As we prepare to get another season of college golf rolling, Golf Channel's Brentley Romine reveals his top 30 men's preseason rankings, both team and individual, and tells you everything you need to know about the best programs in the country, from projected starting lineups to preseason All-Americans (scroll to the bottom) to what's motivating each team heading into the fall.
But first, take note of these important dates:
• May 15-17, 2023: NCAA regionals
(Host sites: Auburn, Alabama; Bath, Michigan; Las Vegas; Morgan Hill, California; Norman, Oklahoma; Salem, South Carolina)
• May 26-31, 2023: NCAA Championship
Grayhawk GC, Scottsdale, Arizona
And for the women's top 30 teams and players, click here.
Now, without further ado, let's get into the big rankings reveal:
1. North Carolina
Final 2021-22 rank: 5
2022 NCAA Championship finish: Quarterfinalist (T-1 in stroke play)
Top returners: Austin Greaser (Sr.), David Ford (Soph.), Peter Fountain (Jr.), Ryan Burnett (Sr.), Kenan Poole (Sr.)
Key departures: Ryan Gerard, Dougie Ergood Jr. (transferred to Charlotte)
Arriving: Dylan Menante (Sr., transferred from Pepperdine)
Projected starting lineup: Menante, Greaser, Ford, Fountain, Burnett
Scouting report: After the Tar Heels fell in the NCAA quarterfinals for the second straight season, they were almost immediately tabbed as one of the NCAA-title favorites for this season – and that was before the arrival of senior Dylan Menante from Pepperdine. If you want to know just how special this starting five is, consider their average World Amateur Golf Ranking: 33.2. Next best is Vanderbilt at 57, followed by Georgia Tech at 80.6. Menante is a gamer who helped Pepperdine to the 2021 national championship before winning two big-time tournaments last season (Valspar Collegiate and Western Intercollegiate). His new teammates have embraced his unfiltered personality, and they didn’t mind his U.S. Amateur finish either; Menante lost in the semifinals to eventual winner Sam Bennett. The Tar Heels really have three No. 1’s, the others being senior Austin Greaser, this summer’s Western Amateur champ who just finished third at the World Amateur Team Championship in Paris (he'll miss the team's fall opener, which begins Sunday at Notre Dame), and sophomore David Ford, the ACC Freshman of the Year and winner of the Southern Amateur this summer. And how’s this for an embarrassment of riches? Nos. 4 and 5, junior Peter Fountain and senior Ryan Burnett, are Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, in career scoring average at North Carolina. Fountain has a win and playoff loss at the past two ACC Championships. Of course, with all this said, North Carolina hasn’t finished better than T-5 at the NCAA Championship since 1993 and hasn’t hoisted an ACC title since 2006, so despite the preseason hype, they feel like they still have a lot to prove.
Coach’s take: “On paper, probably the most talented team that our program has had in a really long time. We basically have five All-Americans on our roster. Certainly, the most talented team – again, on paper – since Clarkie [assistant Matt Clark] and I have been here. But paper is paper, and it means nothing. We don’t care who you are, what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished, this game is hard and it’s pretty fickle, but the message is, just get better. That’s our attention, our focus, what we strive for every single day. … Part of our culture is we are blue-collar, we are gritty, we are tough, and I can assure you as long as Clarkie and I are here, we will have a massive chip on our shoulder, that will never change.” – Andrew DiBitetto
Final 2021-22 rank: 2
2022 NCAA Championship finish: Semifinalist (T-1 in stroke play)
Top returners: Gordon Sargent (Soph.), Cole Sherwood (Jr.), Reid Davenport (Sr.), William Moll (Sr.), Jackson Van Paris (Soph.), Matthew Riedel (Sr.), Jansen Preston (Jr.)
Key departures: Harrison Ott, Michael Shears (transferred to Georgia)
Arriving: Wells Williams (Fr.), John Broderick (Fr.), Ben Loomis (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Sargent, Sherwood, Davenport, Moll, Van Paris
Scouting report: Vanderbilt knows it has a target on its back as it returns reigning NCAA individual champion Gordon Sargent and most of its lineup (minus Harrison Ott) from last season’s NCAA semifinalist group. But this talented bunch is not so much focused on its challengers but rather past Commodore teams. The goal is to be the best that this program has seen, and that means, according to head coach Scott Limbaugh, putting together a “full, dominant year of golf.” Last season, Vandy went winless in the fall before catching fire in the spring with eight wins, including SECs, regionals and NCAA stroke play, and a lone runner-up. An undefeated season is probably too difficult with so many great teams, but the Commodores have the firepower to win prolifically yet again. Sargent and junior Sherwood are world-class (four wins and 12 other top-10s last season between them) and likely the best one-two punch in the game. Fifth-year senior Reid Davenport, though overshadowed, is a model of consistency, and senior William Moll arrived on campus this month stronger and more focused after being in and out of the lineup last season. Perhaps the only difference between North Carolina and Vandy is the five spot is a little hairier. It’s Jackson Van Paris’ to surrender, but watch out for freshman Wells Williams, who at one point was the No. 2 recruit in his class before an injury derailed him.
