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Men's college golf: 2022 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 top mid-majors in men’s college golf:


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ACC

Championship info: April 22-25, Shark's Tooth Golf Course at Watersound Club, Panama City, Florida

Recent champions: Clemson (2021), Georgia Tech (2019), Georgia Tech (2018), Duke (2017), Clemson (2016), Georgia Tech (2015), Georgia Tech (2014)

Team rankings: North Carolina (2), Wake Forest (14), Notre Dame (17), Georgia Tech (20), Clemson (27), North Carolina State (32), Louisville (35), Virginia (36), Duke (41), Florida State (57), Virginia Tech (65), Boston College (170)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Palmer Jackson, Jr., Notre Dame (Jr.); Ryan Gerard, Sr., North Carolina (8); Austin Greaser, Jr., North Carolina (11); Maximilian Steinlechner, Jr., North Carolina State (25); Jiri Zuska, Jr., Louisville (26)

What to watch: The baton has been passed, as North Carolina is poised to win its first ACC title since sharing the conference crown with Georgia Tech in 2006. The Tar Heels won three of four events in the fall, including a three-shot win over Arizona State at the prestigious Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational. Senior Ryan Gerard and junior Austin Greaser enter the spring on the Haskins Award watch list, and freshman David Ford (47) and sophomore Peter Fountain (49) are also top-50 players at the midseason point. They’ll be tough to beat in match play, which makes them not only the ACC favorite but one of the national favorites, as well. … After a 10th-place finish at Maridoe to kick off the fall, Wake Forest found its groove, even winning its home event, the Old Town Club Collegiate. Senior Alex Fitzpatrick has been a force, but junior Mark Power and senior Parker Gillam combined for zero top-25s in six starts; that can’t happen if the Demon Deacons want to contend in the postseason (on a positive note, Gillam won the Orlando International Amateur this winter). … Notre Dame capped its fall in a big way, winning the Stephens Cup in dominating fashion: a 20-shot victory over Arkansas in stroke play followed by a 4-1 win over the Razorbacks in the match-play final. Junior Palmer Jackson has arrived as a player-of-the-year contender, and if senior Davis Chatfield (159) shakes off a disappointing fall, the Irish could make some noise. … While a third ACC title in four tries may be wishful thinking, Georgia Tech shouldn’t be counted out. The Yellow Jackets won twice in the fall and boast a solid top four led by towering sophomore Christo Lamprecht (49). Connor Howe also is coming off a nice break as he won the Orlando International Amateur. … Year 1 after Larry Penley has been a little rocky, but the Tigers have the experience (top four players are seniors) to find a way this spring. … N.C. State and Louisville remain competitive this season despite losing their star players (Ben Shipp and Matthias Schmid, respectively). The Wolfpack won twice in the fall as Max Steinlechner posted three top-10s. Jiri Zuska led the Cardinals with four finishes of T-12 or better. … Florida State suffered the biggest drop-off from last spring to the fall, but it was always going to be difficult to replace John Pak and Vincent Norrman. Sophomore Brett Roberts needs to step up his game if the Seminoles are to advance back to the NCAA Championship.

Pick to win: North Carolina


Hunt
Illinois Athletics

Big Ten

Championship info: April 29-May 1, French Lick Resort (Pete Dye), French Lick, Indiana

Recent champions: Illinois (2021), Illinois (2019), Illinois (2018), Illinois (2017), Illinois (2016), Illinois (2015), Minnesota (2014)

Team rankings: Illinois (16), Purdue (22), Northwestern (28), Michigan State (31), Indiana (33), Ohio State (38), Penn State (78), Wisconsin (87), Iowa (91), Michigan (98), Rutgers (102), Nebraska (103), Minnesota (151), Maryland (173)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Adrian Dumont de Chassart, Sr., Illinois (15); Joe Weiler, Sr., Purdue (33); Herman Wibe Sekne, Soph., Purdue (42); Maxwell Moldovan, Soph., Ohio State (44); Patrick Sheehan, Jr., Penn State (59)

What to watch: If an 11th-place finish at Olympia Fields showed that the Illini have some work to do to be considered as an NCAA match-play contender again, a runner-up finish at Isleworth to close the fall showed that this new-look team is improving. Coach Mike Small has seemed to have found his top four, which includes breakout sophomore Piercen Hunt, who medaled at Isleworth. Even if the fifth spot remains a question later this spring, Illinois likely still has enough to nab yet another Big Ten title. … Illinois’ biggest challenger is Purdue, which clipped them by one place at Olympia Fields and boasts a nice leading trio of sophomore Herman Sekne, senior Joe Weiler and senior Cole Bradley, who have combined for 20 top-10s in their careers. … Senior David Nyfjall and senior Varun Chopra, an Illinois transfer, led Northwestern in the fall with six combined finishes of T-14 or better. … Michigan State played a whopping six events in the fall and notched a win and two other top-3s. U.S. Amateur champion James Piot (96) posted just one top-10 finish, though, so, either he must step up or his supporting cast needs to contribute more for the Spartans to have a shot in the Big Ten. … Indiana and Ohio State boast two of the top individuals in the conference in Clay Merchent (Indiana) and Maxwell Moldovan (Ohio State). However, while Moldovan (44) is a top-50 player entering the spring, Merchent finished the fall fifth on his team in scoring average.

