It's become a biennial tradition. Just as the college golf season gets rolling in the fall, along comes (at least in even numbered years) the World Amateur Team Championship, arguably the prestigious events in amateur golf worldwide, to cause a momentary pause in the action.
For college players to pass up on the opportunity to represent their countries and play for the Eisenhower (men's) or Espirito Santo (women's) trophies would be unthinkable. Given that, the schools for which they otherwise play tend to adjust their schedules so that they're not competing in college events with their best players out of the lineup. It's why, with the Women's WATC beginning today and running through Sunday, only one top-15 women's program is competing this week.
That would be UCLA, which in hindsight might have wished it passed on its invitation into the Golfweek Conference Challenge. With Erynne Lee (USA) and Kyle Roig (Puerto Rico) competing in Turkey, and Tiffany Lua sitting out because of her ailing wrist, coach Carrie Forsyth traveled to Colorado with only four players, two of whom (Jacquie LeMarr and Louise Ridderstorm) were making their college debuts. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the No. 2 team in the preseason Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll finished a distant ninth in the event.
Similarly, next week is quiet for the men's teams with as the WATC event takes place Oct. 4-7. And then we can resume our regularly scheduled programming.
GOLF WORLD COLLEGE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Jace Long, Missouri
Following up his season-opening victory at the Turning Stone Tiger Intercollegiate, the senior from Dixon, Mo., claimed medalist honors by two strokes at the Golfweek Conference Challenge with a nine-under 207 showing at Spirit Hollow GC in Burlington, Iowa. A closing two-under 70 was the first time in six rounds this fall that Long failed to post a score in the 60s, his 2012-13 stroke average sitting at 68.0.
The individual win lifted Long's career victory total to nine, tops of any golfer in school history. His performance also helped the Tigers claim their second team title of the young season, Missouri beating Wake Forest by eight strokes with a seven-under 857 total.
Cheng-Tsung Pan, Washington—A final-round 76 at Gold Mountain GC in Bremerton, Wash., was still good enough for the sophomore to take medalist honors by four strokes at the Kikkor Golf Husky Invitational after he opened with rounds of 69-66.
Honorable mention (pro category):
Julien Brun, TCU—Became the sixth amateur to win an event on the European Challenge Tour when he claimed the title at the ALLIANZ Golf Open Toulouse Metropole in his native France.
Emilie Burger, Georgia
The senior from Hoschton, Ga., birdied three of her final four holes to claim the individual title, her first in a multi-round college event, at the Mason Rudolph Championship, beating Michigan State's Caroline Powers and Arizona's Kendall Prince by three strokes.
Burger posted her third straight 72 on Vanderbilt Legends Club's North course in Franklin, Tenn., then had to wait roughly three hours to see if her even-par 216 would hold up. Prince, the second-round leader, got within a stroke of Burger's score as she played her back nine but bogeyed the 13th and 15th holes to fall off the pace.
"I was close a couple of times last year and couldn't get a win," Burger said regarding the win. "I really thought [Saturday night] about what I might have done wrong in those situations. I told myself that whatever happens, happens and I could only control what I do. I just tried to not get ahead of myself. [Coach] Josh [Brewer] was right there with me and kept me focused on each shot. I wasn't worried about the score. I was concentrating on each shot. It was a good learning lesson."
Isabelle Lendl, Florida—A second-round 67 propelled the senior to a six-under 210 total at the Dale McNamara Invitational, good enough to claim the individual title by three strokes for her second career victory.
What makes this event even more compelling is the fact that nearly all the programs are at full strength. The top player that might not be 100 percent for the coming event is Washington senior Chris Williams, who has been diagnosed with mono. I contacted UW coach Matt Thurmond to ask if Williams might skip the Preview since he is suppose to be going to Turkey next week to compete for the U.S. in the World Amateur Team Championship. Thurmond said that Williams is going to make the trip to Georgia, noting "Can't convince him otherwise."
With Williams in the field, five of the top 10 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking—Alabama's Justin Thomas and Bobby Wyatt, Texas' Jordan Spieth and Washington's Cheng-Tsung Pan—will be facing off at the Crabapple Course.
Given the quality of the field, I think one of the big names steps up this week and wins the individual title. I like Spieth's chances as he looked sharp in his first start at the Carpet Capital, which was played not far from Capital City Club. If there is a dark horse that pulls out the win, I suspect it will be one of the local guys from Georgia (T.J. Mitchell perhaps) or Georgia Tech (how about Ollie Schniederjans).
Team wise, given the impressive starts by No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Texas and No. 3 California, I figure one of the three—if not all—will be in contention. My educated guess is that the Crimson Tide ultimately come out on top, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Only UNLV in 1997 has won the Preview title and gone on to claim the NCAA crown.
Golf World College Players of the Week
Albin Choi, N.C. State
A six-stroke win at the Tar Heel Invitational was the fifth career victory for the junior from Toronto, tying him for second on the Wolfpack's all-time win list with Tim Clark and Nolan Mills (five back of former NCAA champ and fellow Canadian Matt Hill).
Choi shot a closing 68 at the UNC Finley GC in Chapel Hill, N.C., for a 11-under 205 total, two shots off his career best after recording 17 birdies during the two-day event. Four of his five wins have now come in the fall season.
Brant Peaper, Indiana—Medalist at Wolf Run Intercollegiate, winning by seven strokes with a 11-under 202 including a final-round 67.
Scott Wolfes, Georgia Southern—Not often do you shoot 80 in the final round of a tournament and claim medalist honors, but that's what the sophomore did at the Invitational at Kiawah Island while playing the Ocean Course under brutal conditions (day's average: 80.48). He had that luxury after shooting a 67 in the second round, the best score of the tournament by three strokes. He is the first Eagle to win a tournament since 2009.
Manon De Roey, New Mexico
The junior from Belgium was playing her first college tournament at the Colonial Bill Wollenberg Ptarmigan Ram Classic, yet she looked like a veteran as broke the Lobos' 54-hole scoring record with a nine-under 207 at Ptarmigan CC in Fort Collins, Colo., to claim medalist honors. UNM's previous 54-hole low was a 208 from former All-American Jodi Ewart at the 2009 Dick McGuire Invitational. De Roey's score was the third best in school history in relation to par, behind Ewart's 11 under at the 2009 McGuire and Caroline Keggi's 10 under at the 1986 Roadrunner Invitational.
De Roey was the individual title by four strokes over Texas Tech's Kimberly Kaufman. Only three players in the 90-player field broke par for three rounds (Texas Tech's Gabriella Dominguez being the other). No other player in the field had more than one sub-par round during the event while De Roey broke par in all three rounds (69-68-70).
Camila Hedberg, Florida—Last year's SEC freshman of the year got her sophomore season started well with a 13-under 203 at Yeamans Hall Club in Charlteston, S.C., to win the Cougar Classic by four strokes.
Brooke Bellomy, Campbell—Claimed first college win at the Golfweek Program Challenge with a two-under 211 at Caledonia GC in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The sophomore also led the Camels to a 40-stroke team win over Central Arkanas, giving coach John Crooks his 65th career victory
Williams and I had a friendly discussion about his golf accomplishments and what he's looking forward to for this season ... plus he explains why the game "Cornhole" has become all the rage with the Husky golf team.
CI Podcast/Chris Williams
If you weren't already excited for the start of the 2012-13 season, this past week should have gotten you fired up as several of the marquee men's and women's teams played their opening tournaments of the fall. More intriguing is the fact that, particularly on the men's side, the top-ranked programs came out swinging. Texas' victory at the Carpet Capital and California's win at the Gopher Invitational sets up some interesting storylines for the coming months.
If not for the World Amateur Team Championship later this month—which has caused many programs to put together truncated or jagged fall schedules because they'll have players heading over to Turkey—I think the fall season might be the most anticipated since I started covering the beat in 1998. Even so, it's hard not to be looking forward to some of the bigger tournaments on the fall slate, particularly the NCAA preview tournaments at the University of Georgia GC in Athens, Ga., and Capital City Club in Atlanta, where the exciting season will eventually culminate.
With that, here is the first 2012-13 edition of The Syllabus, my weekly overview of what's going on in the world of college golf.
GOLF WORLD COLLEGE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Brandon Stone, Texas
This summer Barry Havenga, an editor for Golf Digest South Africa, gave me a head's up about the 19-year-old from Pretoria joining the Longhorns this fall (following countryman and recent UT grad Dylan Frittelli), noting not just his talent but his maturity. Inevitably, the Golf World's preseason Players to Watch list has a No. 51 and 52, which explains why Stone's name didn't appear in our package. But with a nine-under 63 at the Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic in just his second-ever college round, Stone made an impressive debut. By posting 11 3s on his scorecard and seven birdies in his final 10 holes, Stone tied UT's lowest 18-hole round in relation to par, previous set by David Gossett at the 2000 NCAA Championship and broke the tournament record of 64.
Stone followed it up with a final-round 72 at The Farm in Dalton, Ga., to win medalist honors (12-under 204) by two strokes over teammate Jordan Spieth and Georgia's T.J. Mitchell.
He also helped the defending NCAA champions claim the team title (13-under 851), defeating Georgia by five strokes and third-place Alabama by 14. Stone's 63 was a key part of the Longhorns' eye-opening 22-under 266 score in the second round, a tournament record and the lowest single-round score since coach John Fields took over the program in 1997.
On your mark. Get set. Go!
Sixteen of the top 25 teams in the Golf World/Nike Golf men's preseason Division I coaches' poll kickoff their 2012-13 seasons this weekend in various tournaments around the country. The marquee events are the Carpet Capital Classic (Sept. 7-9) at The Farm in Dalton, Ga., where seven of the top 25—and four of the top seven—will compete (click here for live scoring).
While the Carpet Capital has long attracted some of the country's top squads, the Gopher Invitational (Sept. 9-10) at Spring Hill GC in Wayzata, Minn., boasts arguably the strongest field in its eight-year history with five top-25 schools competing (click here for live scoring).
Below is a breakdown of the top 25 teams and where they'll be playing their first tournaments of the fall (highlighted teams play this weekend).