Coach’s take: “I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you this team is the most talented we’ve ever had. The ceiling’s pretty high for this group. But it’s always about do they want to be the best team they can be, does jealousy rob you of your journey, is it always comparison. You have to check your ego at the door, and let’s go see how good we can be, and not worry about who gets all the attention and all the credit; let’s just go play and have some fun. That’s what I want to do.” – Scott Limbaugh
3. Georgia Tech
Final 2021-22 rank: 11
2022 NCAA Championship finish: T-12
Top returners: Christo Lamprecht (Jr.), Ross Steelman (Sr.), Bartley Forrester (Sr.), Connor Howe (Sr.), Benjamin Reuter (Soph.), Andy Mao (Sr.)
Key departures: Ben Smith (Sr.)
Arriving: Hiroshi Tai (Fr.), Aidan Tran (Fr.), Brady Rackley IV (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Lamprecht, Steelman, Forrester, Howe, Reuter
Scouting report: Head coach Bruce Heppler has been doing this a long time, but he called last year’s Yellow Jackets the most enjoyable group he’s ever coached. That could change this season as all five starters (20 combined top-10s last season) are back and Georgia Tech is poised to better its T-12 finish from last spring’s NCAA Championship. Junior Christo Lamprecht, at 6-foot-8, is an imposing figure who combines power with one of the best short games in the country. Senior Ross Steelman is another All-American talent who has improved his wedge game tremendously since transferring from Missouri two summers ago. Fellow seniors Bartley Forrester and Connor Howe are also capable of leading the team on any given day, and sophomore Ben Reuter showed his moxie by giving Wake’s Alex Fitzpatrick everything he could handle in the deciding match at last year’s ACC Championship and then tying for fourth at regionals. There’s little room for another guy to break into the lineup, but pushing the top five will be senior Andy Mao and freshmen Hiroshi Tai and Aidan Tran. Tai is a 20-year-old from Singapore who arrives after completing his 22-month national military service. The knock on Georgia Tech has always been that it can’t win NCAA titles – it has zero national championships in 32 appearances since 1985. This season is as good a time as ever to end that title-less designation.
Coach’s take: “We finished [at last spring's NCAA Championship] where we were ranked, and I think we were I little better than that; it was a missed opportunity, and the guys know it. Ross felt bad; if he plays well, we’re probably in match play. I think there’s just an awareness now that we don’t have to wonder if we’re good enough to be right there. I think they know that now. There’s a belief amongst the group that they can be elite.” – Bruce Heppler
Final 2021-22 rank: 9
2022 NCAA Championship finish: T-10
Top returners: Fred Biondi (Sr.), Ricky Castillo (Sr.), Yuxin Lin (Sr.), John Dubois (Sr.), Quentin Debove (Jr.), Tyler Wilkes (Jr.), Joe Pagdin (Jr.), Giovanni Manzoni (Sr.)
Key departures: None
Arriving: Luke Poulter (Fr.), Toby Bishop (Fr.), Parker Bell (Fr.), Will McGriff (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Biondi, Castillo, Lin, Dubois, Debove
Scouting report: What a difference a semester makes. After going T-8, 12th, T-5 in the fall, the Gators looked like a completely different team in the spring, winning twice and not finishing worse than fourth until a T-10 at the NCAA Championship. Senior Fred Biondi supplanted classmate Ricky Castillo as head coach J.C. Deacon’s No. 1, winning a pair of tournaments and earning first-team All-America status. Castillo’s season mirrored the team’s – poor fall, much better spring (five top-10s) – and he enters his final year coming off match-play showings at the Western Amateur and U.S. Amateur (Round of 16). Now factor in two-time Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Yuxin Lin and reigning SEC individual champ John Dubois and few teams are better 1-4 as the Gators, who arguably have the most talent top to bottom of any Florida team in the J.C. Deacon era, which has featured stars such as Sam Horsfield, Andy Zhang and Alejandro Tosti. The fifth spot was thought to be a revolving door to begin the fall with juniors Quentin Debove, Tyler Wilkes and Joe Pagdin, and senior Giovanni Manzoni among the options, but Debove has already separated himself in qualifying and could break out. Regardless of what happens at No. 5, though, this could be the year that Florida finally stops underachieving at nationals and punches its NCAA match-play ticket.
