When you see my picks for the top coaches of the mid-season, you might roll your eyes. People frequently shy away from giving coaches of highly talented teams their due for being successful, the concept coming from the idea that that pretty much anyone could drive the van, get the five players to the course and walking off with a nice trophy after two or three rounds.
Oh if it were only that easy.
So it is that I tip my cap to cap to those who not only appear to overachieve with their squads but those who live up to expectations as well.
Jay Seawell, Alabama
There isn't one thing that the 11th-year coach of the Crimson Tide did this fall that translates into why his team won all four tournaments it played in, a first in school history. Truth is it's what Seawell did the last three years that best explains his squad's first semester success.
Consider that by mid-September it had already been a long year for Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt. The duo had contributed to seven team wins during the spring of 2013, including an emotional, redemptive victory at the NCAA Championship. They each played a healthy summer schedule that resulted in achieving their chief goal of making the U.S. Walker Cup team. They then helped the American side claim a lopsided defeat of Great Britain & Ireland at National GL in September.
Given all this, would you have blamed the incoming seniors if they coasted through the fall semester so that they would be fresh for the spring of 2014? Neither golfer, however, would slack off. That's not how they learned to play the game since arriving in Tuscaloosa. That's Seawell's influence.
Seawell says its the leadership of Whitsett, Wyatt and Trey Mullinax that explains the dominant play this fall after struggling in previous seasons to get the season started. Yet Whitsett, Wyatt and Mullinax are reflections of Seawell, who's "start each day at zero" mentality has rubbed off on his players and allowed them to stay hungry even after being well fed.
Honorable mention: Alan Bratton, Oklahoma State
When you've been asked to replace a coach who won a national title and five conference crowns in eight years yet was actually let go because of questions over the team's performance, you know you're going to be scrutinized from Day 1. Still, Bratton has managed to rally the Cowboys, who posted two victories this fall and crept into the top-10 of all the major college rankings. If nothing else, It's good enough for him to be back at the helm again in spring.
Andrea Gaston, USC
After a dominant performance to win the NCAA title last May, the Trojans were expected to dominate play this fall. Yet while they have won all four tournaments they've competed in, twice the squad needed to come from behind in the final round to claim victory. For that Gaston (far right in the photo picture from the team's win at the Pac-12 Preview) deserves credit. Sure her players are capable of great things—four of them hold the top six spots in the country for scoring average—but you still need to keep them focused and motivated. It's a skill that will be even more in demand next spring as USC looks to see how much history it can actually make.
Honorable mention: Courtney Jones, Oklahoma State
As they say in football parlance, next (wo)man up. So it was for Jones, an assistant under Alan Bratton who found herself elevated to the head women's job this summer when Bratton was enlisted to take over the men's program. A victory at the Schooner Fall Classic along with top-three finishes at the Dale McNamara Fall Preview and Windy City Invitational has the Cowgirls ranked No. 3 in the latest Golf World/WGCA coaches' poll and positioning themselves as a pretty nice dark-horse when the postseason rolls around.