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. Today, it’s No. 28 on the board with the Oklahoma men and Stanford women.
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2010-11 final ranking: 28
Coach: Ryan Hybl (third year)
Top returnees: Abraham Ancer
Top newcomers: Freshman Charlie Saxon of Tulsa, Okla., freshman Michael Gellerman of Sterling, Kan., freshman Austen Fuller of Edmond, Okla.
Projected starting 5: Abraham Ancer (Jr.), Riley Pumphrey (Sr.), Charlie Saxon (Fr.), Michael Gellerman (Fr.), Michael Schoolcraft (So.) or Eduardo Castiello (So.)
Key losses: Ryan Sirman
Key fall tournament: Mark Simpson Invitational
2010-11 recap: Oklahoma continued to make strides under the direction of Ryan Hybl. The Sooners returned to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2006 after finishing third at NCAA regionals, though they finished a disappointing 28th at nationals. “Last year was great after the way the program has gone the last few years,” Hybl said. “We were fortunate to get to nationals, but it was unfortunate the way we played there.”
During the regular season, the Sooners won once in the spring –at the Desert Shootout. Oklahoma had four other top-5 finishes, and continued to improve throughout the regular season.
Player to watch: Abraham Ancer. Said Hybl: “He’s a great ballstriker. He’s a little guy but hits it far and hits the long irons as good as I have ever seen. If he could just work on his short game more, then he could be really tough to beat down the road.”
2011-2012 preview: For the first time since the Anthony Kim era, there is excitement leading up to the season in Norman, Okla. The Sooners have reemerged as a top-tier team, thanks to Hybl. “I’m excited about the upcoming season,” Hybl said. “I am ready to see who on the roster is ready to step up and be a part of our lineup.”
One thing is a definite: Ancer, a junior, will be the one leading the way. Last season, Ancer finished at No. 75 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and won two tournaments – the Desert Shootout and NCAA regionals. “I call him the eraser,” Hybl said. “He gets rid of bad scores from the day.”
Entering the season, Hybl is hoping that two returners from last year’s squad – one is likely to be senior Riley Pumphrey – will step up and cement themselves in the starting lineup. Hybl envisions two freshmen in the starting five as well.
One freshmen whom Hybl is anxious to see develop over four years is Michael Gellerman. “He reminds me a lot of Russell Henley,” Hybl said. “He’s a a competitor that is fiery and knows what it takes to be an athlete.” Hybl, a former player and assistant at Georgia, helped recruit Henley to Athens. If Gellerman can emerge as a hidden gem, the Sooners could have plenty of success.
Bottom line: There is no doubt Hybl has this program headed in the right direction. However, they may have to take a slight step backward this season to lay a solid foundation for the years to come. Ancer can only do so much, and Hybl isn’t quite sure which of his teammates he can rely on to start the season. If Hybl can find a capable starting five and stick with it – even if that means two or three freshmen – then the Sooners could be surprisingly strong. As of now, however, there are too many uncertainties in the lineup to guarantee a return trip to nationals.
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2010-11 final ranking: 28
Coach: Caroline O’Connor (17th year)
Top returnees: Kristina Wong, Sally Watson
Top newcomers: Freshman Mariko Tumangan of San Jose, Calif.
Projected starting 5: Kristina Wong (Jr.), Sally Watson (Jr.), Marissa Mar (So.), Mariko Tumangan (Fr.), Sydney Burlison (Sr.)
Key losses: Rebecca Durham
Key fall tournament: Pac-12/SEC Challenge
2010-11 recap: When the fall season started, it appeared the Cardinal could be in for a long year after a 17th-place finish at The Fall Preview and a 15th place at the Mason Rudolph Championship. However, when October rolled around, Stanford was a completely different team. “From October to April, I thought we were outstanding,” said coach Caroline O’Connor of the Cardinal’s run of seven consecutive top-6 finishes, including a runner-up at the Peg Barnard Invitational. “We never lost to teams ranked outside the top 21 during that time.”
The Cardinal finished seventh to advance out of NCAA regionals, but at the NCAA Championship, Stanford reverted to its early-season form, coming in a disappointing 23rd out of 24 teams at the NCAA Championship.
Player to watch: Kristina Wong. Said O’Connor: “I think she’ll come back and continue her great play. She is super consistent and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. She has one of the most amazing short games out there. She can afford to struggle with ballstriking because she can get up-and-down from anywhere.”
2011-2012 preview: There hasn’t been much buzz about women’s golf on The Farm the past few years, but that is expected to change this year. “We are going to have a really good team this year,” O’Connor said. “The national championship left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, and that will serve as a catalyst for us to come back better this year.”
Leading the way for the Cardinal will be juniors Kristina Wong and Sally Watson, who finished last season at No. 46 and No. 69, respectively, in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. It’s the rest of the Stanford lineup that has questions. Sophomore Marissa Mar is a player who could take a big step forward, and that wouldn’t surprise her coach one bit. “She was a pure walk-on and ended up playing as our No. 3,” O’Connor said. “Her first tournament, she finished 21st, and I knew that her raw talent would continue to impress as the year went on.”
The biggest surprise could be incoming freshman Mariko Tumangan, a San Jose native who rarely played junior tournaments outside of California, unless they were U.S. Golf Association events. O’Connor said Tumangan is a strong, powerful ballstriker who should be a difference maker. If Tumangan can make a smooth transition to college golf, then O’Connor thinks she has the makings of a top-10 team.
Bottom line: This team needs to show its ability to win. With a strong nucleus and above average supporting cast, Stanford needs to notch some victories before it can be considered a top-10 team. However, this is a young and talented Cardinal team headed in the right direction. For Stanford to be a national contender, they will need better scores from the back end of their starting five. Wong and Watson are solid players, but neither is dominant enough to be a player of the year candidate. Stanford will be much better, but is at least another year away from being a top-10 team. But don’t expect another 23rd-place finish at nationals either.