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College preseason countdown: Top 25 men’s teams

With the 2019-20 men’s college golf season about to begin, provides you with everything you need to know about the top teams in the country, which we ranked in order, from No. 25 to No. 1.

No. 5, along with Nos. 6-25, will be released Monday, followed by one a day until the preseason No. 1 is unveiled Friday to coincide with the first round of the new season, at the Carmel Cup.

  • Monday: Nos. 5-25
  • Tuesday: No. 4
  • Wednesday: No. 3
  • Thursday: No. 2
  • Friday: No. 1

So without further delay…

1. Texas

Final 2018-19 rank: 4

2019 NCAA Championship finish: Runner-up (fourth in stroke play)

Top returners: Cole Hammer (Soph.), Pierceson Coody (Soph.), Parker Coody (Soph.), Spencer Soosman (Sr.), Drew Jones (Jr.)

Key departures: Steven Chervony

Arriving: Travis Vick, Will Thomson, Mason Nome

Projected starting lineup: Hammer, Pi. Coody, Pa. Coody, Vick, Thomson

Scouting report: The Longhorns are back in a familiar position as the team to beat in college golf. Coming off a season in which it upset top-ranked Oklahoma State before falling to Stanford in the NCAA final, Texas returns with most of its team intact, including a Haskins Award frontrunner in Hammer. This team has a similar makeup to the 2016 Texas squad that also finished runner-up at nationals. Hammer, who won three times as a freshman, is the clear horse, but the Coody twins are All-America talents, as well. Vick will be a Phil Mickelson Award contender and should fill Chervony’s shoes nicely. The fifth spot is a bit of a question mark and likely comes down to Jones, a junior, and Thomson, who enrolled early last spring.

Coach’s take: “We’ve been rebuilding for this. … Some teams, it takes them five or six years to recover, but we’ve managed to make our way through [this rebuild pretty quickly]. We take a lot of confidence from last year. Our goals are high, but we also recognized college golf and know that we’ve going to have our fair share of obstacles to overcome.” – John Fields

What the competition is saying: “To me, they’re the best. They’ve done it and they’ve got the dogs that have run it.”


2. Arizona State

Final 2018-19 rank: 7

2019 NCAA Championship finish: 16th

Top returners: Chun An Yu (Sr.), Alex del Rey (Sr.), Cameron Sisk (Soph.), Blake Wagoner (Sr.), Mason Andersen (Jr.), Won Jun Lee (Jr.)

Key departures: None

Arriving: David Puig, Ryggs Johnston

Projected starting lineup: Yu, Sisk, del Rey, Anderson, Wagoner

Scouting report: One could argue that the Sun Devils begin the season as the favorites to win it all, considering their talent level and the fact that Arizona State will host the NCAA Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Chalk Yu up as a Haskins Award contender, and Sisk should build on a strong summer where he made it to the quarterfinals of The Amateur and Cal State Amateur. Del Rey and Anderson have tournament-winning game, as well. Wagoner will be a consistent leadership presence as a senior but still has room to improve as a player. Perhaps by the end of the spring one of the five lineup spots goes to Puig, who is a top-50 player in the WAGR but won’t arrive until the spring. This is a team that may start slow as several players compete in worldwide amateur events at times during the fall, but by the postseason the Sun Devils should be firing on all cylinders.

Coach’s take: “This is really our first year being a veteran team. … But we’ll definitely have a chip on our shoulder because we ended the season so poorly last year. We have a lot of unfinished business.” – Matt Thurmond

What the competition is saying: “I’d be knock-me-over-with-a-feather shocked if they didn’t at least make match play.”


3. Pepperdine

Final 2018-19 rank: 14

2019 NCAA Championship finish: 11th

Top returners: Sahith Theegala (Sr.), Joe Highsmith (Soph.), Clay Feagler (Sr.), Joshua McCarthy (Sr.), R.J. Manke (Jr.), Derek Hitchner (Soph.), Austin Murphy (Jr.)

