So much for looking mortal. When California finished third at the Arizona Intercollegiate, the first time the team hadn't claimed at least a share of a title during the 2012-13 season, many wondered if this would cause the team to sputter with the momentum from the fall semester gone.
Yet with a third-straight victory at the John Burns Intercollegiate last week, and by a whopping 27 strokes, the Golden Bears easily managed to retain their spot atop the first Golf World/Nike Golf Division I men's coaches' poll. Steve Desimone's squad earned 21 of the 23 available first-place votes.
Do the the voters in the Golf World/WGCA women's Division I coaches poll have a crystal ball?
While ballots had to be turned in last Friday for the first spring poll of the 2012-13 season, five days before the end of the rain-shortened Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate would conclude, the 80 percent of the coaches seemed to know that USC was going to be victorious at English Turn G&CC, winning a playoff over crosstown rival UCLA.
Twenty of the 25 voters selected the Trojans No. 1, allowing the Pac-12 power to remain atop the Golf World poll even before recording arguably their most impressive victory of the season.
It's been five days and I still can't get over one simple fact about Stanford freshman Mariah Stackhouse's NCAA record setting final round at the Peg Barnard Invitational.
Forget the 10-under 61 at Stanford GC. How about the nine-under 26 on the front nine.
"It's not even the side of the course that I like," Stackhouse (right) said afterward, a line that literally caused me to laugh out loud.
Two eagles and five birdies left little doubt that the 18-year-old from Riverdale, Ga., was going to claim medalist honors in the 36-hole tournament. A three-putt bogey on the 13th and another bogey on the 14th kept a sub-60 score from coming true, but Stackhouse's 61 sufficed as it bested her previous personal best by four strokes.
The field is only 12 teams and just four ranked in the top 25 of the Golf World/WGCA coaches' poll, but I'm going to be paying close attention to the Florida State Match-Up event that began this morning at Southwood GC in Tallahassee, Fla. With so many college events having the same look and feel, it's great what coach Amy Bond and the Seminoles are trying to do with this first-year event.
The concept behind the Match-Up is pretty interesting: six teams were initially invited to play in the tournament. Those six teams were then allowed to contact a team of their choice to partner with during the competition.
Say this about the spring college golf season: there's no easing in to the action for many marquee programs.
Several early February events have some of the deepest fields of any tournaments all spring. On the men's side, the Amer Ari Invitational wraps up today in Hawaii with eight of the top 25 teams from the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll competing. On the women's side, this week's the Northrup Grumman Regionals Challenge, with four of the top five teams in the latest Golf World/WGCA coaches' poll, is the ranked the fourth toughest event of the spring this year (after being No. 1 in 2012) while the Lady Puerto Rico Classic is tied for sixth toughest.
The majority of coaches I've talked to like to play a difficult event at the outset as it helps better assess where their team stands as well as helping motivate the team during the winter break. That said, coaches from programs in northern climates where practice has been tough to come by prefer a "soft" start to the spring in order to ease into the competition and not get battered around in the early events that might harm their ranking come the postseason.
It's why I think the Big Ten Match Play event that the men's programs in the conference play in each year, I think is the best of both worlds. There are enough quality teams for programs to get a legitimate feel for how their rosters are shaping up, and the match-play format and the fact that no school has a real weather advantage over others create a relatively level playing for the schools.
The early season event that actually intrigues me the most, however, is the Northrup Grumman, which will be held for the 17th year at Palos Verdes GC in California. This is the one spring college tournament, men's or women's, that I've never covered that I would love to go to some day. Talking to the coaches who played in the event, there's a legend about the slick and contours Palos Verdes' greens that I'd like to see for myself. Several coaches have told me they love playing there because of the challenge the greens pose. Others have played a few times and don't want to go back, saying the greens actually got into the heads of players and spooked them in later spring events.
Mind you those are coaches who didn't play all that well the times they did compete at Palos Verdes.
Long story short, you've got to bring it early in college golf. Otherwise you're in for a bumpy start to the spring.
The house lights blinked this past weekend, signaling the end of intermission for the 2012-13 season. Yet it was anything but quiet from the end of November to the end of January as several stories played out concerning college golf.
* One of the best players in the men's game moved on (Texas' Jordan Spieth turning pro)
* The reigning NCAA men's champion announced he would be turning pro at the end of the spring (Illinois' Thomas Pieters)
* College golf finally got the TV deal was looking for regarding the NCAA Championship (men's finals to be televised by Golf Channel in 2014; women in 2015)
* January freshman arrived and are ready to have an impact (Tennessee adding Oliver Goss, an Australian who was a quarterfinalist at last year's U.S. Amateur; USC adding Annie Park, a New Yorker who played in the 2012 U.S. Women's Open).
* January freshman arrived and are waiting to have an impact next fall (Texas with Beau Hossler, UCLA with Gavin Hall)
There were other storylines to, but the ushers are insisting I find my seat so the second half of the performance can begin. You me, won't you.