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Men's college golf: Spring conference previews

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Winter break is over, classes are back in session and it’s time for more college golf. Here is a breakdown of the spring season for the Power 5 conferences, and more, in men’s college golf:


ACC

Championship info: April 17-20, Old North State Club, New London, North Carolina

Recent champions: Georgia Tech (2019), Georgia Tech (2018), Duke (2017), Clemson (2016), Georgia Tech (2015), Georgia Tech (2014)

Team rankings: Georgia Tech (3), Duke (7), Notre Dame (8), Wake Forest (9), Louisville (15), North Carolina (16), Clemson (24), North Carolina State (56), Florida State (60), Virginia Tech (110), Virginia (115), Boston College (131)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Adrien Pendaries, Jr., Duke (2); Tyler Strafaci, Sr., Georgia Tech (17); Evan Katz, Jr., Duke (22); Luke Schniederjans, Sr., Georgia Tech (25); Mark Power, Fr., Wake Forest (29)

What to watch: Beginning this year, the ACC champion will be crowned using match play. After 54 holes of stroke play, the top four teams will advance to the match-play portion of the competition. … Even with the format change, Georgia Tech remains the favorite. The Yellow Jackets, who won their first two events of the fall, feature a deep lineup that includes three seniors – Luke Schniederjans and Tyler Strafaci, who combined for a win and two other top-10s in the fall, and reigning U.S. Am winner Andy Ogletree, who will miss just one event to play in the Masters this April. This team isn’t unbeatable, though, as it finished 10th at its home event, the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate, and freshman Andy Mao (plus-75 scoring average) has failed to grab hold of that fifth spot. … Duke won that tournament at the GC of Georgia, and while the Blue Devils got excellent falls out of juniors Pendaries and Katz, the best news entering the spring is senior Chandler Eaton, a two-time All-American, deciding to return for his final semester. Eaton had earned conditional Korn Ferry Tour status via Q-School in December. … No team in the country won more in the fall than Notre Dame, which collected four titles in five events. Freshman Palmer Jackson notched three top-10s and is among the candidates to win the Phil Mickelson Award. … Wake won and finished second twice in the fall as it again flexed a deep roster. Freshman Power and sophomore Alex Fitzpatrick each notched four top-10s, sophomore Eugenio Chacarra posted two top-5s and junior Parker Gillam shot an NCAA record-tying 60 and won the White Sands Intercollegiate to cap the fall. … Louisville keeps getting better with a predominantly international roster led by junior Matthias Schmid. … North Carolina had two top-40 players in the fall – Ryan Burnett and Ryan Gerard. … As far as dark horses are concerned, Florida State is likely better than its ranking suggests as it finished dead last at the Maui Jim without its star player, junior John Pak.

Pick to win: Georgia Tech


Austin Eckroat

Big 12

Championship info: April 27-29, Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Recent champions: Oklahoma State (2019), Oklahoma (2018), Texas (2017), Texas (2016), Texas (2015), Texas (2014)

Team rankings: Oklahoma (1), Texas Tech (2), Baylor (12), Texas (25), Kansas (37), West Virginia (48), Oklahoma State (54), TCU (73), Iowa State (84), Kansas State (148)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Sandy Scott, Sr., Texas Tech (5); Kyle Hogan, Sr., Texas Tech (8); Quade Cummins, Sr., Oklahoma (9); Garett Reband, Sr., Oklahoma (12); Cooper Dossey, Sr., Baylor (14)

What to watch: Entering the fall, Texas was the prohibitive favorite to win not only the Big 12 but also the NCAA title. But the Longhorns finished ninth in two of its three stroke-play events before capping the fall with a victory at the four-team East Lake Cup. There is still plenty of hope for the talented 25th-ranked Longhorns. Sophomores Cole Hammer and Pierceson Coody had good but not great falls and freshman sensation Travis Vick also has potential for a big spring, which is when Texas has thrived in recent years. … Texas Tech won each of its first three events of the fall, including the Big 12 Match Play, as juniors Kyle Hogan (two top-3s) and Andy Lopez (victory at Inverness) have stepped up alongside Haskins Award contender senior Sandy Scott (win at Carmel Cup). … Oklahoma, led by top-12 players in seniors Garett Reband and Quade Cummins, won twice and didn’t finish outside the top 3 in four stroke-play events in the fall, though it did tie for seventh at the Big 12 Match Play. … Baylor also won twice but were T-7 at the Big 12 Match Play. The Bears lost some key pieces from last season but senior Cooper Dossey had a stellar fall, winning at Olympia Fields and not finishing worse than T-16 in four starts. Plus, junior Ryan Grider is healthy after missing the entire fall following shoulder surgery. … Freshman Luke Kluver was a standout for Kansas in the fall, notching two top-6s and going 5-0 at the Big 12 Match Play. … Oklahoma State snapped an eight-year skid at Big 12s last spring before reaching the NCAA semifinals, but the Cowboys lost much of its lineup from last year, returning only junior Austin Eckroat, and didn’t crack the top 3 in any of its fall stroke-play events. The good news is there’s plenty of room for growth for this inexperienced team.

