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Wildman's Corner: 5 teams to watch this spring

Spring is the time when a college golf team can truly make a name for itself with a strong postseason push. Here are five men’s teams to watch this spring as they make their cases for postseason berths.

1. Louisiana-Lafayette

Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 50

Overall record: 50-12-2 (3-7-2 vs. the top 50)

Best finish so far: Second, Kansas Invitational

What to watch: So far this year, the Ragin’ Cajuns have failed to finish in the top 5 of only one tournament this season. Coach Theo Sliman’s squad finished ninth at this week’s Mobile Bay Intercollegiate, but it continued to get strong play from senior leader Andrew Noto, who tied for 19th. The senior has done all he can for his team, but if the Ragin’ Cajuns want to be a factor in the postseason, the bottom half of the starting five will have to step up. Fellow senior Phillipp Fendt has played well too, but the inconsistency at the bottom of the lineup could haunt the team later. Louisiana-Lafayette should push MTSU and UNT at this year’s Sun Belt Conference Championship. As long as this team can rebound from this week’s finish, they should be ...

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Wildman: Watts leads West Point to success

Army golf coach Brian Watts will tell you it’s hard to explain to someone what it’s like to be a cadet at West Point. The daily campus-wide schedule, organization, security and routine was just something he wasn’t used to while coaching at Oregon State. Now, in his second year, Watts is starting to fit in and become more comfortable on the Army campus.

Coach Watts lives on campus with all of the school’s other coaches, generals, majors, captains and other high-ranking military officials. It was before he became a full-time resident though, that he witnessed an event he still remembers like it was yesterday.

“It was R (reception) Day on campus,” Watts started to describe. “It’s the day parents drop their students off at West Point, get in line for a reception that lasts five minutes, and at the end of the reception in an auditorium are told they have five minutes to say goodbye to their children.” From there students exit the stage, get their first military-issued haircut, go over training, receive their gear, and at the end of the day enter a field in front of the barracks to take part in a ...

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Wildman's Corner: N. Kentucky to join A-Sun in fall

In fall 2012, the Atlantic Sun Conference will add an 11th team to the conference.

Northern Kentucky is making the move from NCAA Division II to Division I in all sports to be a member of the A-Sun. The move may have an instant impact not just on the men's side of things, but the women's as well.

For 14 consecutive years, the Northern Kentucky men have advanced to NCAA Division II regionals. It's an accomplishment that coach Daryl Landrum feels will be difficult to repeat instantly at the Division I level.

"The A-Sun is a really good and tough conference, top to bottom," Landrum said. "The toughest part at first for us will be playing a lot more on courses in the South with Bermuda greens – something my guys aren't used to."

In the fall, the Norse started their season with three consecutive victories. The most impressive was at the Wasioto Winds Fall Kick-Off Invitational, hosted by Morehead State – a Division I school.

"It was a nice win, but we have had some wins in D-I fields before," Landrum said. "As a member of the A-Sun, I expect us to be in a lot more ...

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Wildman's Corner: Visiting with FSU's Koepka

During his freshman year, Brooks Koepka held down the top spot of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings for most of the fall. Since then, Brooks has had his ups and downs. To close out this fall, the Florida State senior is ranked fifth and won his first collegiate event at the Brickyard. Today, we catch up with the senior to talk about his last three-plus years at FSU.

• • •

Q. How did you feel your fall went?

I think it went well. The team played well at the Brickyard and at Olympia Fields. At the U.S. Collegiate, we didn't play too well there, but it gave us things to work on. Things right now for me personally came down to putting in the hard work. When I made the commitment to putting in the extra hours and hard work, the results started to show.

• • •

Q. Is there anything you are doing differently now that you didn't do the past two years with your game, any swing changes?

I went through a swing change last year and really struggled with it. At the end of last year, I went back to my teacher, Kevin Smeltz in Orlando, to go back ...

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Wildman's Corner: Xavier looks to dethrone Charlotte

It has been a while since a school other than Charlotte has won the Atlantic 10 Conference men's championship.

Since 2006, only the 49ers have hoisted the conference hardware. This spring, Charlotte will be going for its seventh consecutive conference crown. The last team to win the championship trophy - and NCAA automatic qualifying bid - was Xavier.

"It does seem like a long time ago now," Xavier coach Doug Steiner. "We've battled and are often close with them, but those guys are really good."

In 2005, Xavier won the conference championship in Rhode Island after only 27 holes of competition. Brutal weather circumstances cut the tournament short and Xavier won the shortened tournament by 26 shots over the host Rams.

Charlotte hadn't joined the conference in 2005, moving into the conference following the 2005-2006 season.

"There was a time when the conference was cyclical." "Steiner said. "Before Charlotte came to the conference, it was us (Xavier), Richmond and Rhode Island battling."

Leading Xavier in 2005 were senior Neil Grusczynski and sophomore Jason Kokrak (who will be on the PGA Tour this year). The teammates shot 2-under 106 in the shortened A-10 championship.

The 2005 championship was also the ...

