Jan. 22, 2013
DALLAS (SMU) - If national opinion is any indicator, then SMU Mustangs golf should be in for a fruitful spring season. Both the men's and women's teams were projected by GolfWeek.com to win the Conference USA title come April.
Each team already has a fantastic fall under its belt, with the men's team ranked No. 16 according to the GolfWeek/Sagarin rankings and the women's No. 35. The women's team, led by head coach Jeanne Sutherland, took two of its first three events of the fall. The team won the Chip-N Club title in Lincoln, Neb., by 15 strokes with freshman Alexandra Rossi taking individual medalist honors in her first career event. SMU was then victorious at the Johnie Imes Invitational in Columbia, Mo., by nine strokes, with Melanie White earning her first individual win of her career. White set an event record with a 208, including a low round of 65. While Sutherland appreciates GolfWeek's projection, she does not make any assumptions as to the success of her team this spring.
"It's nice to be recognized," Sutherland said. "We've got a lot of work to do. There will be some good competition, but we're going with the intention of winning the conference."
The men's fall slate was highlighted by a season-opening second place at the Gopher Invitational hosted by Minnesota and a fourth at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate, co-hosted by SMU. The Mustangs are paced by star freshmen Bryson Dechambeau (second on the team in scoring average), Austin Smotherman (healthy for spring after a shoulder injury), Ryan Burgess, Maxime Blandin (shot a 63 in his first collegiate round) and David Lee. Senior Harry Higgs brings experience, along with UCLA transfer Mario Clemens. Sophomore Sam Fidone adds even more depth to a loaded lineup that has high hopes for this season, and beyond.
"In order to win a national title, you either need those one or two star players, or you need five solid players," Head Coach Josh Gregory
said. "We don't have that one guy that really stands out right now, but there are no weak links."
Neither squad has won the C-USA title since 2006, when the men's side took the championship. The women's team has never won a C-USA title, and would love the opportunity to take home the crown before SMU moves to the Big East this summer.
"It'd be nice to finally win (a Conference USA title with SMU)," Sutherland said.
Sutherland's bunch has seen its ranking steadily climb from outside the top 100 at the end of last season to No. 35 now. "It's as good of a team as I've ever coached," Sutherland said.
Both teams have aspirations at a national level, and have quickly positioned their programs to make a move to the top of the rankings.
"If we play great, mature and can compete this spring, I think we could end up sneaking into the top eight and make a run at somebody," Gregory said.
SMU has never won conference championships in both men's and women's golf in the same season, but if the experts are correct, both teams should be prepared to make some extra room in the trophy case this spring.