Coach’s take: “It’s probably maturity more than anything else. I think last fall we just got really humbled. All of us thought we were pretty good. … It’s weird; expectations are dangerous because they can take you out of the present and make you think about the future too much, but I think the good thing about expectations is they keep you on point and keep you focused because there are people expecting things from you. I’ve just seen a different level of preparation and maturity and focus on what we’re doing [this year]. It’s exciting; they’re turning into young men.” – J.C. Deacon
5. Arizona State
Final 2021-22 rank: 4
2022 NCAA Championship finish: Runner-up (seventh in stroke play)
Top returners: David Puig (Sr.), Preston Summerhays (Soph.), Josele Ballester (Soph.), Ryggs Johnston (Sr.), Gabe Salvanera (Sr.)
Key departures: Cameron Sisk, Mason Andersen, James Leow
Arriving: Luke Potter (Fr.), Michael Mjaaseth (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Puig, Summerhays, Ballester, Potter, Johnston
Scouting report: Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. Senior standout David Puig remains undecided about his future with the Sun Devils, and though he could decide to hold off turning pro and rejoin his teammates for one final season in Tempe, there’s also a possibility that he doesn’t. If that happens, this suddenly becomes sophomore Preston Summerhays’ team. Summerhays was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year – Arizona State’s third straight player to receive the honor – thanks to eight top-10s. He’ll have some help in sophomore Josele Ballester, who turned it on in the spring with five top-5s, including at conference and regionals. Freshman Luke Potter has proven he can win at the elite amateur level, and fellow newcomer Michael Mjaaseth is capable of contributing from the get-go, as he’s won multiple times in his native Norway and just turned in a top-10 finish at the WATC. The big question is if senior Ryggs Johnston can rediscover his game after a down junior year – he doesn’t have a top-10 anywhere since the 2021 NCAA Championship. With Puig, Arizona State can easily get back to the NCAA final, where it fell to Texas last June, but without the skilled Spaniard, it will take some work just to make it to Tuesday at Grayhawk as teams such as Georgia Tech, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee and Florida State are all eager to break into the match-play picture this spring. It’s the third and final season in which the Sun Devils are hosting nationals, so the pressure to deliver is greater than ever.
Coach’s take: “We’ve done really well our first two years [at Grayhawk], got into match play both times, finished third and second, we’ve represented well, and hopefully this year we can make another run at it and see if we can win it.” – Matt Thurmond
6. Texas Tech
Final 2021-22 rank: 8
2022 NCAA Championship finish: Quarterfinalist (eighth in stroke play)
Top returners: Ludvig Aberg (Sr.), Baard Skogen (Jr.), Calum Scott (Soph.), Carl Fosaas (Sr.), J.P. Roller (Jr.)
Key departures: Sandy Scott, Andy Lopez, Kyle Hogan
Arriving: Jack Wall (Sr., transferred from South Carolina), Tyran Snyders (Jr., transferred from Memphis), Ethan Davidson (Sr., transferred from Sacramento State), Matthew Comegys (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Aberg, Skogen, Scott, Wall, Snyders
Scouting report: Texas Tech didn’t win a tournament last season, but it also was rarely out of the top four while playing one of the toughest schedules in the country and capped the year by making NCAA match play as the eighth seed. There are some departures, notably Sandy Scott, but even he wasn’t the same player following a severe wrist injury that knocked him out for over a year. Scott’s brother Calum is back, however, and some, including Sandy, admit that the sophomore, who was third at the European Amateur this summer, is better than his brother was at this point in his college career. Expect Scott and junior Baard Skogen to be a consistent presence behind a guy who is one of the best players in college golf, world No. 3 amateur and senior Ludvig Aberg. The two-time first-team All-American and 2022 Hogan Award winner has four victories among 17 top-10s in the past two seasons. After that, the Red Raiders have a crowded group that includes three transfers, four returners and freshman Matthew Comegys. The best of that bunch is probably South Carolina transfer Jack Wall, who made an immediate impact with a 62 in his first qualifying round at Texas Tech. On the surface, this Red Raiders squad is less volatile down in the order, which could produce some trophies, maybe even some bigger ones, this season.
Coach’s take: “Probably – not probably, the deepest team, 1-11, that I’ve ever had. Our roster is definitely better 3-11, the depth there is probably three more guys deeper than it was last year, and I think that’s going to show up in a big way. … But at the same time, it’s golf, and if a couple of those guys start struggling, we could be having a different conversation.” – Greg Sands
7. Oklahoma State
Final 2021-22 rank: 3
2022 NCAA Championship finish: Quarterfinalist (fifth in stroke play)
Top returners: Brian Stark (Sr.), Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen (Sr.), Bo Jin (Jr.), Jonas Baumgartner (Jr.), Hazen Newman (Sr.), Leo Oyo (Sr.), Rayhan Thomas (Sr.), Dillon Stewart (Sr.)