Pick to win: Illinois


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Big 12

Championship info: April 25-27, Whispering Pines Golf Club, Trinity, Texas

Recent champions: Oklahoma State (2021), Oklahoma State (2019), Oklahoma (2018), Texas (2017), Texas (2016), Texas (2015), Texas (2014)

Team rankings: Oklahoma (1), Oklahoma State (4), Texas (8), Texas Tech (11), Kansas (15), TCU (42), Baylor (45), West Virginia (73), Kansas State (79), Iowa State (112)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Chris Gotterup, Sr., Oklahoma (7); Brian Stark, Jr., Oklahoma State (16); Logan McAllister, Sr., Oklahoma (20); Baard Skogen, Soph., Texas Tech (30); Luke Kluver, Soph., Kansas (31)

What to watch: Oklahoma lost three All-Americans from last year’s national runner-up squad, but the addition of grad transfer Chris Gotterup has helped the Sooners remain an NCAA-title favorite. Gotterup posted a win and two other top-3s in his first semester in Norman while the Sooners, as a team, had two wins and two seconds last fall. This squad is gritty, and if senior Patrick Welch decides to snap out of his funk this spring, the Sooners could sweep the postseason. … No team has more top-250 players in Golfstat than Oklahoma State, which boasts eight, led by junior Brian Stark and senior Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra (51). While the Cowboys only won once in five tries this fall, they also didn’t finish worse than fourth, and there is some expectation for improvement as sophomore Bo Jin (not one of those eight top-250 players) continues to work his way back from the driver yips. … Texas took a big hit this winter break as both Coody twins, Pierceson and Parker, broke their right arms. The feeling is that they each miss two to three starts, though it will certainly take even more time for them to shake off any rust. The good news for the Longhorns is the spring season in long and senior Cole Hammer and juniors Travis Vick and Mason Nome are there to pick up the slack in the meantime. … Texas Tech didn’t finish better than fourth in a stroke-play event last fall and junior Ludvig Aberg had two finishes outside the top 25. This while senior Sandy Scott remains a question mark with his injured left wrist, which has kept him out of action for over a year. However, the positive is that the Red Raiders have a lot left in the tank. … Kansas won four times in the fall and sophomore Luke Kluver posted a win and three other top-10s, so if anyone is going to challenge the normal Big 5 in this conference, it’s Kansas this year. … TCU got hit hard by the transfer of Mateo Fernandez de Olveira to Arkansas, and the Horned Frogs didn’t notch a top-5 finish in any stroke-play event in the fall. … Johnny Keefer starred at Maridoe with a top-5 finish, but since then he and the rest of the Baylor squad have done little in what is arguably a rebuilding year.

Pick to win: Oklahoma State


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Pac-12

Championship info: April 25-27, Aldarra Golf Club, Sammamish, Washington

Recent champions: Arizona (2021), Stanford (2019), USC (2018), Oregon (2017), Stanford (2016), Stanford (2015), Stanford (2014)

Team rankings: Arizona State (3), Stanford (7), Washington (21), Arizona (37), Oregon (40), Utah (47), Oregon State (54), UCLA (66), Colorado (81), Washington State (90), California (106), USC (111)

Midseason All-Conference Team: R.J. Manke, Sr., Washington (1); Cameron Sisk, Sr., Arizona State (5); David Puig, Jr., Arizona State (18); Karl Vilips, Soph., Stanford (29); Michael Thorbjornsen, Soph., Stanford (52)

What to watch: The fall was a steady improvement for Arizona State, an unquestioned NCAA-title contender that went third-third-win in its stroke-play starts. Senior Cameron Sisk and junior David Puig combined for five top-5s, including Sisk’s win at Maridoe, while freshman Preston Summerhays capped his first semester with a co-medal at East Lake. Shockingly, though, the Sun Devils haven’t won the Pac-12 since 2008. … Stanford’s talented freshmen Michael Thorbjornsen and Karl Vilips underwhelmed last season, but they’ve taken steps forward as sophomores with four combined top-10s. If senior Henry Shimp and junior Barclay Brown are firing on all cylinders come April, the Cardinal could challenge for the Pac-12 – and maybe more. … Pepperdine transfer R.J. Manke finished the fall with two wins and three other top-5s while being ranked as Golfstat’s top-ranked player for Washington. The Huskies boast a solid top five and won three team titles in the fall, though they did only play the 50th-ranked schedule in the fall according to Golfweek. … Arizona is rebuilding after losing several players, including Trevor Werbylo, so an inconsistent fall was expected. But a runner-up at Blessings shows this team has some potential. … Oregon edged Stanford by two shots to cap the fall at the St. Mary’s Invitational, but the Ducks, along with past Pac-12 powers UCLA, Cal and USC will likely have trouble contending against some of the conference’s better teams as the spring wears on.

