North Florida, Oklahoma among spring's surprises
The spring season is off and running, and in these early stages there have been a few surprises, especially on the plus side.
Here are a few teams you may, or may not, have heard much from last fall, but are starting to make some noise:
• BYU: While the Cougars didn’t have a terrible fall – three top 5s in five starts – they are starting to crank things up in 2013. Against a pair of solid fields, BYU finished third at the John Burns in Hawaii and followed with a second this week in California at USC’s North Ranch Invitational.
• Houston: Under second-year coach Jonathan Dismuke, these Cougars are quietly moving up the rankings. In four fall events, they finished no worse than third, with a win at the Lone Star, and then a second to open the spring at the Bayou City.
• Long Beach State: Talk about turning things around. Here’s a team that in three fall starts posted an 11th and a 12th and were 107th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. No doubt the 49ers will be improving that status after opening the spring with victories at the Folino and their own Del Walker.
• North Florida: The Ospreys opened the fall season with a ninth at the Carpet Capital and closed with a 10th at Isleworth. But thanks in part to the return of Sean Dale, they have their motors humming so far this spring, with their two best finishes: a second at the Gator and a victory at their own John Hayt Invitational.
• North Texas: After four top-6 showings in the fall, including a pair of seconds, North Texas added another runner-up at Oak Hills to start the spring and tied for fourth this week at the John Hayt.
• Oklahoma: The fall seemed to give the Sooners a wake-up call. They were No. 22 in Golfweek’s preseason rankings, but after what coach Ryan Hybl described as “a really bad, bad fall,” slipped to 44th, earning a C-minus on Golfweek’s midterm report card. The boys from Norman certainly have turned things around, with a win at Oak Hills and a second in Puerto Rico, where they were in the title hunt from start to finish.
• Texas A&M: Until this season, the Aggies, No. 9 in the pre-season and No. 26 at fall’s end, had not finished outside the top 10 in a regular-season tournament since they placed 13th at the 2008 Ping/Golfweek Preview. But last fall they twice placed outside the top 10, with a 13th at the Preview and 14th at the U.S. Collegiate. Now, with a second at the SeaBest and T-4 at the John Burns, it appears A&M is getting back on the right track.
• TCU: In their only full-field fall event, the Horned Frogs placed 13th at Isleworth. They’ve certainly been busy – and successful – so far this spring. After a second at the Arizona Intercollegiate, TCU placed third against a strong field at the Amer Ari and then seventh at The Prestige. This week, the Frogs were most impressive in a victory at the Wyoming Desert Classic, winning by 25 shots over St. Mary’s (Calif.).
All these are just a handful of examples as the spring season kicks into high gear. There are others out there as well, and what it all means is that it’s going to be a close and exciting race over the next 2 1/2 months toward a spot in the NCAA postseason.