011-2012 preview: Don’t be so quick to dismiss LSU because McChrystal graduated. Ernst backed her nationals performance this summer as a semifinalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Bahnsen also added Lindsay Gahm, who was Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season at Indiana. “On paper we have a lot of talent,” Bahnsen said. “These girls need to come together and play as a strong team.”
LSU also must fill a spot opened by Maggio’s transfer to Texas A&M. One player Bahnsen is hopeful will rise to the occasion this year is senior Tessa Teachman. “Tessa played well in the fall, but struggled in the spring,” Bahnsen said. “She kept fighting and is capable of winning tournaments and breaking out this year.”
After Ernst, the Tigers will be strong with senior Jacqueline Hedwall. This summer, she caddied for her twin sister Caroline, the 2010 NCAA champion and three-time winner this year on the Ladies European Tour. Bahnsen believes Hedwall has learned a lot from being around the best players in the world, and should be a team leader. According to Bahnsen, incoming freshman Madelene Sagstrom should compete for the team’s No. 1 spot.
Bottom line: Ernst seems to be getting better and better, and Hedwall seems ready for that breakout year. A lot will depend on Sagstrom and Gahm, but this team will not be short on talent. If the Tigers play as a team, LSU can make a run for a national title.