Pick to win: Arizona State


Perico
Arkansas Athletics

SEC

Championship info: April 19-24, Sea Island Golf Club, St. Simons Island, Georgia

Recent champions: Vanderbilt (2021), Arkansas (2019), Auburn (2018), Vanderbilt (2017), Georgia (2016), LSU (2015), Alabama (2014)

Team rankings: Arkansas (5), Texas A&M (9), Ole Miss (10), Tennessee (12), Georgia (13), Auburn (18), Vanderbilt (19), LSU (23), Alabama (34), Florida (39), Missouri (43), South Carolina (53), Mississippi State (60), Kentucky (67)

Midseason All-Conference Team: J.M. Butler, Soph., Auburn (2); Jackson Suber, Sr., Ole Miss (3); Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, Jr., Arkansas (4); Sam Bennett, Sr., Texas A&M (10); Tyler Johnson, Sr., Tennessee (13)

What to watch: Arkansas has become Transfer U with the additions of Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira and Luke Long this season. Fernandez de Oliveira has quickly become this team’s stud with a win and two other top-5s while Long won the Blessings individual title. If Segundo Oliva Pinto and Julian Perico play the type of golf they know how to play, this team is deep and dangerous, especially with Manuel Lozada returning from a broken ankle and Enrique Dimayuga now eligible after transferring from FAU. Match play is the Razorbacks’ specialty, too, with wins at last fall’s SEC Match Play and the 2019 SEC Championship, and a runner-up at last year’s SEC Championship. … There’s arguably no team that gets the most out of its roster than Texas A&M, which capped the fall with an impressive runner-up at the Golf Club of Georgia and boasts two stud seniors in Sam Bennett and Walker Lee. … Ole Miss has likely been inspired by the women’s team’s NCAA title last season, as the Rebels and senior Jackson Suber both finished the fall ranked inside the top 10 of Golfstat. … Tennessee only played two stroke-play events in the fall and didn’t crack the top 3, but the Vols remain very much an SEC and national contender entering the spring behind Tyler Johnson and Spencer Cross (21), who were top-25 players in the fall. At the same time, if Hunter Wolcott and Bryce Lewis don’t rebound, Tennessee is in trouble. … There’s no question that senior Trent Phillips is one of the best players in the country, but Georgia needs someone else – maybe freshman Maxwell Ford? – to step up if the Bulldogs are to contend come April. … J.M. Butler, with a win and another top-5 finish, broke out last fall for Auburn, though the Tigers are likely too inexperienced to win an SEC title this year. … Vanderbilt had a disappointing fall with no wins and other than freshman Gordon Sargent (90), arguably every other player on the roster underachieved, especially returning All-American William Moll, who was sixth on the team in scoring average (73.7). … LSU, Alabama and Florida are all in the conversation for that potential eighth match-play berth at the SEC Championship. The Tigers had the best fall collectively, with five top-250 players, but the Gators have the most potential after Ricky Castillo and Joe Pagdin massively misfired in the fall yet have the pedigree to turn it around this spring.

Pick to win: Tennessee


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Other conferences

Top teams: Pepperdine (6), East Tennessee State (24), South Florida (25), Liberty (26), San Francisco (29), Kent State (30), Charlotte (44), Nevada (46), Little Rock (48), Boise State (49), UAB (50)

Top players: Khavish Varadan, Soph., UAB (9); Ben Carr, Jr., Georgia Southern (12); Albin Bergstrom, Sr., South Florida (14); Chris Vandette, Jr., Kent State (19); Tobias Johnson, Jr., Mercer (22); Nick Lyerly, Jr., UNCG (24); Archie Davies, Soph., East Tennessee State (28); Joe Highsmith, Sr., Pepperdine (35); Tyran Snyders, Soph., Memphis (36); Anton Albers, Sr., Little Rock (37)

What to watch: Pepperdine doesn’t look as invincible as it did a year ago, with just one win in the fall, but the Waves are still one of the country’s top teams. Senior Joe Highsmith impressed in a convincing individual win at the Golf Club of Georgia while fellow senior Joey Vrzich was his usual consistent self (three top-25s), but junior William Mouw is still trying to regain that first-team All-American form that he had as a freshman. … Coach Jake Amos continues to have ETSU among the top mid-majors, and there is a lot to love about the young trio of sophomores Archie Davies and Remi Chartier and freshman Mats Ege (seven combined top-10s). … South Florida won the American Conference title last year, its first since 2018, and the Bulls have continued to ride superstar Albin Bergstrom (three top-10s) this season. … Liberty is coming off an NCAA Championship berth, and while the Flames are arguably a little deeper this season, senior Kieran Vincent (118) has yet to assert himself as an elite player like he did a season ago. … Despite losing Tim Widing, San Francisco has remained among the top mid-majors behind a senior trio of Toby Briggs (89), Alex Chin (101) and Soren Lind (128). … One notable mid-major not in the top 50 nationally is SMU (52), which has put too much pressure on Noah Goodwin (99) with a struggling supporting cast.