Pick to win: Texas


Nyfjall

Big Ten

Championship info: May 1-3, Rich Harvest Farms, Sugar Grove, Illinois

Recent champions: Illinois (2019), Illinois (2018), Illinois (2017), Illinois (2016), Illinois (2015), Minnesota (2014)

Team rankings: Northwestern (39), Illinois (50), Purdue (52), Minnesota (55), Ohio State (58), Michigan State (69), Rutgers (75), Penn State (78), Iowa (81), Michigan (87), Indiana (88), Maryland (104), Wisconsin (108), Nebraska (143)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Christopher Gotterup, Jr., Rutgers (28); Angus Flanagan, Jr., Minnesota (50); Peter Knade, Sr., Maryland (99); Joe Weiler, Jr., Purdue (128); David Nyfjall, Soph., Northwestern (135)

What to watch: Led by Nyfjall (two top-5s in fall), Northwestern finished the fall as the Big Ten’s top-ranked squad. … Surprisingly, Illinois does not have a player among Golfstat’s top five ranked players from the Big Ten. In fact, senior Michael Feagles, at No. 184, is the team’s highest-ranked player entering the spring. But the Illini have a ton of depth and could win another conference title if their Belgium standouts, Adrien Dumont de Chassart and Giovanni Tadiotto, rebound from posting 74-plus scoring averages in the fall. … Purdue notched a win at Erin Hills during a five-event fall. … Minnesota, the only team besides Illinois to win a Big Ten title since 2009, won Yale’s event in the fall and got three top-10s from Flanagan. … Michigan State had two top-5s in the fall, and in both events junior James Piot won medalist honors. … Rutgers’ Gotterup posted three top-5s in the fall, including a victory at the Fighting Irish Classic.

Pick to win: Northwestern


Eddy Lai

Pac-12

Championship info: April 27-29, Seattle (Wash.) Golf Club

Recent champions: Stanford (2019), USC (2018), Oregon (2017), Stanford (2016), Stanford (2015), Stanford (2014)

Team rankings: Arizona State (10), Arizona (11), Washington (17), UCLA (18), Oregon State (22), Stanford (27), California (34), USC (43), Utah (57), Colorado (85), Oregon (95), Washington State (215)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Carson Barry, Soph., Oregon State (11); Eddy Lai, Jr., UCLA (18); Yuxin Lin, Fr., USC (35); Cameron Sisk, Soph., Arizona State (37); David Laskin, Sr., Arizona (38)

What to watch: How good is NCAA host Arizona State? Consider who the Sun Devils left out of the lineup for their spring opener in California – senior Alex del Rey, who won twice in the fall; sophomore James Leow, who is coming off a winter victory in the SEA Games; and junior Mason Andersen, who capped the fall with a runner-up at Notre Dame’s event and a top-20 at Tavistock. Led by first-team All-American Chun An Yu and Sisk, the reigning Pac-12 freshman of the year who went win-third to start the fall, Arizona State figures to be even better in the spring as it added Spanish freshman David Puig, No. 17 in the WAGR, in January. … The Sun Devils in-state rivals are close behind, though. Arizona got three finishes of T-11 or better out of both Laskin and junior Trevor Werbylo in the fall. … Washington continues its upward trend thanks in part to three individual victories by junior Noah Woosley in the fall. … UCLA is another program on the rise as Lai won the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate and former U.S. Amateur runner-up Devon Bling began showing more consistency with a couple of top-20s. … Barry has been a great surprise for Oregon State, winning once and posting three other top-3 finishes in the fall. … A few familiar teams are in a bit of a rebuilding mode. USC had to replace the graduated Justin Suh, California no longer has four-year stud Collin Morikawa and defending national champion Stanford lost two four-year standouts in Brandon Wu and Isaiah Salinda. … The Trojans are down to seven players after the transfer of sophomore Charlie Reiter to San Diego, but the freshman Lin, who will try to play the Western right after his second Masters start (he earned a return trip to Augusta National by winning his second Asia-Pacific Amateur last year), is the real deal. … The Bears are without a clear No. 1, but junior Finigan Tilly, who redshirted last season, had a breakout fall with two top-10s, including a T-3 finish at Isleworth. … The Cardinal played just two stroke-play events in the fall and failed to crack the top 5 in both. Senior Henry Shimp and sophomore Daulet Tuleubayev each finished T-44 or worse in both of those starts, which has to change for Stanford to turn things around this spring.

