KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Bulldogs are ranked 22nd in the NAIA Men's Golf Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Friday.
Wayland Baptist (Texas), who finished 16th at last year's NAIA Men's Golf National Championships, opens the season as the No. 1 ranked team. The Pioneers received 14 first-place votes and 435 total points en route to the program's first-ever top billing.
Wayland Baptist claimed team titles at three of its four events this fall, including its most recent win at the Northwood (Texas) Fall Shootout at Tangle Ridge Golf Club in Cedar Hill, Texas. The Pioneers carded a tournament-low 4-under par, 860 (292-287-281), to best second-place Texas Wesleyan by 10 strokes. Anders Ellingsberg and Ryan Connolly have been two of the key performers this season for Wayland Baptist. Ellingsberg owns three top five finishes, including an individual title at the St. Mary's Fall Invitational at Dominion Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas. Connolly has finished among the top five individuals twice, including a co-championship at the Northwood Fall Shootout.
Defending national champion Oklahoma City, who has never been ranked outside of the top five, dating back to 2000, checks in at No. 2 with 413 points. The Stars return two of their four top 10 finishers at last year's national championships in Anthony and James Marchesani. James Marchesani won the NAIA Preview held at LPGA International – home of the 2014 NAIA Men's Golf National Championships – in Daytona Beach, Fla., earlier this fall with a three-round score of 211 (74-70-67).
Checking in at No. 3 and receiving its highest ranking since joining the NAIA in 2012-13 is Coastal Georgia with 404 points. The Mariners return five All-Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) golfers, including SSAC Golfer of the Year Dylan Freeman. Coastal Georgia played in four events this fall, claiming a team championship in its most recent tournament – the St. Andrews Fall Invitational – on Nov. 4-5. In addition to the team title, Freeman shot an even-par, 144 (68-76), to edge Matthew Latham of St. Andrews (N.C.) by one stroke.
Rounding out the top five are No. 4 Oklahoma Baptist – one of 11 newcomers listed in the Preseason Poll – and No. 5 Grand View (Iowa) with 389 and 377 points, respectively. Grand View also tallied the poll's last two first-place votes.
In addition to Oklahoma Baptist, No. 9 Southern Wesleyan (S.C.), No. 11 Webber International (Fla.), No. 14 Northwood (Fla.), No. 17 Victoria (B.C.), No. 18 Concordia (Ore.), No. 19 Mount Mercy (Iowa), No. 21 Cumberland (Tenn.), No. 22 Tennessee Wesleyan, No. 24 Bethany (Kan.) and No. 25 Southeastern (Fla.) are new to the Top 25. Of the group, only Southern Wesleyan, Mount Mercy and Webber International were ranked at any point during last season.
Cumberland snaps the longest drought among the newcomers, with its most recent ranking coming on May 12, 2005.
Eleven conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups are represented in the Preseason Poll. The Sooner Athletic Conference – Wayland Baptist, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Baptist, No. 8 Texas Wesleyan and No. 23 Northwood (Texas) – and The Sun Conference – Webber International, No. 12 Johnson & Wales (Fla.), Northwood (Fla.), No. 20 USC Beaufort (S.C.) and Southeastern – are tied for the lead with five programs each.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups. For the complete ratings calendar, click here.
Notes (All information dates back to 2000): Wayland Baptist (Texas) makes its first-ever No. 1 appearance … The Pioneers are one of eight teams all-time to hold the No. 1 ranking … Oklahoma City leads the NAIA with 38 all-time No. 1 rankings, followed by former member Oklahoma Christian (28) and Texas Wesleyan (5) … In 2013, only Oklahoma City and Texas Wesleyan appeared at No. 1 … Oklahoma City has never been ranked outside of the top five … Eleven newcomers joined the Top 25 this edition – the most since last year's Preseason Poll when 12 newcomers made the poll … Among the newcomers, No. 21 Cumberland (Tenn.) snaps the longest drought with its most recent ranking coming on May 12, 2005 … Oklahoma City (2010, 2004, 2003, 2002) is the only Preseason No. 1 team to go on to win the National Championships during the same season.
2014 NAIA Men's Golf Coaches' Preseason Top 25 Poll (Nov. 8)
SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)
Wayland Baptist (Texas) (14)
Grand View (Iowa) (2)
Cal State San Marcos
William Woods (Mo.)
Southern Wesleyan (S.C.)
Webber International (Fla.)
Johnson & Wales (Fla.)
Mount Mercy (Iowa)
USC Beaufort (S.C.)