Key departures: Eugenio Chacarra, Aman Gupta
Arriving: John Wild (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Stark, Neergaard-Petersen, Jin, Baumgartner, Newman
Scouting report: Death, taxes and Oklahoma State being flush with talent. However, the makeup of this year’s squad looks a little different than the Eugenio Chacarra-led Cowboys of last season, who finished fifth in NCAA stroke play before losing a nail-biter to eventual national champion Texas. Chacarra won three times, including a regional, and tied for second at nationals as one of his six other top-10s. Now, the first-team All-American is off to LIV Golf, and Oklahoma State has an enormous hole to fill. It’s likely that the Cowboys won’t have a clear-cut No. 1 this year, though with three players ranked 37th or better in WAGR – seniors Brian Stark and Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen and junior Bo Jin – and six total seniors on the roster, this group will try to accomplish great things collectively. Stark was Mr. Steady last season with nine top-15s. Neergaard-Petersen had the best summer of the team, finishing runner-up at the European Amateur and tying for ninth in stroke play at the U.S. Amateur. Jin didn’t have a top-10 last season until his T-3 at Big 12s, though head coach Alan Bratton is expecting a big rebound. The sleeper is sophomore Jonas Baumgartner, who tied for seventh at regionals last spring and just posted at top-20 at the WATC. After that, there is a collection of solid-yet-inconsistent options, including seniors Hazen Newman, Leo Oyo, Rayhan Thomas and Dillon Stewart. That group combined for just four top-10s while in the lineup last season, and all of them came from Thomas. We’ll give Newman the early leg up as he won the Nevada Amateur and made match play at the U.S. Amateur this summer, but Oyo’s raw skills and Thomas’ previously shown potential are intriguing. Still, it’s fair to say that if one or two players don’t take drastic steps forward, Oklahoma State will have a hard time bettering last spring’s NCAA finish.
Coach’s take: “We’ve got guys vying to see who’s going to be our leader. With Eugenio being gone, there are several guys who could step up, with an obvious one being Brian Stark. … I think our depth is going to pay off again. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are primed to have breakout years. Those guys have been in supporting roles, and now they’ve got an opportunity to step up as leaders of the group, so that’s what I’m looking forward to is seeing who will break out and be someone that finds their way up there [in the lineup and on the leaderboard] for us all the time.” – Alan Bratton
Final 2021-22 rank: 18
2022 NCAA Championship finish: DNQ
Top returners: Adrien Dumont de Chassart (Sr.), Tommy Kuhl (Sr.), Piercen Hunt (Soph.), Jackson Buchanan (Soph.), Jerry Ji (Sr.), Nico Lang (Sr.)
Key departures: None
Arriving: Matthis Besard (Sr., transferred from Southern Illinois), Ryan Voois (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Dumont de Chassart, Kuhl, Besard, Buchanan, Hunt
Scouting report: Mike Small has coached some great Belgian players at Illinois, most notably Thomas Pieters, Thomas Detry and current fifth-year senior Adrien Dumont de Chassart. He adds another Belgian this fall in Southern Illinois transfer Matthis Besard, who is ranked No. 159 in WAGR and made the Sweet 16 at the Western Amateur, one of three Illini to do so along with Dumont de Chassart and fellow fifth-year senior Tommy Kuhl (Dumont de Chassart and Kuhl made match play at the U.S. Amateur, too). If senior Jerry Ji plays like he did two seasons ago, Illinois won’t just return to the NCAA Championship after snapping a 13-year streak last season, the Illini could make match play for the eighth time since 2011. But Ji will have stout competition for a lineup spot from two sophomores. Piercen Hunt posted six top-10s last season, highlighted by a huge win at Isleworth, and Jackson Buchanan took off this summer with four top-6 finishes, most notably at the Southern Amateur and Georgia Open.
Coach’s take: “Last year was a little bit weird that way we ended the season. We hadn’t missed finals in so long, and to miss it, I actually think it’s going to be a positive for us. Because if we had gone to nationals again, we probably would’ve finished 17th or 18th, right around our ranking, and we would’ve just glossed over some issues that we had to address. We won the Big Ten again, but we weren’t as good as the top teams last year, so we needed to improve some things, and by us missing, it made guys more aware and maybe slapped them in the face that, hey, we have to make some adjustments. … We have to be able to play the top teams more competitively than we did last year.” – Mike Small
Final 2021-22 rank: 6
2022 NCAA Championship finish: Semifinalist (sixth in stroke play)
Top returners: William Mouw (Sr.), Derek Hitchner (Sr.), Ian Maspat (Soph.)
