California's dominance in the fall, winning or sharing the team title in all five of its starts, made the Golden Bears the easy choice as the No. 1 team in the final Golf World/Nike Golf Division I coaches' poll. Steve Desimone's squad claimed all 21 first-place votes to be the unanimous choice to close out the first half of the 2012-13 season.
Joining Cal as the top team in the land are Nova Southeastern, Oglethorpe, Texas Wesleyan, Odessa and South Mountain, each squad earning the No. 1 ranking in the Division II, III, NAIA and NJCAA D-I and D-II polls. Texas Wesleyan is the only new school to sit atop the ranking in any of the polls, taking the NAIA top spot after being ranked No. 2 in the previous poll and No. 4 in the preseason poll.
For a look at all the schools in the final fall rankings ...
Somebody's turkey is going to taste a little extra tender tomorrow.
In the final Golf World/WGCA women's coaches' polls, USC, Nova Southeastern and Methodist retain the top spots for Division I, II and III respectively.
The Trojans appealed to those who like quality over quantity, finishing no worse than third in all three of their fall starts and claiming the team title at the Stanford Intercollegiate to close out the fall.
The Sharks and Monarch had three wins in four starts, looking like the same dominant teams that claimed NCAA titles last fall.
Here's a look at all three polls.
As I did a year ago, I've taped short podcasts with each of the winners of this year's Player of the Mid-Season Awards to hear directly from them about their standout fall seasons and what's next as they try and continue their solid play into the spring schedule.
Without further ado ...
With that, here are some players who devoted college golf fan might know about but who casual fans should become familiar with in the near future.
With that, here are my thoughts on some players whose games have taken more than simply a step or two forward but full strides as they made noise for their schools this fall.
This year's edition will recognize a cast of honorees whose hard work on the course deserves some acknowledgement off of it. I'll try to assess what we've seen for the first three months of the 2012-13 season and what we might be in store for when play resumes in late January.
Each day I'll reveal another award winner culminating with men's and women's Player of the Mid-Season Award on Nov. 21.
With that, I'll begin by revealing my biggest surprises of the first semester.
It's fair to say that I've drunk the kool-aid regarding many nuances of college golf, most notably how the team aspect of the sport plays such an important role overall. Yet if there's a specific part of the game I find myself unsettled about it is how I view the fall semester ... or more specifically how much import I put in it.
Indeed, I tend to side with coaches who espouse that the fall should actually be a time for experimentation (a group that finds itself in the minority). It makes sense to me to let as many players on a roster as you can get some playing time in live tournaments during the fall, in so much as it provides coaches the opportunity to see what kind of mettle said players have in honest-to-goodness competition. If that means taking "weaker" lineups to a tournament, so be it. My logic is that I believe any bad results in the fall can (likely) be improved upon in the spring, and having given your players the chance to sink or swim, you can better rationalize coaching decisions regarding playing time come the spring.
Part of this mindset comes from the fact that the top team at the end of the fall season frequently is NOT the school that walks off with the NCAA title come spring. Since Golf World resumed its coaches' poll in the 2001-02 season, only two times has the No. 1 men's team in the last ranking before the winter break gone on to win the national championship come June—Clemson in 2002-03 and Texas in 2011-12. Eight of the nine other times the eventual NCAA champion was ranked in the top 25 (see chart below), but they had an average ranking of 8.625 (2002 champ Minnesota is the only winner that was unranked at the end of the fall). Granted this is a small sample size, but it seems to me you need to play decently in the fall, but playing exceptionally isn't a prerequisite for winning the NCAA title.
Similarly on the women's side, the top-ranked team closing the fall has only won the NCAA title twice: Duke in 2004-05 and 2005-06. That said in the other nine years, the national champion has always been ranked in the top 10 and only once has been ranked worse than 4. The general assumption is there's less parity in women's college golf. Still the idea that there's only a few dynasties running the show is a little outdated.
As we begin the winter break for the 2012-13 season, I think a few observations can be fairly made.
* There has been no more dominant team in the men's game than California, a squad that deservedly should be a favorite to win the NCAA title next spring.
* There is no guarantee, however, no matter how dominant Cal has looked, that they're going to win the NCAA title. In fact, history suggests it's actually unlikely.
* Considering how wide open the women's title race appears to be, this might be the rare outlier season when a team not near the top of the Golf World/WGCA ranking actually rallies in the spring and claims the title.
Meanwhile, the Syllabus will be taking some time off during the winter break. Just like the players themselves, the professor is looking for some R&R.