Looking ahead: Arizona, Hawaii previews
The spring season gets under way next week with two events – one in Tucson, Ariz., and the other across the Pacific Ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii.
A dozen teams will converge at Arizona National Golf Club Jan. 30-31 for the long-running Arizona Collegiate.
While this year’s field isn’t quite as strong as those in the past, the event should still provide a good starting point for a number of teams.
California, No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, leads the way and is joined by top-100 squads New Mexico (24), Arizona (49) and Campbell (62). The host Wildcats always seem to play well on their home course and a victory or strong showing could bode well for coach Rick LaRose and his crew heading into the spring.
The same would hold true for Cal, New Mexico and certainly Campbell.
Rounding out the field are Cal-Irvine, Cal-Riverside, Central Arkansas, McNeese State, Pepperdine, Santa Clara, Texas-El Paso and Utah.
At the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii, 20 teams will square off Feb. 1-3 at Waikoloa Resort’s Kings’ Course in what should be a real shoot-out to kick off the spring.
The field features six top-10 teams, headed by top-ranked Texas. The Longhorns will be challenged by the likes of Oregon (2), UCLA (4), Stanford (7), Georgia Tech (9) and Washington (10).
Then there’s No. 11 USC, which closed out the fall campaign with a big win at the Gifford/CordeValle tournament.
And let’s not forget defending champion Oklahoma State. Granted, the No. 23 Cowboys appear to be in a rebuilding stage and were hurt even more after the fall season when top player Peter Uihlein decided to skip his final semester and turn pro, but as anyone who has followed college golf over the years knows, you never can count Oklahoma State out.
Also in the field: TCU (46), San Francisco (48), Oregon State (50), San Jose State (54), Colorado (56) and Arizona State (57).
Rounding things out are Texas Tech, Cal-Davis, Hawaii, NCAA Division II squads CSU-Chico and host Hawaii-Hilo, and Osaka Gakin University of Japan.
If Hawaii’s trade winds don’t terrorize the competing teams, look for some low scores – OSU won last year with a 34-under total – and a thrilling finish down the stretch the final day.