Key departures: Joe Highsmith, Joey Vrzich, Dylan Menante (transferred to North Carolina)
Arriving: Sam Choi (Sr., transferred from New Mexico), Luke Gifford (Sr., transferred from South Florida), Roberto Nieves (Sr., transferred from Delaware), Brady Siravo (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Mouw, Hitchner, Choi, Gifford, Maspat
Scouting report: There has been a changing of the guard in Malibu as three more players from the Waves’ 2021 NCAA Championship lineup either graduated or transferred over the summer. More than half of Pepperdine’s seven-man roster this season is new, so head coach Michael Beard and his new assistant, former USC head coach Chris Zambri (who was the volunteer assistant for the Waves during their NCAA title season), have a challenge in front of them that Pepperdine hasn’t faced in a while. With that said, don’t expect a huge drop-off from last year’s national semifinals appearance. Senior William Mouw has bounced back in a big way this year, capping his junior season with six straight top-13 finishes, including top-5s at regionals and nationals, before going on to win the Tran-Miss Amateur, medal in his U.S. Open final qualifier and make the semifinals of the Western Amateur. Mouw also was a shot out of a playoff to get into match play at the U.S. Amateur, which is where his teammate, senior Derek Hitchner, made a big run. Hitchner has been a solid piece for the Waves during his career, but there’s a feeling that making the semis at Ridgewood, and before that the quarters of the Western, has unlocked something. The rest of the starting lineup could be filled be the three transfers, most notably senior Sam Choi, who was an All-American at New Mexico and just finished outside the top 15 in PGA Tour U last season, otherwise he likely would’ve turned pro. Sophomore Ian Maspat is a sleeper after managing to get 21 rounds in last season despite the Waves’ stacked team. If he limits the blowup rounds, he shoots in the 60s enough (five of seven events with at least one sub-70 score as freshman) to have an impact. There are a lot of unknowns, but Pepperdine could be a pleasant surprise.
Coach’s take: “That's what we talked about in our first team meeting, we’ve all had different paths in getting here, and who would’ve thought the nine of us would be sitting here getting ready for the new season together. That’s college golf; we’re all in it for the same goal, and that’s to get better and to be great every week. … We have a really cool dynamic this year with a mix of older guys and younger guys. Along with our competitive culture, I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity for our group this year with Coach Zambri on board along with guys taking on new roles within the team.” – Michael Beard
Final 2021-22 rank: 20
2022 NCAA Championship finish: DNQ
Top returners: Bryce Lewis (Jr.), Jake Hall (Jr.), Laurent Desmarchais (Soph.), Lance Simpson (Soph.), Cade Russell (Soph.)
Key departures: Spencer Cross, Tyler Johnson, Hunter Wolcott
Arriving: Caleb Surratt (Fr.), Josh Hill (Fr.), Evan Woosley-Reed (Fr.), Bruce Murphy (Fr.)
Projected starting lineup: Surratt, Lewis, Hall, Desmarchais, Simpson
Scouting report: Big things were expected out of the Vols last season, and to be honest, they fell flat, finishing seventh at both SECs and regionals. With Spencer Cross and two other starters gone, how could Tennessee possibly be better? Well, it starts with what they added. Caleb Surratt was arguably the top recruit in the country when he signed last November, and he went out and proved it during the summer by winning the Elite Amateur Cup. Dubai’s Josh Hill is also part of this vaunted freshman class, though he won’t arrive until the spring. That’s going to give some others plenty of opportunity this fall to show they belong in the lineup. Junior Bryce Lewis is the unquestioned leader as he's shot up the world rankings, to No. 32, and he capped his summer by making the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur. Behind he and Surratt, however, it’s slightly unclear for now. Junior Jake Hall logged 33 rounds, most on the team, last season. Sophomore Lance Simpson didn’t see action at all, but he just won the Tennessee Amateur over teammate Evan Woosley-Reed. And Laurent Desmarchais has big-time potential, he just could never get back in front of the eight-ball after getting sick last fall. Are the Vols ranked too highly here? Perhaps, but there is serious dark-horse potential yet again, and with Surratt atop the lineup, they are better equipped to realize it this time.
Coach’s take: “There’s a whole lot more talent in the locker room than there was last year. Finishing the year 20th in the country and not making finals wasn’t a great year. I thought we played some good golf at times, but we weren’t very deep, a couple guys struggled and there was no one there to push them, and that’s the difference this year is having more competition at home. I know that qualifying is going to be competitive, and guys are going to have to earn it, and that gives them confidence when they’re on the road. … We’ve done well, and people have talked about what we’re gonna be, but now it’s time to earn it.” – Brennan Webb
11. Florida State: The Seminoles didn’t have great luck with the transfer portal last season as they tried to replace stars John Pak and Vincent Norrman – though, to be fair, who besides Chris Gotterup could’ve done so? But somehow, thanks largely to the emergence of Frederik Kjettrup, Florida State made it back to Grayhawk and finished T-21. Kjettrup and fellow juniors Brett Roberts and Cole Anderson, who almost won a Korn Ferry Tour event this summer, all have NCAA match-play experience and will now be joined by two freshmen, Luke Clanton and Jack Bigham, who head coach Trey Jones is counting on to contribute from the get-go. Especially Clanton, who, if his win at the North and South Amateur this summer is any indication, is a national-freshman-of-the-year candidate.
