NCAA season preview: Preseason top 30 men's individuals

·10 min read

With the 2020-21 men's and women's college golf seasons about to begin, GolfChannel.com provides you with everything you need to know about the top teams and players in the country. Below is a breakdown of the preseason top 30 men's individuals:

At least for Texas Tech head coach Greg Sands, it felt like his star player Ludvig Aberg could never really get it going for four rounds at Grayhawk Golf Club last May.

But when the Red Raiders ended their season with an 11th-place finish in the NCAA Championship and Aberg had once again managed to notch a top-10 finish, Sands wasn't the least bit surprised.

"He never hits the panic button," Sands said. "He just always hangs in there and finishes well. ... Even sometimes with his B-game, he's able to play at a high level. Pretty much felt like he struggled all the way around at Grayhawk, and then all of a sudden he backdoors a top-10."

Aberg tied for eighth at nationals, where he overcame a second-round 76 to close in 69-66. It was his eighth top-10 showing in nine spring events and a byproduct of his closing ability. Aberg ranked fifth in the nation in final-round scoring average last season at 69.09, and he won twice.

No matter how he starts, Aberg always seems to finish.

"He's got the maturity and the mind for it," Sands added, "and a lot of things just don't faze him."

Aberg hasn't just proven himself against the best in amateur golf. He won two pro events in his native Sweden two summers ago, and he's made the cut in both of his European Tour starts, including one as a junior player at the 2018 Nordea Masters. He'll also tee it up in the RSM Classic this fall, an exemption earned for winning the Jones Cup earlier this year.

Scouts love Aberg, and it's easy to see why. There is a ton of talent at the top in the men's college game, including studs such as Pierceson Coody of Texas and Eugenio Lopez Chacarra of Oklahoma State, but Aberg begins the fall as GolfChannel.com's top-ranked player.

Here is a look at the top 30 men’s individuals in the country as we enter another season:

1. Ludvig Aberg, Jr., Texas Tech: Aberg has all the tools – power, touch, scoring ability, mental fortitude – and it showed last spring as he won the Jones Cup and then rattled off eight more top-8s, including two wins, in college events. He also was second at this summer’s European Amateur. His only blemish was missing match play at the U.S. Amateur, but that likely just means he’ll be even more focused entering the fall.

2. Pierceson Coody, Sr., Texas: He had won and notched four other top-6 finishes going into the Walker Cup, but a stomach virus that week combined with a busy spring and a second virus at NCAAs knocked him down for the count. He only logged one round at Grayhawk, and Texas exited early. But he bounced back by qualifying for the U.S. Open and reaching the Western Amateur semifinals. Even though he barely missed match play at Oakmont, he was in the unlucky wave. His game is in great shape going into his final year, and he’ll begin it as No. 1 in PGA Tour University.

3. Ricky Castillo, Jr., Florida: It was a good-but-not-great sophomore season for Castillo, but he found another gear this summer, especially with the putter, reaching the quarters of the Western Amateur and Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur. This is his first year counting for PGA Tour University, which is just one more incentive for Castillo to be a world-beater this season.

4. Eugenio Lopez Chacarra, Sr., Oklahoma State: The gifted ball-striker was a top-3 machine in his first season in Stillwater, notching five of them. He also won the individual portion of the European Amateur Team Championship but had to miss the U.S. Amateur because of mono. He’s expected to be ready for the fall, though.

5. Michael Thorbjornsen, Soph., Stanford: How can a player who didn’t record a top-10 last season be this high? Well, when you make 18 birdies in 30 holes to win the Mass State Amateur, capture the Western Amateur and then win a match at the U.S. Amateur. “Thor” is the real deal. The next step for him is to work on adding different ball flights

Brentley Romine previews men's, women's NCAA golf seasons

6. Bo Jin, Soph., Oklahoma State: What a postseason it was for Jin as a freshman with runner-up finishes at conference, regionals and nationals. He had three top-10s and also made the Round of 32 at Oakmont this summer. If he continues to putt well, which had been an issue earlier in school, he’ll be hard to beat.

7. Trent Phillips, Sr., Georgia: The two-gloved lefty is back for one final year in Athens, and he’ll be counted on to carry the torch for the departed Davis Thompson. He’s confident, and he can back it up. He won the Sunnehanna Amateur this summer while making nice match-play runs at the Western and U.S. amateurs.

8. Alex Fitzpatrick, Jr., Wake Forest: A back issue slowed him last spring, but not much; Fitzpatrick still won once and had three more top-4s. He recently got to the Round of 16 at Oakmont, too. Out of all the player-of-the-year candidates, arguably no one is better around the greens.

Hammer
Hammer

9. Cole Hammer, Sr., Texas: He had a nice run in between wins at the South Beach Amateur and Big 12 Championship, but like Coody, a packed schedule eventually took a toll. He’s currently sorting out some putting troubles – he appears ready to ditch arm-lock after picking it up at the start of summer – but one can only think the historically gifted putter will figure it out quickly this fall.

10. David Puig, Jr., Arizona State: His start to last spring was blistering with back-to-back wins, but he did cool slightly and didn’t crack the top 50 at nationals. His summer was similar: third at European Amateur but T-214 at Oakmont. With Kevin Yu gone, Puig will have the opportunity to be the guy in Tempe.