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Thumbs up: Oregon women | Thumbs down: Spirit

Thumbs up

1.) Arkansas women’s coach Shauna Estes-Taylor. The Razorbacks have had a disappointing fall season and are ranked 45th after a preseason No. 14 ranking. Rather than drop out of the Betsy Rawls Longhorn this week, Estes-Taylor did the admirable thing and kept her commitment even though it means playing without No. 1 player Emily Tubert, who will represent the U.S. at the Spirit International this week. Arkansas may not get the end result it wanted, but it was nice to see a team give the effort despite being down a key player.

2.) Oregon women. The 15th-ranked Ducks completed a solid fall season with freshman Cassy Isagawa in the lead. The Ducks have a very competitive spring schedule. In the team’s first three fall tournaments, the Ducks posted three consecutive top-5 finishes. Oregon’s best showing of the fall was a runner-up at the Edean Ihlanfeldt. To close out the fall, however, the Ducks finished 12th at the Pac-12/SEC Challenge. Not much was expected from the Ducks at the beginning of the season, but they have far exceeded predictions. Could Oregon have repeat success in the spring and be the surprise team of the ...

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Events to watch: Isleworth | U.S. Collegiate

Isleworth Collegiate Invitational

Dates: Oct. 23-25

Course: Isleworth Country Club, Windermere, Fla.

2010 team Champion: Alabama

2010 medalist: Bank Vongvanij, Florida

The field: Alabama, Augusta State, California, Florida, Indiana, LSU, North Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, UCF and Vanderbilt

The scoop: Fifteen of the top programs in the country will tee off Sunday morning in one of the most elite fields in college golf. Texas enters the tournament off two impressive wins at the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate and Jack Nicklaus, where the team won by a combined 36 strokes. California also will enter the tournament this week with a lot of confidence after a tie for first with Oregon at their own Alister MacKenzie Invitational. The two Pac-12 schools each shot 41-under 811 to share first place. One team on which to keep a close eye is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have played their last two tournaments without Peter Uihlein, and their last time out finished 10th at the Jack Nicklaus. Defending tournament champion Alabama will be looking for its first victory of the year, and coach Jay Seawell will be relying on Hunter Hamrick, Cory Whitsett and Bobby Watt to help the team ...

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Thumbs up: Oregon | Thumbs down: Colorado

Thumbs Up

1.) Oregon (men). Raise your hand if you thought Oregon would be undefeated after three events this year. I don’t even know if head coach Casey Martin thought his team would win three events this fall, but that’s what the Ducks have done, most recently tying California for the top spot at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational. Oregon won the St. Mary’s Invitational to start the year, then followed with The Prestige. One of the biggest reasons for the Ducks’ success is the resurgence of 2009-10 Jack Nicklaus award winner Eugene Wong. After a disappointing junior season, Wong is taking advantage of every opportunity he’s getting his senior year. At the team’s first tournament at St. Mary’s, Wong earned a top 10, followed by a runner-up at The Prestige and Tuesday won the MacKenzie Invitational. In terms of the Pac-12, all eyes were seemingly on UCLA, Stanford and USC to start the year, but Oregon is establishing itself as the team to beat.

2.) Big 12 women’s golf. Last year I was hard on the ladies of the Big 12, but this year they are getting two giant thumbs up! At the ...

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Wildman: Five surprise women’s teams this fall

Oklahoma State

2010-11 ranking: 44

Current Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 6

Team titles: Dale McNamara Invitational and Windy City Invitational

The reason: Could it all be because of Alan Bratton? Tough to say, but it’s impressive to note that Oklahoma State had one win and two other top-5 finishes all of last year. This year, the Cowgirls have two wins and haven’t finished outside the top 5. Two transfers also have played a key role in the team’s success. Junior Kelsey Vines, a transfer from BYU, and sophomore Amy Ruengmateekhun, formerly of SMU, have established themselves as Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in the starting five and have turned in solid rounds in all events in which they have played. After playing in the lineup as a freshman last year, Jayde Panos has upped her play even more to become a top-25 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. Last year, the Cowgirls were 0-53 against the top 25 teams in the country. This year, they already are 10-4-0 to start the year.

• • •

Washington

2010-11 ranking: 40

Current Golfweek/Sagarin ranking: 12

Team titles: Cougar Cup

The reason: Washington hasn’t finished worse than third in three tournaments this ...

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Wildman's Corner: Top 5 surprise teams

Take a look at the top five surprise teams of the fall:

1.) Oregon

2010-11 ranking: 22

Current Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: 2

Team titles: St. Mary's Invitational and The Prestige

Current head-to-head record: 29-0

The reason: By Oregon’s standards, last season was a disappointing one. Still, the Ducks look like a new team this year despite a nearly identical roster. After a great freshman year three years ago, Eugene Wong has had his ups and downs but looks to be back to top form for the Ducks. Daniel Miernicki is still the top player for the second-ranked team in the country. Freshman Rak Cho has played superbly and is 39th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. Senior Andrew Vijarro also has been a key contributor for a team that seems to be overlooked in a highly competitive Pac-12. Last year, the Ducks won only one tournament, and so far this year the team has won twice, likely with more on the way. Junior Robbie Ziegler has struggled to start the year but has proved to be a reliable player for coach Casey Martin. Oregon is one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12, and that maturity is coming ...

