Men's spring preview: Atlantic Sun
During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the 2014 spring season for each conference. Check out all of the previews here.
Today, we look at the Atlantic Sun Conference:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: Kennesaw State
• Player to watch: M.J. Maguire, North Florida. Maguire has stepped into the top spot in the Ospreys’ lineup that lost Sean Dale and Kevin Phelan to graduation – and he hasn’t disappointed.
• Freshman to watch: Teremoana Beaucousin, Kennesaw State. Showed promise with two top 10s in the fall.
• Conference championship: April 20-22, Chateau Elan (Legends), Braselton, Ga.
• Past champions (since 2009): North Florida (2012-13), Kennesaw State (2011), East Tennessee State (2010), Campbell (2009)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
- Kennesaw State (33): The Owls followed a 13th-place showing at the Carpet Capital Collegiate in their fall opener with victories at the Rees Jones Invitational and Pinetree Intercollegiate, and a third-place finish at the David Toms Intercollegiate. Junior Jimmy Beck notched four top 20s, two top 10s and a 72.5 scoring average to lead the team during the fall, and Golfweek’s 61st-ranked player figures to resume that role this spring for the early conference favorites.
- Mercer (39): A victory at the Brickyard Collegiate last fall was not only the biggest moment of the fall for the Bears, but also arguably the biggest moment in program history. Mercer finished in the top 6 in its other four fall events, too, thanks to an experience lineup that includes seniors Hans Reimers and James Beale, and junior Trey Rule, all of whom are ranked inside the top 236 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
- East Tennessee State (48): The Bucs won the Wolfpack Intercollegiate and notched three other top 10s during a challenging fall slate. Junior Rhys Pugh’s 71.6 scoring average, three top 5s and No. 138 position in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings led the team while sophomore Adrian Meronk completes a nice one-two punch for this squad.
- North Florida (79): The two-time defending champions lost Sean Dale and Kevin Phelan to graduation last year, and although M.J. Maguire, ranked 53rd by Golfweek, has continued to excel (72.52 scoring average, four top 25s), no one else has really stepped up for the Ospreys, whose best fall finish in four events was an eighth-place showing at the Osprey/Eagle Intercollegiate. UNF did play a tough schedule in the fall and will continue to play big events this spring, so they’ll definitely be battle tested by the time the conference championship rolls around.
- Florida Gulf Coast (89): The Eagles won the Cobra/Puma Invitational, but couldn’t notch another finish better than seventh in their other four fall events. Depth is a strength for FGCU, although there is no clear standout player. Sophomore Edward Figueroa and senior Matt Cote had the best fall seasons on the team, but juniors Blake Biggs and Jack Hernandez, sophomore Jake Sherwin and freshman Jordan Miller all competed in at least three tournaments in the fall.
- South Carolina Upstate (108): USC Upstate won twice during the fall, but also had the 198th-ranked schedule in the country. Sophomore Ryan Cornfield and senior Adam Goins combined for three top 5s while freshman Taylor White also had a sub-73 scoring average in the fall. The problem is there’s not much firepower beyond those three.
- Jacksonville (196): The Dolphins finished third and eighth in two of their four fall events. Jacksonville’s other two finishes: 13th and 14th. Brett McKinnon finished the fall as Golfweek’s 408th-ranked player.
- Lipscomb (197): Bison posted a victory and two other top 5s in its first four fall events, but a 15th-place finish at the Osprey/Eagle Intercollegiate concluded the fall on a down note.
- Stetson (230): The Hatters closed the fall with a runner-up finish at the Stetson/CFSC Invitational, but that was their lone top 5. Dustin Dingus led the team in scoring average and is clearly this squad’s top player.
- Northern Kentucky (245): Clayton Portz is Northern Kentucky’s only top 1,000 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings at No. 998.
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Lance Ringler weighs in on the conference title race
Mercer made headlines this past fall by knocking off a strong field at the Brickyard Collegiate and that will help them throughout the year in the confidence department. Three teams – Kennesaw State, Mercer and East Tennessee State - will be heading to Chateau Elan with thoughts of being the team to beat. Hard to pick a winner out of this trio at this point.