DALLAS (SMU)- Poised with a top-notch freshman class and a strong schedule, SMU men's golf Head Coach Josh Gregory is excited about the upcoming season. He isn't alone. SMU is ranked No. 28 in GolfWeek's preseason poll, and is receiving votes in the Golf World/Nike Golf Coaches' Preseason Poll.
"It's flattering," Gregory said of the praise. "It's what I came here to do. It speaks to our success last year and our recruiting class this year."
SMU's season will ride the success of the numerous top-ranked freshmen on the roster. Gregory said that if experts ranked golf recruiting classes, SMU's 2012 class would likely be No. 1 in the nation. Bryson Dechambeau, a freshman from Clovis, Calif., showcased his talents by advancing to the match-play playoff portion of the 2012 U.S. Amateur in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., after shooting 1-under over the two days of stroke play. Another native-Californian freshman, Austin Smotherman, won the 2012 California State High School Championship. Two European freshmen, Maxime Blandin and Rafa Aregger, will also look to make an early impact.
These newcomers are joined by UCLA-transfer Mario Clemens, who will join the Mustangs with one year of eligibility remaining. Clemens finished the 2011-12 campaign ranked No. 58 in the nation by GolfWeek. Clemens was named All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention last year, and hopes to bring experience to SMU's roster.
Top returning players for SMU include Harry Higgs, a junior who finished with the second-lowest scoring average on the team last season, and sophomore Sam Fidone, who made the Conference USA All-Freshmen team a year ago.
With a roster blended with dashes of experience and young skill, Gregory is hesitant to set the bar too high, but does admit that the team could reach great heights.
"I have high hopes," Gregory said. "I'd be very disappointed if we weren't a contender in the NCAA Championships. We'll have a chance to reach match play, and from there, anything can happen."
Luring new players to SMU has proven to be an easier task than even Gregory may have anticipated. SMU is looking to reach new heights in golf, and the chance to revitalize a program has intrigued the prospects.
"I think the campus itself along with the opportunity helped," Gregory said about impressing the freshmen class. "There's no reason SMU shouldn't be a top golf school. We try to sell them on establishing a history."
Gregory said that getting the kids to visit the campus was critical, and noted that out of the first six players who visited Dallas, all six committed to the team.
The first test for the team will come starting Sunday at the Gopher Invitational at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minn. The course is Gregory's favorite in all of college golf, and he realizes the importance of this opening weekend.
"It's a perfect place to start," Gregory said. "Good weather, but a tough course. We'll find out real fast if we're any good."
SMU aims to join college golf's elite, and the team will get a taste of what it's like in Minnesota. Many of last year's top schools are participating, including California, Arkansas, Kent State, and New Mexico, all of whom finished last season ranked in the top-20.
With preseason expectations very high, Gregory anticipates that his team will be able to meet the demands.
"It's as fired up as I've been as a head coach," Gregory said.