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Events to watch: Lone Star | Maxwell Berning

Two good college tournaments are on the schedule for the weekend, so let’s break them down.

Lone Star Invite at Briggs Ranch

Dates: Oct. 16-17

Course: Briggs Ranch Golf Course, San Antonio, Texas

2010 team champion: Texas-Arlington

2010 medalist: Carlos Ortiz, North Texas

Field: Arizona, Baylor, Houston, New Mexico, North Texas, Rice, Sam Houston State, Southern Mississippi, Stephen F. Austin State, Texas A & M, Texas El Paso, Texas State, Texas-Arlington, Texas-San Antonio, Weber State

The scoop: This will be a Texas-size shoot-out for bragging rights in the Lone Star State – literally. Eleven of the 15 teams in the field are from the state of Texas, and this event could potentially go a long way in several recruiting battles. Of all the teams in the field, the favorite might be the Baylor Bears. To start the year, the Bears won the Turning Stone Tiger Intercollegiate, and followed that with back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Wolverine Intercollegiate and Rod Myers Invitational. Texas A&M will be teeing it up for the first time this year, and coach J.T. Higgins will get a good look at a roster with three new starters in it after Nacho Elvira, John Hurley and Conrad ...

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Thumbs up: Oregon | Thumbs down: OK State

Thumbs Up

Oregon: Is the Quack Attack for real? After starting the year with a victory at the St. Mary’s Invitational, the Ducks won again over an impressive field at the The Prestige at PGA West. For Oregon to be successful this year, it needed Eugene Wong to get back to the way he played as a freshman. In 2008, Wong was an All-Pac-10 honorable-mention pick and led the team that year with seven top-25 finishes. With a runner-up performance at The Prestige, Wong guided the Ducks to a victory, by two shots over Washington. Fellow seniors Daniel Miernicki and Andrew Vijarro also had strong performances, tying for fifth. With so much attention going to conference rivals Stanford, Washington, USC and UCLA, the Ducks picked up head-to-head wins over Stanford, Washington and USC in this one. The Ducks will now try to make it three in a row at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational next week.

Texas: Like Oregon, the Longhorns won for the second straight week, and once again it was in dominating fashion. Texas was the only team to shoot under par in the Jack Nicklaus Invitational at Muirfield Village, posting a three-round total of 2-under 862. Four ...

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Wildman Q&A: Ga. Tech coach Bruce Heppler

Last year, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were talented enough to compete for a national championship. Tech, with three seniors, fell to Augusta State in the opening round of match play at the NCAA Championship. Bruce Heppler has reloaded and still has a buzz about his team. Could this be the year for the Yellow Jackets? I spoke with Heppler about his team’s chances:

Question: The team has had some ups and downs to start the year. However, the young squad recently won at the Brickyard after finishing eighth in Iowa at the Golfweek Conference Challenge. What are your thoughts on where the team is now?

Answer: In college golf, you have to start over every year because it doesn’t matter anymore what you did the year before. To start the year, all the guys on the team wonder what they are capable of, but until you go out and do it, it’s just an unknown. When you win your first tournament, it shows what we can do, especially with the amount of turnover we had from a year ago. It’s a big deal to get your first win, and everyone played well for us, which ...

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Wildman’s Corner: Breaking down the ACC

We’ve focused a lot on the Pac-12 and West Coast teams, so let’s turn toward my side of the country. Today, I’m breaking down and ranking the teams from the ACC:

Men:

1. Georgia Tech: Despite a slow start to the year, the Yellow Jackets picked up their first win over the weekend against a good Brickyard field. Talent-wise, they are the best 1-5 in the lineup.

2. Virginia: Too many people forget about the Cavs on a weekly basis. They started the year with a win at the VCU Shootout and have a freshman who could be the Freshman of the Year in Denny McCarthy.

3. Clemson: Despite winning the Jerry Pate, Corbin Mills still can’t get much pub for the Tigers. Clemson had a disappointing season last year, but the Tigers are far too talented not to be contenders in the conference this year. If Coach Larry Penley can find Nos. 4 and 5 men, this team could be dangerous in the postseason.

4. Duke: Rough 13th-place finish to start the year at Olympia Fields, but the Blue Devils bounced back with a win at their home event. Good teams know how to pick ...

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Wildman's Corner: Our first video blog

Looking for Wildman's Corner today? Then look no further than my new Friday video blog, where I will take on the unpopular, make you laugh, make you cry, make you think more about college golf ...

This will be fun and I encourage you to share my video with your friends. Use it to make fun of me, use it to learn, use it for whatever you like ...

Here is our first video, where I talk a little bit about my feelings on "co-champions." Ugh.

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