12. Stanford: At the top of the Stanford lineup, there’s plenty to love. Junior Michael Thorbjornsen is a world-beater, senior Barclay Brown is a Walker Cupper and junior Karl Vilips is finally healthy and fresh off a summer in which he finished fifth in the Elite Amateur Cup. However, this team, which lost Henry Shimp from a lineup that placed 18th at nationals last spring, is far from perfect. Shockingly, Thorbjornsen still hasn’t won a college event, and the rest of the roster – most notably sophomore Alex Yang and fifth-year seniors Ethan Ng and Nate Menon – have a lot to prove. Head coach Conrad Ray loves his three freshmen, and if one or more of them hit (let's tab Dean Greyserman as the most likely candidate), Stanford is undervalued here.
13. Texas: Could this ranking come back to bite me? Definitely, but it's time to get off the Longhorns bandwagon ... for now. It was a storybook season for the Longhorns in 2021-22 as Texas sent off seniors Cole Hammer, Pierceson Coody and Parker Coody with an NCAA title. An encore, however, will be tough. Sure, Texas’ top 3 can stack up with the best of them with seniors Travis Vick (2022 U.S. Open low amateur, 2021 U.S. Amateur semifinalist) and Mason Nome (four spring top-10s as a junior) back and highly ranked freshman Christiaan Maas (No. 11 in Scratch) coming in from South Africa. But there could be serious growing pains at the bottom of the lineup. Someone out of sophomore Alejandro Gonzales and newcomers Keaton Vo and Jacob Sosa needs to step up or Texas could have trouble just making it to Monday at Grayhawk. Of course, I could be exaggerating, especially with Vo being the medalist at this summer's U.S. Junior and 6-foot-10 Tommy Morrison (top 5 in Elite Amateur Cup this summer) arriving in January.
14. Oklahoma: I'm definitely going to hear about this one, but in my defense, average the Sooners' top five in WAGR and see where it ranks. In each of the past two seasons, Sooners head coach Ryan Hybl has struck gold in the transfer portal, first with Jonathan Brightwell and then with Chris Gotterup. Can he do it again, this time with Kansas transfer Luke Kluver? I'm not so sure. Oklahoma surpassed all expectations last season, replacing three All-Americans and finishing the spring ranked No. 1 in Golfstat, and despite the latest departures of two first-teamers, including the Haskins Award winner in Gotterup, the talent is still there for Oklahoma to remain an elite squad. Senior Patrick Welch rediscovered his game last season and will be thrusted into a leadership role, sophomore Drew Goodman was one of the most reliable freshmen in the country and should be an All-American, and sophomore Stephen Campbell Jr. is a solid piece. However, there are question marks. Kluver isn’t a Gotterup-type, ranked 139th last season by Golfstat before he posted three summer finishers outside the top 90. And the five spot is wide open, with juniors Ben Lorenz and Jake Holbrook, sophomore Jaxon Dowell and freshman Jase Summy among those in the conversation.
15. Auburn: The Tigers are essentially running it back after tying for 10th at the NCAA Championship last spring, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Sophomores Evan Vo and Brendan Valdes got a lot of run as freshmen and should now be mainstays in the lineup, especially after C.J. Easley transferred to Ole Miss. And junior Carson Bacha built off a strong close to the spring by winning summer titles at the Dogwood Invitational and Porter Cup. If junior J.M. Butler, a second-team All-American last season, doesn’t take a step back, then Auburn is very much in the Elite Eight conversation again. With that said, I still see more than a dozen teams ahead of them right now.
16. Georgia: It’s darn near impossible to replace a guy like Trent Phillips, a four-time All-American (twice on the first team) who led the Bulldogs in top-10s last season with seven, more than double that of anyone else on the team. But head coach Chris Haack will have options, especially after adding transfers Michael Shears (from Vanderbilt) and Caleb Manuel (from UConn) to go along with freshman signee Carter Loflin. Sophomore Maxwell Ford appears locked into the No. 1 spot, but after that it’s anybody’s guess as seniors Ben van Wyk, Nicolas Cassidy and Connor Creasy, and sophomore Buck Brumlow all have experience under their belts. Depth gives this squad a high floor, but the Bulldogs need someone – likely Ford – to step up as a true horse if they want to make a strong run at their first NCAA match play since 2015.