Key departures: Roy Cootes

Arriving: Joey Vrzich (Jr., transfer from Nevada), William Mouw, Dylan Menate, Tristan Gretzky

Projected starting lineup: Theegala, Mouw, Highsmith, Feagler, McCarthy

Scouting report: Back at the 2017 NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms, Pepperdine made a run at match play before falling short. But at that moment, the Waves knew they belonged. Three years later, here they are, on a short list of national-title contenders entering the season. While there may be one or two more talented teams in the country, none are deeper. Theegala returns for his senior year after redshirting last season because of a left-wrist injury. He is joined by Mouw, winner of this summer’s Cal State Amateur and one of the top freshmen in the country, and Joe Highsmith, who won during the summer, as well, at the Sahalee Players Amateur. Feagler and Manke combined to win three times last season, and McCarthy played every round as a junior while finishing just behind Feagler in scoring average. Murphy was the sixth guy at NCAAs last season and Hitchner has game, as well. That doesn’t include the two other freshmen, Menate and Gretzky. Pepperdine is ready to take that final step – the Waves are deep, talented and have beefed up their schedule to compete against the best.

Coach’s take: “Sahith and those guys look at it like they’ve been on this team long enough, let’s do something. Rather than just thinking and saying were good, let’s do something. … Being able to keep that edge everything week is going to be our main focus. I know we have a lot of guys who are super competitive. The main puzzle [for us as coaches] is finding out who’s going to be playing each week.” – Michael Beard

What the competition is saying: “I think they could be No. 1. They’re ridiculous. They’re loaded.”


4. Georgia Tech

Final 2018-19 rank: 12

2019 NCAA Championship finish: 18th

Top returners: Andy Ogletree (Sr.), Luke Schniederjans (Sr.), Tyler Strafaci (Sr.), Noah Norton (Jr.), Connor Howe (Soph.), Ben Smith (Soph.)

Key departures: James Clark

Arriving: Andy Mao

Projected starting lineup: Ogletree, Schniederjans, Strafaci, Norton, Howe

Scouting report: After two straight years of finishing sixth at regionals by a shot, Georgia Tech got to the NCAA Championship last season, though only managed a middle-of-the-pack finish. The next step for the Yellow Jackets is to become an elite national-title contender. They certainly have the talent, highlighted by U.S. Amateur champion Ogletree and two other three-year starters in Schniederjans and Strafaci. That trio has dropped nearly seven shots combined on their scoring averages since their freshman seasons. Behind the seniors is Norton, who has All-American potential, as well, and Howe, who contributed nicely toward the end of last season. Look for Georgia Tech to roll with their same five, though Mao could find his way into the mix at some point this season.

Coach’s take: “Some of [our top guys] – or all of them – they need to move into first- and second-team All-American status. To win [the NCAA title] in the format we have, you have to have some guys near the upper end of the All-America page and the world amateur rankings. You need to have a guy who goes, ‘Give me Matthew Wolff and I’ll take him out.’ And then the rest of the guys have to go 2-2. Last year, that was Cole Hammer for Texas. The eight teams that made match play last year, they all had a guy or two. … The good thing for us, the four of them have played at level for the last few years that there’s no reason why they can’t become a guy like Justin Suh or Collin Morikawa.” – Bruce Heppler

What the competition is saying: “There’s a team that didn’t reach their goals last year and probably has something stuck up their craw.”


5. Oklahoma

Final 2018-19 rank: 5

2019 NCAA Championship finish: Quarterfinalist (fifth in stroke play)

Top returners: Quade Cummins (Sr.), Garett Reband (Sr.), Riley Casey (Sr.), Patrick Welch (Soph.), Thomas Johnson (Sr.), Logan McAllister (Soph.), Lane Wallace (Jr.)