11. Nick Gabrelcik, Soph., North Florida: The reigning Phil Mickelson Award winner further proved that his three-win freshman season wasn’t fluke with a semifinal run at the U.S. Amateur.

12. Dylan Menante, Jr., Pepperdine: In addition to being a fast player, Menante has finally shown he can close in the past six months or so. He won the West Coast individual title before leading the Waves to the NCAA team crown, and then he captured the prestigious Northeast Amateur this summer.

13. Noah Goodwin, Sr., SMU: His regional victory last May at Karsten Creek and three other top-5s would’ve secured him a PGA Tour University spot, but Goodwin decided to return for an extra year, chase a Korn Ferry Tour card and help lead the Mustangs in their quest back to NCAA match play.

14. William Mouw, Jr., Pepperdine: The Walker Cupper was still an honorable-mention All-American last season, but after a disappointing summer, he’ll be extra motivated to prove that he’s still a first-team talent.

Ryan Hall
Ryan Hall

15. Ryan Hall, Sr., South Carolina: Had a breakout junior campaign, winning twice and not finishing worse than T-18 in 11 starts until nationals. The summer was solid, highlighted by a top-10 at Sunnehanna, and he’ll again be expected to be the guy for the Gamecocks.

16. Sandy Scott, Sr., Texas Tech: The big question for the sixth-year Scotsman is his left wrist, which has kept him out of action since the middle of last fall. He had to withdraw from the Walker Cup and most recently the U.S. Amateur, but the Red Raiders remain confident after a good report that they’ll have Scott back in the lineup soon. If he’s healthy, he’s higher on this list.

17. Ryggs Johnston, Jr., Arizona State: The quiet, lanky Montanan is overshadowed a bit, even on his own team, but his second-round 63 and third-place finish at Grayhawk last May are proof of what he’s capable of. He can go low with the best of them.

18. Jacob Bridgeman, Sr., Clemson: Few people remember that until his teammate Turk Pettit won the NCAA individual title, Bridgeman actually had the better season, with two wins among six top-10s. His Round-of-16 appearance at Oakmont just means he’s not slowing down.

19. Sam Bennett, Sr., Texas A&M: When he’s on, he’s tough to beat, evidenced by his three wins and a regional runner-up last season. But he’ll need to develop more consistency if he wants to take the next step and contend for the Haskins.

20. Travis Vick, Jr., Texas: Vick’s spectacular week at Oakmont, where he reached the semifinals, bumps him up a few spots on this list. His wedge game and chipping held him back a little last season, but improvement in those areas could lead to big accolades.

21. Peter Fountain, Soph., North Carolina: He’s not the kid on his team who nearly captured the Havemeyer Trophy, but he is the Tar Heels’ only returning first-team All-American. Don’t forget about Fountain.

Highsmith
Highsmith

22. Joe Highsmith, Jr., Pepperdine: Not many players had better summers than Highsmith, who qualified for the U.S. Open and then made match play at the North and South (quarterfinals), Western Amateur (Round of 16) and U.S. Amateur (Round of 32). With a lineup spot locked down this season, he could put up huge numbers.

23. Gordon Sargent, Fr., Vanderbilt: He’s the top freshman on this list and his stock couldn’t be much higher after reaching the final of the Western Amateur and making match play at Oakmont. He’s been gaining length over the past year, and judging by his frame, he’s not done.

24. Bryce Lewis, Soph., Tennessee: The Vols have a three-headed monster at the top of their lineup, and while Hunter Wolcott’s length attracts a lot of attention, Lewis arguably has the most potential of the bunch.

25. James Piot, Sr., Michigan State: Don’t call Piot’s U.S. Amateur win a fluke. He was an All-American last season and also reached match play at the Western. He’s also up to No. 1 in the Scratch Players ranking.

26. Logan McAllister, Sr., Oklahoma: Somebody has to step up for the Sooners this season, so why not him? McAllister won and had a couple of seconds last season, but he really looked comfortable in match play at Grayhawk. He’s ready to lead.

Greaser
Greaser

27. Austin Greaser, Jr., North Carolina: We can’t leave the U.S. Amateur runner-up off, but truth is, Greaser would’ve been in the top 30 even before Oakmont. He was a semifinalist at the Western Amateur and capped his sophomore season with five top-10s in his last seven starts.

28. William Moll, Jr., Vanderbilt: He was the Commodores’ best player last season and one of the better putters in the country, and while he didn’t have a great summer, he should thrive with two hotshot freshmen in town. Iron sharpens iron.

29. Maxwell Moldovan, Soph., Ohio State: Few players get more out of their games than Moldovan, a former AJGA player of the year. He won the Southern Amateur in record-breaking fashion this summer before making match play at the Western and U.S. amateurs.

30. Karl Vilips, Soph., Stanford: Finger surgery limited him big-time as a freshman, and he notched just one top-10 finish because of it. His four top-10s this summer show he’s back.

NEXT 10: 31. Sam Choi, Sr., New Mexico; 32. David Ford, Fr., North Carolina; 33. Joey Vrzich, Sr., Pepperdine; 34. Yuxin Lin, Jr., Florida; 35. Jerry Ji, Jr., Illinois; 36. Cameron Sisk, Sr., Arizona State; 37. Puwit Anupansuebsai, Sr., San Diego State; 38. Josele Ballester, Fr., Arizona State; 39. Brian Stark, Jr., Oklahoma State; 40. Adrien Dumont de Chassart, Sr., Illinois