Pick to win: Arizona State


Trent Phillips

SEC

Championship info: April 22-26, Sea Island Golf Club (Seaside), St. Simons Island, Ga.

Recent champions: Arkansas (2019), Auburn (2018), Vanderbilt (2017), Georgia (2016), LSU (2015), Alabama (2014)

Team rankings: Texas A&M (13), Georgia (19), Arkansas (20), Auburn (21), Vanderbilt (23), Tennessee (28), LSU (29), South Carolina (32), Ole Miss (35), Florida (42), Alabama (53), Mississippi State (80), Missouri (86), Kentucky (99)

Midseason All-Conference Team: John Augenstein, Sr., Vanderbilt (3); Davis Thompson, Jr., Georgia (16); Philip Barbaree, Sr., LSU (24); John Axelsen, Jr., Florida (27); Trent Phillips, Soph., Georgia (30)

What to watch: Texas A&M performed well in the fall after losing four-year stalwart Chandler Phillips to graduation. The Aggies didn’t win, but they played a tough schedule and finished third or better three times in four events behind top-56 players sophomore William Paysse and junior Walker Lee. … After a few down years, Georgia is officially back. The Bulldogs, twice winners in the fall, entered this season with arguably the best top 3 in the country, and of that trio only Spencer Ralston (No. 126 in Golfstat) didn’t finish the fall ranked inside the top 30. There is some concern at the bottom of the lineup, though. … Arkansas is the defending champion and brings back its same lineup from last season, led by sophomore Julian Perico. If senior Mason Overstreet (ranked No. 179 after the fall) can return to the form that he had last season, the Razorbacks could be the favorites to win again. … Auburn, the team that Arkansas beat last spring at Sea Island, is in a similar boat as one of its top players, former NCAA runner-up Brandon Mancheno, struggled in the fall, not notching a single top-15. On the other hand, senior Jovan Rebula was spectacular with three top-11s, including a win at Kiawah to cap the fall (Auburn won the event as a team). … Augenstein is a midseason favorite to win the Haskins Award, but Vanderbilt does have depth issues, as does LSU. … Tennessee has depth and posted a win and two other top-3s in the fall, but the Vols could still perform better in the bigger events. … Sophomore Jackson Suber, ranked 51st by Golfstat, could win multiple events this spring for Ole Miss. … Florida is strong at the top with Axelsen and freshman Ricky Castillo, but a struggling Chris Nido and the rest of the supporting class needs to get much better. … Alabama twice finished ninth or worse in three stroke-play events last fall, and while the Crimson Tide figured to get better in the spring with the arrival of highly-ranked prospect Canon Claycomb, they may be without Davis Shore for another extended period of time after the junior discovered a fracture in his back in October.

Pick to win: Georgia


Kuest

Other conferences

Top teams: BYU (4), Colorado State (5), Pepperdine (6), SMU (14)

Top players: Peter Kuest, Sr., BYU (1); Noah Goodwin, Jr., SMU (4); David Perkins, Sr., Illinois State (6); Jonathan Brightwell, Sr., UNCG (7); Jack Trent, Jr., UNLV (10)

What to watch: Kuest won three times in the fall after recording five victories during his junior season. He has 10 individual titles for his career and is the unquestioned leader for the Cougars, who shouldn't be ignored on the national stage any longer. ... Colorado State continues to get better under head coach Christian Newton, though admittedly, despite the Rams coming a shot shy of nationals last season, it was hard to see the Rams being this good at the beginning of the fall. They've proven many wrong, winning their final three tournaments of the fall, and are the real deal heading into the spring. ... Pepperdine was a preseason NCAA title favorite and the Waves are still one after the fall. Freshman William Mouw is the midseason favorite to win the Phil Mickelson Award as he led the team at No. 13 in Golfstat's rankings. However, Mouw didn't even make the lineup for the Waves' spring opener; that's how deep and talented they are. Senior Sahith Theegala, a year removed from a season-ending wrist injury, is back to being a top-25 player and Nevada transfer Joey Vrzich is starting to find his stride, winning the qualifier for the team's home event and spring starter.  ... SMU is coming off a season in which they qualified for match play at the NCAA Championship. Senior Mac Meissner remains a reliable force near the top of the lineup while sophomore Justin Thompson broke out with two top-3 finishes in the fall. But this team will go far if Goodwin continues to build on a stellar fall that saw the junior standout win and finish in the top 10 in each of his three starts.