Key departures: Blaine Hale, Brad Dalke

Arriving: Turner Hosch, Jake Holbrook

Projected starting lineup: Cummins, Reband, Welch, Casey, McAllister

Scouting report: Oklahoma has been a mainstay in match play in each of the past four NCAA Championships, winning it all in 2017, and again has the talent to make a similar run this season. However, two key pieces from those squads – Hale and Dalke – have graduated, which means Oklahoma will have to find other leadership sources. Cummins, a potential first-team All-American this season, is the prime candidate. He is coming off a strong summer that included a victory at the Pacific Coast Amateur. Fellow seniors Reband and Casey figure to have expanded roles, and Johnson could carve out significant playing time if he can hold off one of the sophomores. Welch was an All-American honorable mention last season as a freshman and has a high ceiling because of his supreme athleticism while former AJGA standout McAllister is starting to round into form after undergoing significant swing changes last season. The freshmen could even make impacts later in the year. This is a senior-laden team, but Oklahoma’s chances of going far this season likely depend on what it can get from its underclassmen.

Coach’s take: “Something we have to find out as a team is, what’s the soul of this team and what’s the heartbeat of this squad? We’ve had a nice run and those seniors [that we lost] had been such a constant for us and folks that you could depend on. That’s where we have to find a way to transfer that back to the younger guys and make sure they understand what our goals and expectations are.” – Ryan Hybl

What the competition is saying: “They’ve been there in match play every year for the past four years. They know how to compete, especially when it counts.”


6. Wake Forest

Final 2018-19 rank: 3

2019 NCAA Championship finish: Quarterfinalist (third in stroke play)

Top returners: Alex Fitzpatrick (Soph.), Eugenio Chacarra (Soph.), Eric Bae (Sr.), Kengo Aoshima (Soph.), Parker Gillam (Jr.), Marco Steyn (Jr.)

Key departures: Cameron Young, Lee Detmer

Arriving: Mark Power, Fulton Smith, Daniel Sheedy

Projected starting lineup: Fitzpatrick, Chacarra, Bae, Aoshima, Power

Scouting report: The Demon Deacons were so deep last season that Aoshima, who had notched five top-10s and a 70.65 scoring average, wasn’t even the sixth man for the NCAA Championship. While Young and Detmer are gone from that quarterfinals team, depth will continue to be a major strength for Wake. Fitzpatrick and Chacarra could end up being one of the nation’s most dangerous one-two punches, especially with Fitzpatrick coming off another match-play run at the U.S. Amateur and a Walker Cup berth. Bae is another All-ACC player while Aoshima should stick in the lineup more as a sophomore. The battle for the fifth spot should come down to Gillam, who made match play at Pinehurst, and Power, who arrives from Ireland already as a top-100 amateur in the world.

Coach’s take: “I really like where we are headed over the next two to three years.” Jerry Haas, via Winston-Salem Journal.

What the competition is saying: “They lost Cameron Young, but I think they had as much or more depth than anybody. The guys they left home last year were really good.”


7. Auburn

Final 2018-19 rank: 9

2019 NCAA Championship finish: 12th

Top returners: Jovan Rebula (Sr.), Brandon Mancheno (Jr.), Graysen Huff (Sr.), Wells Padgett (Jr.), Andrew Kozan (Jr.), Ryan Knop (Sr.)

Key departures: Trace Crowe, Jacob Solomon

Arriving: Alex Vogelsong, Austin Coggin, C.J. Easley, Hal Dove

Projected starting lineup: Rebula, Mancheno, Vogelsong, Huff, Padgett

Scouting report: Though small, Auburn took a step back last season. Two years ago, the Tigers advanced to the semifinals of NCAA match play, but last year they fell short of the final eight after shooting 38 over in the final two rounds of stroke play. Most of that team is back again, including 2019 SEC champ Rebula and 2018 NCAA runner-up Mancheno. Depth will continue to be a strength for the Tigers, who bring in four freshmen, though no newcomer will make more of an immediate impact than Vogelsong, a gifted talent who won the Terra Cotta Invitational earlier this year and is ranked top 75 in the WAGR. While Huff and Padgett may earn starts early, expect Kozan and Coggin, both of whom are coming off strong summers, to push for playing time.

