During the month of January, Golfweek will preview the spring season for each conference. Check out all of the previews here.
Today, we look at the Colonial Athletic Association:
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5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
• Top of the class: UNC-Wilmington
• Player to watch: Payne McLeod, UNC-Wilmington. McLeod is the top golfer on the conference’s top team. Oh, and he’s the defending CAA individual champ.
• Freshman to watch: Juan Veloza, Towson. The rookie posted a team-leading 73.2 scoring average in six fall events. He’s also shown he can tear up a golf course, shooting a 65 at the Navy Fall Classic.
• Conference championship: April 26-28, St. James Plantation, Southport N.C.
• Past champions (since 2009): UNC-Wilmington (2011-13), Towson (2010), VCU (2009)
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(Golfweek/Sagarin rank in parentheses)
- UNC-Wilmington (64): The Seahawks only found the top 5 in two of their tournaments this fall, but did it against the toughest schedule in the CAA. UNC-Wilmington’s individual statistics show that it’s still the class of the conference. Three golfers posted a sub-74 scoring average in the fall, and the team totaled 19 individual rounds of par or better in only four tournaments. The Seahawks also return Payne McLeod, the reigning CAA individual champ.
- Towson (114): After finishing second-to-last at the CAA Championship, Towson came back with a vengeance in the fall. The team placed in the top 3 at five of its six tournaments. The Tigers came out of the gates in the fall with wins at the Navy Fall Classic and the Cornell Invitational. Towson has eight underclassmen on roster, with freshman Juan Veloza pacing the team with a 73.2 scoring average. But Veloza is supported by the team’s three upperclassmen, who took the next three spots on the team in terms of scoring average. The mix of young talent and consistent veterans could help Towson make a run at a CAA title.
- College of Charleston (131): College of Charleston featured consistency in its lineup this fall – less than two strokes separated the scoring average of its first- and seventh-ranked players – but few breakout performances. The highest individual finish for a cougar this fall was T-5. The Cougars could have a bright future, however, with their three top golfers in terms of scoring average this fall being underclassmen. College of Charleston is playing its first season in the CAA.
- James Madison (143): The highlight of the fall season for James Madison came at the Joe Agee Invitational, where the team took first. Four Dukes placed in the top seven at the tournament as they beat out a couple of conference opponents for the win. Three Dukes posted scoring averages less than 72 in the fall – Ryan Cole, Jon Weiss and Trey Smith.
- William and Mary (140): William and Mary returns three of its four leaders in terms of scoring average from a year ago – a season in which it finished third at the CAA Championship. Junior Alex Hicks took medalist honors this fall at the Joe Agee Invitational, picking up an ace en route to the win.
- Hofstra (260): Hofstra was busy in the fall, nabbing four top-5 finishes in eight tournaments. Brandon Shin stood out, owning a 72.75 scoring average and four rounds of par or better. Five different players earned a top-5 finish in the fall for the veteran team (six of seven players on roster are upperclassmen).
- Delaware (262): Delaware, a team with only one senior on roster, posted one top-5 finish in the fall. No Blue Hens finished the fall with a sub-74 scoring average and only one posted a top-10 individual finish.
- Drexel (273): Drexel’s shining moment of the fall came at the Cornell invitational, where sophomore Christopher Crawford earned medalist honors and led the Dragons to a runner-up finish. Crawford beat out the next-best individual by six strokes. Drexel, however, finished the remainder of its fall tournaments near the bottom of the pack.
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Lance Ringler weighs in on the conference title race
Towson had a good fall season compiling a 45-15 overall head-to-head won-loss-tie record in six events and will try to challenge UNCW. However, Towson will have to beat four time Colonial champs to find a spot in the postsesaon.