ASU golf preview: Elite Spaniards poised to lead men’s, women’s squads

Junior Jon Rahm Rodriguez watches to see if his putt will find the whole during the ASU Thunderbird Invitational on April 7, 2013. Rahm Rodriguez led the Sun Devils with a score of -1. (Photo by Murphy Bannerman)

Junior Jon Rahm Rodriguez watches to see if his putt will find the whole during the ASU Thunderbird Invitational on April 7, 2013. Rahm Rodriguez led the Sun Devils with a score of -1. (Photo by Murphy Bannerman)

After another successful year in the 2013-2014 season, the ASU men’s and women’s golf teams continue to have their eyes on national titles for the coming season.

On the men’s the side, the team is returning its top eight players from a season ago, including junior Jon Rahm from Spain who is ranked in the top 30 players in the country collegiately by Golfweek.

The team is also expected to add two players during the season, one in the fall and another in the spring. Due to NCAA rules, the names of those players are not yet known.

“I expect us to be very talented at the top of our lineup,” said fourth year coach Tim Mickelson. “And I expect us to be very deep at the bottom of our lineup which should help us at the end of the year.”

Mickelson also said that he expects his team to be ranked somewhere between number 10 and 20 at the end of the season.

A season ago the team did not make it to the finals of the NCAA championships. The team did not reach that stage in the first year under Mickelson either but did compete and tie for fifth in Mickelson’s second year in Tempe. Mickelson is expecting his team to make it to that stage in the 2014-2015 season.

“Last year we dealt with some injuries,” Mickelson said. “We still had a good team. We were, I would say, a little inexperienced in that moment. But we have a much more experienced team this year.”

The men’s team is currently scheduled to start their tournament season with the Itani Quality Homes Collegiate in Pullman, Washington on September 29.

The women’s team, led by 13th year head coach Melissa Luellen, is coming off a fifth place finish in the NCAA championships and is expecting the same kind of success despite losing four seniors from last season.

Coach Luellen said that with those losses, “some adjustments need to be made.” She also said that everyone on the team and coaching staff is comfortable with where the team is right now.

Senior Noemi Jimenez from Spain leads the women’s team. Golfweek currently ranks Jimenez as the fourth best women’s golfer in the country collegiately. World Amateur Golf Ranking also ranks Jimenez as the ninth best amateur player in the world.

In her junior season, Jimenez won an individual title at the NCAA West regionals and recorded seven top-five finishes during the season. She was also named All-Pac-12 first team. Jimenez has had a very successful international career including wins at the Spanish Amateur and French international tournament, both before her 18th birthday.

New to the team this season are four international players, including Roberta Liti from Italy who ranks in the top 130 amateurs in the world, according to World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Five of the seven players currently on the team are international athletes, coming from France, England, Spain, Italy and Germany. Coach Luellen said that ASU does a good job with the orientation of these international students but the language barrier can be tough at times, at least at the beginning of the athlete’s time at ASU. They also have to adjust to the culture here in Arizona and in the United States as a whole, but team-building activities help in this process.

The women’s team will start their tournament season with the Annika Invitational in Kissimmee, Florida on September 28.

Reach the reporter at wslane@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @bill_slane