Coach’s take: “You have to be resilient and put four rounds together, and we weren’t able to do it [at the NCAA Championship]. I thought our guys were maybe a little bit undisciplined, and we need to be more mature; that’s the biggest takeaway. … We have something to prove. I tell the guys, getting to the top is easier than it is staying there.” – Nick Clinard

What the competition is saying: “They’ve proven to be one of the best teams in the country in the last few years. They are a dangerous team.”


8. Illinois

Final 2018-19 rank: 26

2019 NCAA Championship finish: T-27

Top returners: Adrien Dumont de Chassart (Soph.), Michael Feagles (Sr.), Giovanni Tadiotto (Sr.), Bryan Baumgarten (Sr.), Varun Chopra (Jr.), Tommy Kuhl (Soph.), Brendan O’Reilly (Jr.)

Key departures: None

Arriving: Jerry Ji

Projected starting lineup: Dumont de Chassart, Feagles, Ji, Tadiotto, Baumgarten

Scouting report: After snapping its NCAA match-play qualifying streak at five in 2018, Illinois entered last year’s NCAA Championship fresh off a 10th Big Ten title in 11 years and a regional victory. Then the Illini recorded two 8s and a 7 on their opening hole at Blessings and eventually tied for 27th. “We showed no resiliency, no backbone,” said head coach Mike Small. “We got punched in the face, and that still bothers me, and it still bothers us. … We have to make sure that we get on the right side of the confidence spectrum [this season].” The good news for Illinois is that it returns everyone, and with an added year of experience for each player coupled with expected improvement across the board, this team has the capability to get back to match play. Depth is the biggest asset for an Illini squad that is Small’s biggest ever in terms of size (10). As many as eight players could see significant action this season, led by reigning Big 10 champ Dumont de Chassart, who had a slow transition to college golf as a freshman but took off in the spring. Feagles and Tadiotto are also big talents with Feagles’ value getting an uptick this season as the NCAAs head to his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz. Ji arrives from the Netherlands as the team’s highest-ranked player in the WAGR, at No. 55, and will push early for big minutes. Kuhl, Baumgarten, Chopra and O’Reilly all have potential to earn regular playing time, as well, though there will realistically be only one spot for those four in each qualifier. The competition will be intense at home and that starts with the first event at Olympia Fields, which every player will have to qualify for. No exemptions.

Coach’s take: “Our teams have always been very competitive, very fundamentally and mentally strong teams that get better as year goes on. With 10 guys who I think can all play pretty competitively, it’s going to be fun to see the improvement this year because I have no idea who our top 5 guys are going to be.” – Mike Small

What the competition is saying: “You can never count out a Mike Small-coached team.”


Spencer Ralston reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur. (USGA/Chris Keane)

USGA/Chris Keane

9. Georgia

Final 2018-19 rank: 18

2019 NCAA Championship finish: 24th

Top returners: Trent Phillips (Soph.), Davis Thompson (Jr.), Spencer Ralston (Sr.), Trevor Phillips (Sr.), Calum Masters (Sr.), Will Kahlstorf (Soph.), Nicolas Cassidy (Fr.), Will Chandler (Sr.)

Key departures: None

Arriving: Connor Creasy

Projected starting lineup: Trent Phillips, Thompson, Ralston, Trevor Phillips, Masters

Scouting report: After a couple of down years, the Bulldogs won a regional and got back to the NCAA Championship last year. This year, there are expectations to take another big step and get back to contending for national titles. The younger Phillips is the team’s horse and a player who could be leaping to the pro ranks after the season. Thompson and Ralston both had strong summers, Thompson taking medalist honors at the Western Amateur and Ralston winning the Players Amateur before reaching the quarterfinals at the U.S. Amateur. That top 3 might be as good as any in the country when they are all on. The question is what Georgia can get from the bottom of the lineup. Masters sat out last season after transferring from Troy, but he did qualify with the team and would’ve played in every event had he been eligible. He brings a maturity to this team and has the potential to be a breakout star this season. The older Phillips offers experience and figures to have a leg up on a starting gig, but don’t be surprised if others step up. Kahlstorf played a bunch last season while Creasy and Cassidy have the talent to play, as well.

Coach’s take: “For the longest time we were always one of those teams [competing year in and year out for NCAA titles]. I’ve missed it a lot and I’m glad we’re getting back there. We were in a lull, but last year we played better. This year, we finally have some depth and it’s going to be a battle to see who makes the lineup.” – Chris Haack

What the competition is saying: “Those Georgia boys … they’re back.”


10. Vanderbilt

Final 2018-19 rank: 2

2019 NCAA Championship finish: Semifinalist (second in stroke play)

Top returners: John Augenstein (Sr.), Harrison Ott (Jr.), Reid Davenport (Soph.), Mason Greenberg (Jr.), Michael Shears (Soph.)

Key departures: Will Gordon, Patrick Martin

Arriving: William Moll, Matthew Riedel

Projected starting lineup: Augenstein, Ott, Davenport, Moll, Greenberg

Scouting report: No team in the top 10 lost more than Vanderbilt, which graduated All-Americans Gordon and Martin, who finished their decorated careers tied for second on the Commodores’ all-time scoring-average list. But Vandy has shown it can replace top talent before, making match play in four out of the past five NCAA Championships. Augenstein has first-team All-American potential, and though he didn’t play to that potential for most of this summer, he proved it at the U.S. Amateur by reaching the final. The senior may be the best match-play player in the country, too. The difference could be expected improvement from Ott and Davenport, as well as the arrival of Moll, who is one of the most decorated recruits in school history. The fifth spot is a concern, though a healthy Greenberg or emergence of Riedel could answer that glaring question.

Coach’s take: “We’re going to look a little different than years past, but I do think we have a good core group of guys. … We’re going to jump on in the deep end with our schedule, but it helps you in the long run to play with the best, to beat the hunted and be the hunted.” – Scott Limbaugh

What the competition is saying: “Anytime you lose two guys like Will Gordon and Patrick Martin, it’s going to be hard to replace them. But I think Scott will find a way.”

The rest

11. SMU: Returns a strong core that includes McClure Meissner and Noah Goodwin.

12. Texas A&M: Gone is Chandler Phillips, but Walker Lee looks poised to fill that void.

13. Arkansas: Razorbacks return everybody, including cornerstone Mason Overstreet and uber-talented Julian Perico.

14. Texas Tech: Watch out for freshman Ludvig Aberg, who could form one of the best one-two punches in the country alongside Sandy Scott.

15. Stanford: After losing Brandon Wu and Isaiah Salinda, the Cardinal will need someone to be the guy. Maybe Henry Shimp?

16. LSU: Depth is a concern, but the Tigers’ top four is pretty stout.

17. Florida State: Seminoles will be in every tournament thanks to early Haskins Award candidate John Pak.

18. Tennessee: With a large roster, Vols should make more strides in Year 2 under coach Brennan Webb.

19. North Carolina: The Tar Heels return their top three players, led by senior Austin Hitt.

20. Duke: No more Alex Smalley, but Chandler Eaton is more than capable of picking up the slack.

21. Clemson: Bryson Nimmer’s departure leaves a massive void, but several talented players remain, including Jacob Bridgeman.

22. Baylor: Strong summers by Cooper Dossey and Ryan Grider will boost optimism in Waco.

23. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lost a lot of talent, and incoming freshman Rayhan Thomas is struggling mightily. Luckily, Austin Eckroat is still in Stillwater.

24. Colorado State: The Rams nearly made it to the NCAA Championship last season and return almost everybody, including Southern Amateur champ A.J. Ott.

25. Florida: After a down year a season ago, look for Ricky Castillo’s arrival to help the Gators bounce back.