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Florida's Buddy Alexander to retire after more than 30 years in college coaching

By Ryan Herrington

loop-buddy-alexander-518.jpgFlorida's Buddy Alexander has always been a no-nonsense college golf coach, and he continued to display this dominating trait even in the wake of his decision to retire after 27 seasons in Gainesville.

Upon revealing the news Tuesday, the 61-year-old Alexander didn't gloss over the fact that the timing was far from ideal. The Gators have struggled in 2013-14, finishing in the top five in just two of 10 starts. The team must win the SEC Championship this weekend at Sea Island G.C. to earn an automatic qualifying spot into NCAA regionals, otherwise its string of 13 straight NCAA Championships appearances -- the longest active streak in the country -- will end as the Gators' sub-.500 head-to-head record this season makes them ineligible for an at-large bid to regionals.

"This has been a tough year, but in reality, the last three years have not been up to our/my expected standards,'' Alexander said in a letter he prepared for Gator golf boosters. "Coaching is a young man's game and it is simply time for me to turn the reins over to someone else and allow this great university, athletic department and golf program to be everything it should be. "Life and golf are so similar," continued Alexander, who is the second-longest tenured coach in any sport in school history. "There are many ups and downs and highs and lows. Today is one of those days that stir all kinds of emotion, it's sad that my time has come, but I'm happy everything worked out so well. I am in a good place, as will our golf program in the future."

Recent results notwithstanding, Alexander's record at Florida was the envy of most of his coaching brethren. In his more than two decades overseeing the Gators, his squads won two NCAA titles, had 11 top-10 finishes at nationals, captured eight SEC Championships and 79 tournaments overall. Thirty-one of his Florida players (include Camilo Villegas, above, from the 2001 NCAA title team) moved on to careers on the PGA Tour.

"He's one of the all-time greats,'' Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release. "He's had a heck of a run. There's no better Gator than Buddy Alexander."

Alexander first broke into coaching in 1977, taking over as head man at his alma mater, Georgia Southern, until 1980. He also held the top job at LSU from 1983 to 1987, where he won two SEC titles and distinguished himself as a player by winning the 1986 U.S. Amateur title. He left Baton Rouge to take a position with management firm IMG, but jumped back into coaching when the Florida job opened.

"I came to Florida because I thought it gave me a great chance to compete,'' Alexander said. "You get into coaching initially because you love golf, you love kids and you love to compete. What I was thinking when I came here was that it was an elite college golf program that has been down since [former coach] Buster [Bishop] was around, and I thought it was an opportunity to turn it back around in the other direction."

Alexander officially steps down at Florida June 30.

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News & Tours

No end to the roll the Alabama men are on in the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll

By Ryan Herrington

If surprise is what you're looking for from this edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf men's Division I college coaches' poll, then I'm sorry to disappoint you. Alabama sitting in the top spot is the farthest thing from surprising, having held the No. 1 ranking all season.

The Crimson Tide got back to their winning ways with a victory at the Mason Rudolph Championship earlier this month. It was Alabama's sixth tournament triumph in nine starts this season as the squad prepares to defend the SEC title it has won the last two seasons and see if they can also make it back-to-back victories at the NCAA Championship.

Suffice it to say, there wasn't a whole lot of movement within the top 25 overall as teams settle in for conference championship season:


poll-men-d1-0421-518.jpgA few tidbits from the latest D-I poll:

* Oklahoma State picked up the other first-place vote and moved into the No. 2 spot in the ranking. The Cowboys have four victories in 2013-14 and have finished no worse than fourth in their 10 starts as they too prepare for their conference championship.

* Alabama found its way into the top five of the Golf World poll for the 51st time since the poll was reinstated in 2001-02. That's the third most top-five appearances of any men's program. The only two programs to have been in the top five more often are Oklahoma State (77) and Georgia (56). UCLA is now alone in fourth place at 50.

* Vanderbilt finished second to Alabama at the Mason Rudolph, its home tournament. The finish, coupled with a victory the previous week at the Talis Park Challenge helped the Commodores move into the No. 14 spot in the latest poll, the highest the school has been ranked since the polls resumed.



poll-men-d2-0421-250.jpgBarry University remained the unanimous choice for the No. 1 ranking in the latest Division II men’s coaches’ poll. The Buccaneers earned all 16 first-place votes as won their fifth tournament of the 2013-14 season at their home event at the end of last month. After voting closed, they also managed to win their conference championship as they prepared for the NCAA post-season in which they hope to defend their national title.
 
USC-Aiken moved from No. 5 to No. 2 in the most recent poll, with Lynn, CSU-Monterey Bay and Chico State rounding out the top five.


poll-men-d3-0421-250.jpgIllinois Wesleyan held on to the top ranking in the latest Division III coaches’ poll. The Titans have two victories and a runner-up finish to show for their play thus far in the spring semester as they claimed nine of the 14 available first-place votes. The squad begins the postseason this week with its conference championship.
 
Jumping one place into the No. 2 spot in the poll is Oglethorpe. The Stormy Petrels prepare for their conference championship after winning two of four stroke-play events this spring and four overall in the 2013-14 season.

poll-men-naia-0421-250.jpgOklahoma City reclaimed its spot atop the latest NAIA coaches’ poll. The Stars earned three of nine first-place votes to move from the No. 2 spot in the last poll thanks to victories at the Battle at Primm and the Oklahoma Baptist Spring Invitational, lifting their season-long win total to five.
 
Previously No. 1 Wayland Baptist dropped just one spot and claimed two first-place votes. The Pioneers finished runner-up to Oklahoma City at the Battle at Primm and were sixth at the Bash at The Beach.

poll-men-njcaa-0421-250.jpgOdessa and South Mountain claimed the top spots in the latest NJCAA Division I and Division II polls, respectively. Odessa moved up from No. 2 in the previous D-I poll while South Mountain retained its No. 1 ranking in D-II, earning five of the seven available first-place votes.
 
McLennan, the previous No. 1 ranked team in D-I fell to No. 3 with Midland filling the No. 2 spot.


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News & Tours

Where does your team rank in the latest men's college golf coaches' poll?

By Ryan Herrington

Who says the Alabama streak is over?

OK, perhaps the Crimson Tide's run of consecutive victories in tournaments came to an end earlier this month at 11 straight, but the school's hold on the No. 1 ranking in the Golf World/Nike Golf men's Division I coaches' poll continues for a sixth consecutive ranking.

 
Men-DI-0331-440.jpgSome additional tidbits from the latest D-I poll:

* This is the 18th straight poll, dating back to April 2012, that Alabama has been ranked in the top five. The only school with a current longer active streak is No. 2 California, which has been inside the top five the past 19 rankings. (Georgia holds the all-time mark for consecutive times in the top five at 47, dating from March 2004 to September 2009.)

* This is the 32nd straight poll, dating back to the start of the 2010-11 season, that Alabama has been ranked in the top 10, the longest active streak of any school. The all-time mark here is held by Oklahoma State at 74 (March 2003 to October 2011). 

* Having won three straight events this spring, Houston jumped from No. 16 to No. 7 in the latest poll. It's the highest the Cougars have been ranked in the top 10 in the Golf World poll since it was restarted in 2001-02 and the first time they've cracked the top 10.

* Kent State fell out of the top 25 for the first time since October 2011.



Men-DII-0331-235.jpgBarry University, winners of four team titles to date in the 2013-14 season, held on to the top spot in the latest Division II poll. The Buccaneers earned 18 of the 19 available first-place votes having finished no worse than second in any event since during the spring campaign as they aim to defend their NCAA title.

Lynn University remain No. 2 in the ranking, with CSU-Monterey Bay, Chico State and USC-Aiken rounding out the top five. No. 6 Central Missouri was the only other squad to receive a first-place vote.


Men-DIII-0331-235.jpgA shake-up in the Division III men's college coaches' poll saw Illinois Wesleyan to the No. 1 spot in the latest rankings. The Titans were bolstered by a victory in their spring opener, the Jekyll Island Intercollegiate, where they beat a field of 30 teams to claim their second team title of the 2013-14 season. Illinois Wesleyan earned seven of the the available 16 first-place votes as the squad moved up from its No. 8 ranking in the first spring poll.

Jumping to No. 2 was Redlands, which also earned seven first-place votes, after sharing the team title at the Las Vegas Desert Classic against a field of mostly Division II foes. It was the Bulldogs' third victory of the season.

Rounding out the top five were Oglethorpe, Guilford and St. John Fisher, which claimed a first-place vote. No. 6 Wittenberg, the top-ranked program in the first poll of the spring, earned the other first-place ballot.


Men-NAIA-0331.235.jpgFive victories in seven starts during the 2013-14 campaign have vaulted Wayland Baptist into the top spot in the latest NAIA poll. The Pioneers had been ranked No. 2 in the previous spring poll only to swapped spots with Oklahoma City after beating them in successive starts at the Shootout in San Antonio and the UST Mamiya Texas Intercollegiate. Wayland Baptist claimed seven of eight available first-place votes.




Men-NJCAA-0331-235.jpgMcLennan and South Mountain sit atop the latest NJCAA Division I and II men's college coaches' polls, respectively.

The Highlanders were victorious earlier this month at the Jacksonville Invitational, helping them earn four of the seven available first-place votes in the D-I ranking. Odessa, No. 1 in the previous poll, dropped a spot to No. 2 but earned two first-place votes with No. 3 Faulkner State earn the lone remaining vote.

The Cougars grabbed five of six available first-place votes in the D-II ranking after winning the Mesa Thunderbird Classic earlier this month by 10 strokes over third-ranked Mesa CC. No. 2 Walters State JC received the only other first-place vote.

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News & Tours

Two years after their teammate's death, two college golfers make aces in the same round en route to historic victory

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Georgia Southern won its first men's tournament in more than a year Sunday. But it wasn't the fact that the Eagles won so much as how they won that makes for one of the most inspirational golf stories of the year so far.

Playing at the Schenkel Invitational at Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga., two Georgia Southern seniors, Hayden Anderson and Will Evans, who finished T-4 and T-22 in the tournament, respectively, each recorded holes-in-one during Saturday's second round. Those aces helped the team shoot a combined 12-under 276 on the day, vaulting them into a lead it would not relinquish Sunday when the Eagles beat runner-up UAB by 12 strokes.

It was the first time in the tournament's 35-year history that Georgia Southern had won its home event.

Anderson and Evans are roommates and two of four seniors on a team that should have included a fifth -- Thomas Sharkey, who died tragically in a house fire alongside his 8-year-old sister in 2011. Before the tournament, members of the team decided that if they won, they would take the trophy and deliver it to Tomas' mother, Angela, in her native Scotland.

blog-georgia-southern-lkd-480.jpg

"It definitely felt like destiny, but you never want to think that because the game of golf will come up and bite you real quick," Scott Wolfes, the team's low man and individual medalist, said in a release.

"I just tried to play the best I could and not to think about anything and not to look at the scoreboard," Wolfes added. "There are so many things bigger than golf, and I'm thankful for every day I get to play."


That thought was echoed by the team's coach, Larry Mays.

"It was an emotional day yesterday with the two hole-in-ones, and we just wanted to come out today and finish it off. ... Thomas was there the whole time, and we had the perfect Scottish [weather] for the last nine holes."

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News & Tours

Stanford's Patrick Rodgers to turn pro after NCAA Championship

By Ryan Herrington

Stanford junior Patrick Rodgers, the No. 1 player on the current World Amateur Golf Rankings, announced Monday via Twitter that he would be wrapping up his amateur career after this spring semester. 


In his two-plus seasons to date with the Cardinal, Rodgers has won seven individual college titles -- most recently last month at The Prestige -- tying him with Joel Kribel for the second most wins in school history. Rodgers will need four more to catch Tiger Woods atop the career victory list.

The two-time U.S. Walker Cup team member does, however, holds an edge on Woods in career scoring, sporting a 70.55 mark to Woods' 70.96 average, and giving him plenty to play for in his last few months.
LK-Patrick-Rodgers.jpg
“It would mean a lot, especially over a guy like Tiger, who set so many remarkable records in the game,” Rodgers told GoStanford.com of maintaining the career scoring mark. “It would mean a heck of a lot more to leave here with a national championship for the team. That’s always been my focus.”

Rodgers said his plan is to try to gain sponsor's exemptions into PGA Tour events this summer "and hopefully make the most of those opportunities." It was a plan that proved fruitful for one of friends and former amateur rivals, Jordan Spieth.

While the odds of earning a PGA Tour card are slim, the experience is something Rodgers will benefit from and would ready him for either European Tour or Web.com Tour qualifying school should he need to play them in the fall.

Rodgers has played in three PGA Tour events as an amateur, finishing T-15 at the John Deere Classic in his lone made cut.

Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images





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News & Tours

Can anyone top the Alabama men? Not in the first spring college poll

By Ryan Herrington

It took me a couple glances to make sure I wasn't seeing things. No, that number on Golfstat was right. The Alabama men had shot a 45-under 819 to win the Puerto Rico Classic on Tuesday, beating a hard charging Georgia Tech squad by four strokes.

And so running totals added another number:

Starts in 2013-14: 4 5

Wins in 2013-14: 4 5

Consecutive victories since the spring: 10 11

Starts until talk of being the greatest college team of all-time surfaces in earnest: 2 1

My favorite stat of all was the fact that in the Crimson Tide's four victories last fall, the team shot a combined 32 under par.

All this information only affirmed the results of the first spring edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf men's Division I coaches' poll -- voting closed Feb. 21 before the tournament began -- in which Alabama retained the No. 1 ranking, earning 18 of 19 first-place votes.

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News & Tours

False alarm, people. Furman's men's golf team won't be disappearing, after all

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Just weeks after Furman University announced that its men's golf team would be discontinued, the school has reversed the decision thanks to a group of alumni.

The group -- which includes eight-time PGA Tour champion Brad Faxon -- will raise close to $300,000 before the start of next season that would cover the team's expenses for the next two years, according to Golf Channel's Ryan Lavner. The same group will then reportedly attempt to raise another $2 million before 2016 to keep the program alive for the foreseeable future.

blog-furman-480.jpg
"We are all proud alums of the Furman golf program, and none of us wanted to see it discontinued," Faxon said in a release.

Related: Brad Faxon laments end of men's golf team

"We talked with university officials, and discussed what we could do to bring the program back. Furman has a very dedicated group of men's golf alumni, and we had numerous people step up and make some very generous contributions that provided the kind of financial support the university needed."

Although uncommon, it's not unprecedented for golf teams slated for discontinuation to be saved by alumni. In 2002, for example, the University of Minnesota's men's golf team was saved by boosters and went on to win both that year's Big Ten and National Championships.

Full release below:

FURMAN UNIVERSITY ANNOUNCES PLAN TO SUSTAIN MEN'S GOLF PROGRAM WITH SUPPORT OF ALUMNI
 
GREENVILLE, S.C.—Furman University announced today that due to the outstanding generosity of the school's many golf alumni to provide short-term operating funds and to establish an endowment for scholarships, the men's intercollegiate golf program will not be discontinued.
 
Furman Interim President Carl Kohrt '65 said the plan provides the necessary financial support to sustain the men's golf program at a highly competitive level while allowing the University to retain the cost reductions realized by the board's original decision.
 
Professional golfer Brad Faxon '83, a former All-America and Fred Haskins Award winner at Furman, said the university and the alumni group worked hard to find a solution that benefitted everybody.
 
"We are all proud alums of the Furman golf program, and none of us wanted to see it discontinued," Faxon said.  "So we talked with university officials, and discussed what we could do to bring the program back.  Furman has a very dedicated group of men's golf alumni, and we had numerous people step up and make some very generous contributions that provided the kind of financial support the university needed. The outpouring of support from Furman alumni and the golf community has been amazing."
 
Richard Cullen '71, chair of Furman's Board of Trustees, said the university was elated by the enthusiasm of Furman's alumni in support of the plan.
 
"We said at the outset that the initial decision was not an easy one, but necessary to ensure that Furman's resources support its core mission," Cullen said.  "This plan maintains our position. The goodwill with which the alumni have approached us, their genuine concern about the University's well-being, and their commitment to the tradition of golf at Furman has been inspiring."
 
"We were caught off guard by the University's decision to discontinue men's golf, but appreciate the need to appropriately steward the University's resources," said Rob Langley '05, a former member of the men's golf team who is part of a group leading the alumni effort.  "This plan allows both sides to achieve a win-win.  The golf alumni are re-energized and committed to doing everything possible to strengthen the men's golf program for the long-term, which includes driving successful fundraising campaigns to support the program."


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News & Tours

What's next for the Furman men's golf team?

By Ryan Herrington

Furman logo.jpgIt's hard to question the character of the members of the Furman men's golf team given the way they've handled themselves the last 72 hours. Friday afternoon coach Todd Satterfield broke the news to his team that the university's Board of Trustees had voted to discontinue the program after this season. Shortly afterward, Furman athletic director Gary Clark also spoke to the squad to try to explain the decision, which the school says was made to address a need to reallocate resources (read: save money).

As feelings of anger and disbelief surfaced over what the long-term future might hold, the group made the most impressive of short-term decisions. Saturday and Sunday the Paladins were supposed to be holding a qualifier at Furman GC for their upcoming opening spring tournament, and they would not change their plans even in the wake of such disappointing news.

"It was their choice," said Satterfield, among college golf's most respected voices. "They've been remarkably resilient."

I spoke with Satterfield Sunday as he was driving to Furman GC. He said he knew the university faced significant financial issues—an estimated $6.4 million deficit for the 2014-15 academic year according to one report—but said he learned of the possibility of shutting down the golf program only a day before the Feb. 7 vote was taken by the school's Board of Trustees.

The men's golf team was the only one of 18 varsity men's and women's sports programs at the school that was affected. In a release, the school said the decision to cut the men's golf team was based on "an extensive evaluation of criteria, including public visibility, attendance, competitiveness and overall cost."

The Paladins have won 13 Southern Conference titles since 1970, most recently in 2010, but had qualified for NCAA Regionals only four times and had not reached the NCAA Championships since 1986. The men's team currently is 122nd in the Golfstat team ranking. Sadly, Furman has struggled on the course of late.

Still, within college golf circles news of the team's disbanding was greeted with shock. Alumnus Brad Faxon, an All-American at Furman in the 1980s, was among those who publicly expressed his disappointment with the move, as did former Lady Paladin Dottie Pepper.

Related: Alumnus Brad Faxon laments about end of Furman golf team

The frustration from some about the decision stemmed not only for golf's long tradition at the school—a men's team first played there in 1930 and the women's team was one of the dominant national programs in the 1970s and early 1980s—but also that the school recently added men's and women's lacrosse teams, both of which are believed to require larger monetary resources from the school than the golf program.

Todd Satterfield.jpgThe question now is whether there is any recourse that can be taken to appeal the decision. Other schools that have announced they would cut their golf programs had changed their mind when the team or its boosters managed to raise money to support the team. The most notable example: Minnesota in 2002, when boosters rallied to save the team as the squad responded by winning the NCAA title.

Satterfield (left) says he doesn't know if this is a possibility or not. Regardless, he said he was committed to making this next semester the best possible experience for him and his team.

"We've always done things a class way," Satterfield said. "We're going to continue to do it a class way."
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News & Tours

30 players make Ben Hogan Award watch list

By Ryan Herrington

ben_hogan_award_logo-11 copy.jpgYou'll struggle to find any true surprises among the 30 golfers named Wednesday to the Ben Hogan Award watch list. The players below have all acquitted themselves rather well since Washington's Chris Williams won the honor -- given to the top collegiate golfer taking into account his record in both college and amateur competitions -- last May.

A total of 21 schools have players on the list, with six programs having multiple golfers named: Alabama (4), California (3), Georgia Tech (2), Kent State (2), Oklahoma State (2) and Stanford (2). (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the selection committee for the award and participated in selecting the watch list.)

Fifteen seniors have been recognized, followed by nine juniors, five sophomores and one freshman. Twelve of the 30 are from foreign countries. One non-Division I golfer was included: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps' Bradley Shigezawa.

A list of the 10 semifinalists will be named April 16 and the three finalists will be announced May 7.

The saving grace for those who don't see their name on this initial list? You don't have to be included here to be eligible for the award when it is handed out May 18 in a black-tie banquet at Colonial CC in Fort Worth.

The award is presented by the Friends of Golf, Colonial CC and the GCAA.

Ben Hogan Award Watch List
Name - School, Year
Anders Albertson - Georgia Tech, Jr.
Julien Brun - TCU, Jr.
Sebastian Cappelen - Arkansas, Sr.
Corey Conners - Kent State, Sr.
Ian Davis - Oklahoma State, Sr.
Bryson Dechambeau - SMU, Soph.
Thomas Detry - Illinois, Soph.
Greg Eason - UCF, Sr.
Joey Garber - Georgia, Sr.
Oliver Goss - Tennessee, Soph.
Gavin Green - New Mexico, Jr.
Brandon Hagy - California, Sr.
Toni Hakula - Texas, Sr.
Chase Koepka - USF, Soph.
Denny McCarthy - Virginia, Jr.
Trey Mullinax - Alabama, Sr.
Jordan Niebrugge - Oklahoma State, Soph.
Cheng-Tsung Pan - Washington, Jr.
Taylor Pendrith - Kent State, Sr.
J.T. Poston - Western Carolina, Jr.
Patrick Rodgers - Stanford, Jr.
Ollie Schniederjans - Georgia Tech, Jr.
Robby Shelton - Alabama, Fr.
Bradley Shigezawa - Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Sr.
Joel Stalter - California, Sr.
Scott Vincent - Virginia Tech, Jr.
Michael Weaver - California, Sr.
Cory Whitsett - Alabama, Sr.
Cameron Wilson - Stanford, Sr.
Bobby Wyatt - Alabama, Sr.


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News & Tours

U.S. Amateur champ Matt Fitzpatrick leaving Northwestern

By Ryan Herrington

Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick's college career will be remembered as short, if not successful.

After enrolling as a freshman at Northwestern in September and posting three top-20 finishes in five fall starts—including sharing medalist honors at the Rod Myers Intercollegiate—the 19-year-old Englishman will not be returning to school this spring. Instead, he'll be pursuing "full-time" amateur golf, according to a press release issued by the school Jan. 9.

blog-matt-fitzpatrick-0109.jpg
"Based on the opportunities I have right now from a golf perspective, I feel it is important to dedicate 100 percent of my time to the game and have decided to withdraw from university in the U.S.," Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick became the first Englishman since Harold Hilton in 1911 to win the Havemeyer Trophy last August, defeating Australia's Oliver Goss, 4 and 3, in the final at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. The victory, coupled with earning low amateur honors a month earlier at the British Open, propelled him to the No. 1 spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and earned him the Mark McCormack Medal as the top amateur for 2013.

Fitzpatrick's triumph at Brookline secured him spots into this year's Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. Additionally, he is likely to receive sponsor's exemptions into events on both the PGA and European Tour.

In the release, Northwestern men's coach Pat Goss was diplomatic about his squad's loss.

"Matt is a bright and talented young man who has an incredible future ahead of him in the game of golf," Goss said. "We wish him nothing but the best in his career."

With Fitzpatrick's 71.73 stroke average—second to Jack Perry's 71.56—the Wildcats won two team titles this fall.

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