17. Arkansas: The Razorbacks were on the cusp of an NCAA match-play berth before finishing a spot out at Grayhawk, and the positive is most of that team is back, including senior Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, who instantly became Arkansas’ top player last season with six top-10s, including a win (Stephens Cup) and solo ninth at nationals. The Argentine had a nice summer, too, tying for fifth at the European Amateur, going 4-0 at the Arnold Palmer Cup and finishing runner-up at the Western Amateur, so big-time numbers are expected this season. But the negative is that this squad, though experienced with four senior starters, remains wildly inconsistent. At their best, Arkansas can beat anybody, especially in match play. But at their worst, the Razorbacks are more like the team that finished 10th last spring at the SEC Championship (and it's worth noting that this ranking slots them sixth in the conference).
18. Texas A&M: Sam Bennett, the world’s second-ranked amateur and now a U.S. Amateur champion, is back for an extra year after posting a win and five other top-5s last season while earning first-team All-America honors for the second straight season. But without running mate Walker Lee, Bennett is going to have to shoulder an even bigger load this season – that is unless Spanish freshman Jaime Montojo, who is ranked just outside the top 150 in WAGR, hits the ground running. Senior William Paysse and junior Daniel Rodrigues are reliable complements, but for the Aggies to better their 16th-place finish last spring at the NCAA Championship, the two need to be top-100 players in Golfstat.
19. LSU: Depth has been an issue in recent years as the Tigers have suffered injuries, performance drop-offs and players turning pro early. As a result, LSU has made just one NCAA Championship appearance in its last four tries. But for the first time in a while, head coach Chuck Winstead will have confidence at the bottom of the lineup. Senior Michael Sanders, and juniors Drew Doyle and Nicholas Arcement all won tournaments last season, and now LSU welcomes in Leo Johansson, the eighth-ranked player in Division II last season. They will all battle for playing time behind sophomore Cohen Trolio and senior Garrett Barber, who led the team in top-5s last season with four and along with Sanders opted to return for his extra year.
20. Notre Dame: The quest to qualify for the program’s first NCAA Championship since 1966 continues. Davis Chatfield’s departure will sting, but the Fighting Irish still have a pair of potential All-Americans to lean on. Senior Palmer Jackson was a player-of-the-year candidate for much of last season, and though he didn’t have the greatest of summers, there’s no reason to not expect him to improve on his No. 29 final Golfstat ranking from his junior campaign. The return of graduate senior Taichi Kho is huge, and Kho is fresh off a summer full of professional starts, including at the Asian Tour’s Indonesia Open, where he nearly top-10’d.
21. Ole Miss: Despite the loss of second-team All-American Jackson Suber, the Rebels could be just as good – or possibly better – than the squad that finished 14th at nationals and 21st in Golfstat. While the returning cast, led by seniors Sarut Vongchaisit and Jack Gnam, and sophomore Kye Meeks, is good, it is the additions that have head coach Chris Malloy excited. Freshman Cameron Tankersley and Auburn transfer C.J. Easley will play a bunch, but the big draw is Boise State transfer Hugo Townsend, who has shown at recent U.S. Amateurs (two straight trips to the Round of 16 and co-medalists honors this year) what he’s capable of doing against top competition, and now he’ll get a chance to do so while playing an elite college schedule.
22. Alabama: While the Tide may be a year away, there’s no reason that impact freshmen Nick Dunlap, last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur champion, and Jonathan Griz can’t expedite things. Of course, how much head coach Jay Seawell gets out of this bunch will be heavily dictated by his three juniors, Canon Claycomb, Thomas Ponder and J.P. Cave, who can’t afford another season of a combined five top-10s.
23. Virginia: Like the team right above them, the Cavaliers added a pair of stout freshmen in Ben James and Bryan Lee. James won five times on the national junior scene in the past two years and advanced to the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur before running into Stewart Hagestad’s eight birdies and an eagle in 14 holes at Ridgewood. Lee didn’t win as prolifically, but he was a top-10 machine in AJGA events. Consider that senior Pietro Bovari and junior George Duangmanee are back and the Cavaliers, ranked 51st in Golfstat last season, will be a popular sleeper pick to get back to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2017.
24. Wake Forest: With Michael Brennan atop the lineup, the Demon Deacons could easily outperform this ranking. The junior has won twice in each of his first two seasons at Wake and no one would be surprised if he doubles that total this season. But behind Brennan, there is a lot of unknown. Is senior Mark Power over his struggles? How good will freshmen Boyd Owens and Andrew McLauchlan be this year? Are sophomore Marshall Meisel and junior Clay Stirsman ready for bigger roles? As the ACC has gotten stronger, it’s tough to see Wake, without the graduated Alex Fitzpatrick, repeating a conference champion, but we’ve been wrong before.
