Last year at this time, Arizona State men’s golf was trying to find an identity and get back to where it once was.
A program that consistently made the NCAA Championships, battled for conference championship and had individuals and the team in the hunt for a national title took a slight step back.
Welcome back Sun Devils.
Head Coach Tim Mickelson and assistant coach Joe Prince rallied a team of youngsters last year to a top-five finish at the NCAAs and then-freshman Jon Rahm set all kinds of records en route to a tie for second at the NCAAs. How impressive was that? According to Golfstat, ASU was the most improved team in the nation. It 10-under 270 in the NCAA Championship in the first round in Atlanta last May was the best round of the tournament. How impressive was the 270? Its was the lowest score by the Sun Devils since the spring of 2009.
“No question we finished strong, and that was great and fun at the time, but this year everything starts over,” says Mickelson, now in his third season as Sun Devil head coach. “Jon was tremendous and his NCAA play was great for our program. Max was strong and consistent all year. But the competition this year is going to be what is special. We have 11 guys that will compete for five spots. That will make every practice count.”
ASU scratched and clawed its way to rankings of 40th (Golfweek) and 52nd (Golfstat) heading into last year’s NCAA championship. Looks like there won’t be any sneaking up this year. Golfweek has already tabbed the squad with a preseason ranking of No. 20.
“Being ranked is expected now at Arizona State,” adds Mickelson. “We are glad to be back in the mix from the start line. It won’t help us win a tournament, but it does show people who have pride in this program and have invested in we are heading in the right direction.”
The Sun Devils return seven players from last year who competed in the spring, led by Rahm (71.37 stroke average) and classmate Max Rottluff (72.58). Spencer Lawson, Alberto Sanchez, Mathias Schjoelberg, Austin Quick and Trey Ka’ahanui also are back, and each have had solid moments in the past year and will challenge for a spot in the lineup. Newcomers Blake Cannon, Nicolo Galleti, Broc Johnson and Ki Taek Lee are all talented and give the Sun Devils depth.
It will be hard for Rahm to top his freshman year, as he won Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, shot a NCAA Championship opening-round record of 61, had two wins (Bill Cullum Invitational and Lamkin Grips San Diego Classic), played a nation’s best 46 rounds. Want more? He was ranked first in the nation in par-5 scoring (4.51) and birdies (165) and was tied for the nation’s lead with nine eagles. His 71.37 stroke average is the best by a Sun Devil in freshman, and there have been a few pretty good freshman in Tempe. How consistent was he? His score counted for the team in all 46 rounds.
“Each player has something to offer, and we look forward to watching them compete for a spot. Obviously Jon is who we expect to lead us, but we want every player to compete as if they are trying to be our No. 1 player. That is what we expect and why we recruited each guy.”
The team opens play in Washington on Sept. 16-17 at the Kikkor Invitational. Its pre-NCAA postseason schedule includes 12 tournaments taking place in five states (Washington, New Mexico, California, Hawaii and Arizona). It will play five fall tournaments in a 52-day span (Sept. 16-Nov. 6). Three months after finishing its fall schedule in Hawaii, the Sun Devils go back to Hawaii to start its spring seaosn in the Amer Air Intercollegiate. The Pac-12 Championships will be held in Marana, Ariz. The NCAA Championships will be held in Hutchinson, Kan., in late May.
2013-14 SUN DEVIL MEN’S GOLF SCHEDULE
Sept. 16-17 at Kikkor Invitational (Bremerton, Wash.)
Sept. 27-28 at Tucker Invitational (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Oct. 14-15 at Alister McKenzie Invitational (Fremont, Calif.)
Oct. 21-22 at Bill Cullum Invitational (Simi Valley, Calif.)
Nov. 4-6 at Kauai Invitational (Princeville, Hawaii)
Feb. 4-6 at Amer Ari Intercollegiate (Waikoloa, Hawaii)
Feb. 17-18 at Prestige (La Quinta, Calif.)
Mar. 7-9 at Southern Highlands College Masters (Las Vegas, Nev.)
Mar. 21-22 ASU Thunderbird Invitational (Tempe, Ariz.)
April 7-8 at Chambers Bay Intercollegiate (Tacoma, Wash.)
April 12-13 at Western Intercollegiate (Santa Cruz, Calif.)
April 25-27 at Pac-12 Championships (Marana, Ariz.)
May 15-17 at NCAA Regionals (TBD)
May 27-June 1 at NCAA Championship (Hutchinson, Kan.)
Sun Devil Men's Golf Enters Season No. 20 In Golfweek Rankings
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics