I say this with two thoughts in mind:
1) Shame on me for not being more up to speed on these two fine players.
2) There doesn't seem to be a lack of depth in the women's amateur game.
The later notion was something that seemed to crystalize as the USGA's Teresa Belmont and the WAPL committee tried to keep from melting last week on the picturesque yet hardly shady New Jersey course. During the early rounds of match play, several marquee players were knocked out: Tiffany Lua, Sally Watson, Emily Tubert, Lisa McCloskey, Kelsey Vines and Brittany Altomare to name a few. Heading into the quarterfinals, the remaining players were names that causal golf fans (and even some avid golf writers) weren't quite familiar with.
Blayne Barber, Auburn
Julien Brun, TCU
Dylan Frittelli, Texas
Stephan Jaeger, Chattanooga
Daniel Miernicki, Oregon
Thomas Pieters, Illinois
Patrick Rodgers, Stanford
Jordan Spieth, Texas
Justin Thomas, Alabama
Chris Williams, Washington
Eugene Wong, Oregon
Patrick Cantlay, UCLA
Pedro Figueiredo, UCLA
Luke Guthrie, Illinois
Brooks Koepka, Florida State
Ben Kohles, Virginia
Cheng-Tsung Pan, Washington
J.J. Spaun, San Diego State
T.J. Vogel, Florida
Cory Whitsett, Alabama
Andrew Yun, Stanford
Zac Blair, BYU
Alex Ching, San Diego
Max Homa, California
Robert Karlsson, Liberty
Joakim Mikkelsen, Baylor
Julian Suri, Duke
Julio Vegas, Texas
James White, Georgia Tech
Peter Williamson, Dartmouth
Bobby Wyatt, Alabama
Anders Albertson, Georgia Tech
Josh Anderson, Pepperdine
Anton Arboleda, UCLA
Kevin Aylwin, North Florida
Dominic Bozzelli, Auburn
Sebastian Cappelen, Arkansas
John Catlin, New Mexico
Albin Choi, NC State
Eric Chun, Northwestern
Corey Conners, Kent State
Sean Dale, North Florida
Greg Eason, UCF
Derek Ernst, UNLV
Ricardo Gouveia, UCF
Vaita Guillaume, Campbell
Brandon Hagy, California
Jeffrey Kang, Southern California
Michael Kim, California
Will Kropp, Oklahoma
Steve Lim, Southern California
Tyler McCumber, Florida
Nate McCoy, Iowa State
Corbin Mills, Clemson
Keith Mitchell, Georgia
Cameron Peck, Texas A&M
Kevin Penner, UNLV
Matt Schovee, SMU
Max Scodro, Notre Dame
Ethan Tracy, Arkansas
Joseph Winslow, Iowa
Sang Yi, LSU
During the press conference Cantlay is expected to announce that he's signing with Excel Sports Management and be represented by Mark Steinberg.
After the Travelers, an event in which he shot a second-round 60 as an amateur last year en route to a T-24 finish, Cantlay will play in two other PGA Tour events in the next month—AT&T National and The Greenbrier. He is then eligible for three more sponsor’s exemptions into tour events (he used one in February when he played in the Northern Trust at Riviera CC) unless he earns enough money in his starts to receive special temporary member status on tour ($411,943) and be able to accept unlimited exemptions.
By turning pro now, Cantlay forgoes the exemption into next month’s British Open that he earned for being the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world last September.
Two weeks ago, Cantlay closed out his sophomore year at UCLA by helping the Bruins get to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship at Riviera). Last weekend he finished T-41 at the U.S. Open. After his final round at Olympic Club, Cantlay said that he had not made a decision on his pro plans but intended to discuss his options with his family.
"He's excited about making the move to the next level," said Jamie Mulligan, Cantlay's long-time swing instructor. "This has been a dream of his and something he's worked very hard for."
"Sounds like you got a pretty good tournament there," said the voice on the other end of the line. "Loved the reaction from Dylan Frittelli."
Granted I like to think my story captured the drama of the final day pretty well, but I got the sense that my editor had actually seen highlights of the round somewhere/somehow.
In the next few days, I've heard similar comments from other folks who knew I had been at Riviera, all of them asking me if the final day's play was exciting as they had heard. OK, I talk to a lot of people who are really into golf, many of them paid to be into it, so my sample size sometimes gets skewed. But I even had my own father, a casual fan who lives in Connecticut, said he'd heard all about the big Longhorns winning.
All I could think to myself was: How?
I bring this up because after a couple days to mull this over I've come to the conclusion that some how, some way this year's championship attracted more attention than any my recent memory.
With the overall match tied 2-2, Frittelli came to the 18th hole all square with Cory Whitsett. When Whitsett nearly whiffed his third shot, a chip from behind the green on the par-4 home hole that advance only an inch, and his fourth shot landed six feet from the hole, the South African drained his birdie opportunity.
"I don't even know what happened," Frittelli said. "It was all a blur. I just wanted to make that putt. It was amazing."
Alabama took the first two matches. Hunter Hamrick defeated Julio Vegas 6 and 5, and Bobby Wyatt knocked in a 30-foot chip from behind the green to down Toni Hakula, 1 up.
Texas then won the next two matches. Jordan Spieth closed out fellow freshman Justin Thomas, 3 and 2. Cody Gribble defeated Scott Strohmeyer, 2 and 1, to improve to 3-0 in match play, leaving it up to Frittelli.
"It came down to the last hole with two great players," Texas coach John Fields said. "Dylan did something fantastic. We are so fortunate."
Texas also won NCAA championships in 1971 and '72, when former PGA Tour golfers and major championship winners Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite were on the team.
"This was a classic 1 vs. 2 matchup," Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. "You hate to lose, but Texas did what they needed to do, and they are a great team."
Anybody else like the sound of that?
The NCAA men's golf committee got its dream match-up for Sunday's final of the NCAA Championship, with the two top-ranked teams in the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll facing off for the national title at Riviera CC.
Both squads advanced after harrowing 3-2 semifinal victories Saturday, the Longhorns defeating Oregon, with Julio Vegas (right) making birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes to clinch the deciding point, and the Crimson Tide hanging on to outlast California thanks to the clutch performance of senior Hunter Hamrick.
"We know we're top to bottom a really solid golf team, and so is Alabama," said Texas coach John Fields. "So we'll have our hands full tomorrow, and they will too. God bless them. I hope we have a fantastic match."
Yet Jay Seawell's squad jumped out early, taking big leads in its first three matches, and then hung on to repel the "jinx," defeating Kent State 3.5-1.5 in their Thursday quarterfinal tilt at Riviera CC.
Justin Thomas, the national freshman of the year, took out Kevin Miller, 6 and 5, while Cory Whitsett make quick work of Kyle Kmiecik, winning 5 and 4. Scott Strohmeyer then took care of the third and deciding point, but not without a fight from Taylor Pendrith. Strohmeyer was 5 up in the match through eighth holes but just 2 up after 15 holes. He then needed to make a clutch 20-foot par saving putt on the par-3 16th to halve the hole and keep Pendrith from stealing any more momentum.
When Strohmeyer made a birdie on the 17th to halve another hole, he closed out the match, 2 and 1.
"It's a lot harder as a coach [than stroke play]," said Seawell afterward. "That last point is hard. We knew that coming in, to get to three was going to be hard."
Four of his five Golden Flash golfers (Kevin Miller, Taylor Pendrith, Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes) made bogeys on the par-4 18th during the sudden-death playoff with Florida State to determine the eighth and final team that would advance to match play. But a birdie by Kyle Kmiecik from eight feet allowed Kent to post a two-over total, one stroke lower than the Seminoles.
FSU carded a three-over score, with pars from Brooks Koepka and Wesley Graham, but a bogey from Joaquin Lolas and double bogeys from Chase Seiffert and Daniel Berger ultimately costing the squad the final spot.
"We breathe again," Page said walking off the green, the color having returned to his face after a harrowing 40 minutes watching the 10 players get through the 18th. "There's life."
Only Kmiecik and Koepka hit the green in regulation, the pressure of the moment evident in the swings of the players. Kmiecik hit a 5-iron from 199 yards to set up his birdie.
As Kent State's reward, the team now faces Alabama, which claimed the No. 1 seed in the match-play bracket after shooting a seven-over 859 during the 54-hole stroke-play qualifying.
FRIDAY QUARTERFINALS Pairings
All times PDT
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 8 Kent State
10 am--Justin Thomas vs. Kevin Miller
10:09--Cory Whitsett vs. Kyle Kmiecik
10:18--Scott Strohmeyer vs. Taylor Pendrith
10:27--Bobby Wyatt vs. Corey Conners
10:36--Hunter Hamrick vs. Mackenzie Hughes
No. 4 California vs. No. 5 San Diego State
10:45--Max Homa vs. J.J. Spaun
10:54--Brandon Hagy vs. Colin Featherstone
11:03--Pace Johnson vs. Matt Hoffenberg
11:12--Michael Kim vs. Tom Berry
11:21--Joel Stalter vs. Alex Kang
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 7 Oregon
11:30--Pontus Widegren vs. Robbie Ziegler
11:39--Alex Kim vs. Andrew Vijarro
11:48--Pedro Figueiredo vs. Daniel Miernicki
11:57--Anton Arboleda vs. Eugene Wong
12:06 p.m.--Patrick Cantlay vs. Jonathan Woo
No. 3 Texas vs. No. 6 Washington
12:15--Toni Hakula vs. Charlie Hughes
12:24--Cody Gribble vs. Trevor Simsby
12:33--Dylan Frittelli vs. Cheng-Tsung Pan
12:42--Jordan Spieth vs. Ty Chambers
12:51--Julio Vegas vs. Chris Williams