25. Duke: The five spot may be iffy to start the season, but the Blue Devils boast two top-80 amateurs in sophomore Kelly Chinn, a former AJGA player of the year, and junior Ian Siebers, who led the team with six top-10s last season. Winning an ACC title in a loaded conference is probably too tall a task, but a return to nationals after two seasons away should be attainable.
26. Oregon: After a few down years, the Ducks found a spark last spring and ended up playing four days at the NCAA Championship, where they finished 15th. Four of the five players from that squad return, but in all reality, Oregon brings back its best five players, including junior Owen Avrit, who posted top-10s at conference and regionals as a sophomore and recently made it to the second round of match play at the U.S. Amateur. Avrit is probably this squad’s de-facto No. 1, but the Ducks will rely more on balance rather than true star power again this season.
27. East Tennessee State: Speaking of the Bucs, they are 2-for-2 in qualifying for the NCAA Championship under head coach Jake Amos. A nice achievement, sure, but this squad likely isn’t satisfied with beating just three teams combined in two trips to Grayhawk. Juniors Archie Davies and Remi Chartier, and sophomore Mats Ege racked up 14 total top-10s, including two wins, and will form a formidable trio for ETSU, which has its whole starting five back.
28. North Florida: There’s no denying junior Nick Gabrelcik is one of the top players in the nation with six victories in two seasons. But he’s not the only reason to be high on the Ospreys. The supporting cast is strong as well, led by Robbie Higgins, a runner-up at the ASUN Championship last season, and fellow junior Alejandro Ramos, a transfer from Peru and a top-350 amateur in the world. UNF will be right up there with East Tennessee State as the country’s best mid-major, non-Pepperdine division.
29. Arizona: If we're talking long-drive contests, the Wildcats would be No. 1 as seniors Chase Sienkiewicz and Chaz Aurilia are two of the longest in the country. Sienkiewicz looks ready to ascend into All-American territory while the additions of freshmen Filip Jakubcik and Zach Pollo might solve some of Arizona’s consistency issues, which were best summed up last season when the Wildcats were 11th at Pac-12s before winning regionals.
30. Washington: This is probably too low for a team that finished 10th in Golfstat last season, but between the departures of R.J. Manke and Noah Woolsey, that’s 14 top-10s (including two wins) that the Huskies must now make up for. Senior Petr Hruby could be a breakout star if he limits the occasional high round, and junior Teddy Lin joins Hruby atop the lineup. But after junior Taehoon Song, there is plenty of room for somebody to step up.
Golf Channel's Preseason Rankings
Top 30 men's teams
1. North Carolina
3. Georgia Tech
5. Arizona State
6. Texas Tech
7. Oklahoma State
11. Florida State
18. Texas A&M
20. Notre Dame
21. Ole Miss
24. Wake Forest
27. East Tennessee State
28. North Florida
Next five: 31. Ohio State, 32. Mississippi State, 33. Georgia Southern, 34. California, 35. Florida Gulf Coast
Top 30 men's players
PRESEASON FIRST-TEAM ALL-AMERICAN
1. Gordon Sargent, Vanderbilt
2. Ludvig Aberg, Texas Tech
3. Sam Bennett, Texas A&M
4. Travis Vick, Texas
5. Michael Thorbjornsen, Stanford
6. Caleb Surratt, Tennessee
7. Dylan Menante, North Carolina
8. Fred Biondi, Florida
9. Austin Greaser, North Carolina
10. Michael Brennan, Wake Forest
PRESEASON SECOND-TEAM ALL-AMERICAN
11. David Puig, Arizona State
12. Cole Sherwood, Vanderbilt
13. Adrien Dumont de Chassart, Illinois
14. Nick Gabrelcik, North Florida
15. Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, Arkansas
16. David Ford, North Carolina
17. William Mouw, Pepperdine
18. Ricky Castillo, Florida
19. Bryce Lewis, Tennessee
20. Maxwell Moldovan, Ohio State
PRESEASON THIRD-TEAM ALL-AMERICAN
21. Reid Davenport, Vanderbilt
22. Preston Summerhays, Arizona State
23. Christo Lamprecht, Georgia Tech
24. J.M. Butler, Auburn
25. Brian Stark, Oklahoma State
26. Palmer Jackson, Notre Dame
27. Derek Hitchner, Pepperdine
28. Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen, Oklahoma State
29. Hugo Townsend, Ole Miss
30. Patrick Welch, Oklahoma
Just missed: 31. Frederik Kjettrup, Florida State; 32. Ross Steelman, Georgia Tech; 33. Ben Carr, Georgia Southern; 34. Yuxin Lin, Florida; 35. Drew Goodman, Oklahoma