NCAA Championships

A preview of the men’s and women’s events at Rich Harvest Farms that will determine the Division I national champions

This article appeared in the April 2017 issue of Chicago District Golfer.

From an Expert in Women’s Golf

Beth Ann Nichols is an award-winning writer for Golfweek. She covers women’s golf on all levels.

IF I WERE AN ODDSMAKER, HERE’S MY MORNING-LINE FAVORITE
Stanford. The 2015 NCAA champ made it to the final last year and lost in a heartbreaker. The Cardinal are on a tear this spring and boast the №1 player in the country in freshman Andrea Lee. Head coach Anne Walker knows how to get the best out of her players in big moments.

A LONGSHOT THAT COULD HAVE A SURPRISINGLY GOOD WEEK
Northwestern’s seasoned lineup and local connection could give the Wildcats the extra boost needed to make match play. Big Ten teams tend to round into form by the postseason. Northwestern notched a school-best ninth-place finish at last year’s NCAA Championship but missed match play by one stroke. They’ve had a year to think about that.

A TEAM MANY SEEM TO LIKE BUT I’M NOT ENTIRELY SOLD ON
While Florida State ranks among the top three in the nation, the Seminoles have only advanced to the NCAA Championship one time in the past six years. FSU has four returning starters. But given how seldom it sees West Coast teams and the lack of match-play experience, it’s tough to see the team breaking through to the winner’s circle.

WANT A PLAYER TO FOLLOW?
Alabama’s Cheyenne Knight. The friendly Texan can go low as she owns the 54-hole school record at 14-under 202. Knight, the 2016 Freshman of the Year, filled the shoes of Emma Talley like she was born to do it. Wouldn’t be surprised if she too collected an NCAA title.

Players to Watch

Andrea Lee, Stanford
Ranked No. 3 to start the spring season
She won the Windy City Challenge at Glen View Club last fall in her first collegiate start. Before enrolling in college, she represented the U.S. on last year’s Curtis Cup team and in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship. In 2014, then 16, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open and was a semifinalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Leona Maguire, Duke
Finished T-21 at the Summer Olympics
She was ranked No. 2 by Golfweek to start the spring season. She was the 2014–15 Player of the Year and twice has been a first-team All-American. In her first two seasons at Duke, she was in the top 10 in the school’s career list for wins, rounds at even or under par and the number of times as the team’s top finisher.

Jennifer Kupcho, Wake Forest
T-6 at the 2016 Women’s NCAA
She was ranked No. 4 by Golfweek to start the spring season. She faced 
19 other top-10 players in her first four starts of the season and finished better than 17 of them in head-to-head comparisons. Prior to joining Wake Forest, she was the first player to be named both the Colorado Women’s Golf Association Player of the Year and Junior Player of the Year in the same season.

(Editor’s note: The starting fields for each Division I championship will be determined in early May, after regional qualifiers have been held.)

From an Expert in Men’s Golf

Lance Ringler covers college golf and oversees the national rankings for Golfweek since the 1990s.

IF I WERE AN ODDSMAKER, HERE’S MY MORNING-LINE FAVORITE
My preseason No. 1 was USC and while there are as many as eight or 10 teams that could be in the hunt this year, I will still stick with the Trojans. Head coach Chris Zambri’s squad has had his team close the last couple of years, making a run in match play. With a talented core returning, expect them to be a favorite at Rich Harvest Farms.

A LONGSHOT THAT COULD HAVE A SURPRISINGLY GOOD WEEK
Kent State and Colorado are a pair of teams that will not feel uncomfortable playing in Sugar Grove in late May. If these two can find their way into the field of 30 teams, either could be sneaky good at Rich Harvest Farms.

A TEAM MANY SEEM TO LIKE BUT I’M NOT ENTIRELY SOLD ON
Stanford is an elite program in college golf and the Cardinal have had their ups and downs in the postseason the last few years. (They’ve made match play only twice in the last eight years.) This could be another one of those years, but don’t be surprised if they make a run, either.

WANT A PLAYER TO FOLLOW?
Try Southern California’s Rico Hoey or Oklahoma State’s Kristoffer Ventura. Hoey is a tremendous talent whose approach to the game is worth seeing, and he’s always smiling. Ventura is as talented as any player in college golf and a name you might hear about at the next level.

Players to Watch

Maverick McNealy, Stanford
2015 Haskins Award winner
By mid-February, he had tied Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers for most career wins (11) by a Stanford player. He is a former Pac-12 Player of the Year and a recipient of the Haskins Award as college golf’s most outstanding player. Midway through the spring season he had compiled an individual record of 280–33–3.

Doug Ghim, Texas
All-Big 12 (2015, ’16)
It’ll be a homecoming of sorts for Ghim, who hails from Arlington Heights. Ghim, now in his junior year, had three top-10s in four starts during the fall schedule. He was a second team All-America selection last year and twice he’s been an All-Big 12 recipient. Early in the spring season he was ranked No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

Nick Hardy, Illinois
2016 Illinois State Amateur winner
If Hardy gets hot, the birdies will come in bunches. Now a junior, he destroyed the record book in a runaway victory at the Illinois State Amateur Championship last year, when he was 28 under par over 72 holes. He’s a two-time qualifier into the U.S. Open. He was under par in half of his 12 rounds during the fall season, when he was ranked as high as No. 5 nationally.

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