The top five signs that the fall college golf season has arrived:
5.) Multiple Tweets from players showing the day they received all their team clothing for the year, complete with pictures and the hashtag #ChristmasComesEarly
4.) Phone calls from coaches asking why their players weren't in Golf World's top 50 players to watch lists start coming into the Wilton office.
3.) Golfstat's live scoring shows the next 18 tournaments are all sponsored by Golfweek.
2.) Reports from coaches about the results of their 13 round qualifiers for the opening tournament.
And 1.) The fall's first Syllabus is FINALLY posted on the Campus Insider blog.
(Come on, indulge my ego briefly here and nod your head in agreement.)
With that, turn the page and lets see what's up in the world of college golf.
Alabama, victorious in its 2013-14 season opener at Olympia Fields, kept hold of the top spot in the latest Golf World/Nike Golf Division I coaches' poll. The defending NCAA champions won their seventh straight event dating back to last spring when they claimed the Fighting Illini Invitational title by 18 strokes. The Crimson Tide earned 16 of the 21 available first-place votes.
The name of the school atop the latest Golf World/WGCA women's Division I coaches' poll should come as no surprise, USC claiming all 21 first-place votes after starting the 2013-14 season with an impressive comeback victory at the Dale McNamara Fall Preview.
However, take a look at the rest of the top 25 and you'll see a few new names and a few names occupying a few spots for the first time in school history.
(A version of this story appears in the Sept. 23 issue of Golf World)
Five seasons removed from men’s college golf incorporating match play to crown the team winner at the NCAA Division I Championship—a decision that continues to foster healthy debate over its merits—the women’s game will follow suit starting in 2014-15.
The NCAA Championship/Sports Management Cabinet approved a recommendation from the women’s D-I golf committee to switch from the long-standing 72-hole stroke-play format to a stroke-play/match-play mix that will look much like the men’s event. Whether it will be identical, however, is still to be determined.
The original women’s plan was to copy the men’s six-day structure that will be used in 2013-14. Teams would play 54 holes of stroke-play competition with the low eight schools advancing to a match-play bracket. A fourth day of stroke play would be contested for the low 36 female golfers and ties to identify an individual champion. The two final days would be match play to determine the team title.
Several women’s coaches, however, questioned having a fourth day of stroke-play competition, something the men are employing for the first time this season. Some prefer three days of stroke play and contesting match play over three days. With the NCAA’s approval, the women’s golf committee will seek further input before making a final recommendation for the NCAA championship cabinet to act on at its February 2014 meeting.
Additionally, the women will add a fourth NCAA regional tournament in 201415, with six teams advancing from each region to nationals along with three individuals. Also approved was the change in the date formula for when the NCAA women's championship will be held in the future. The standard formula will be to begin the championship on the third Friday in May, except during years in which May 1 falls on a Friday (2015, 2020, 2026), which would result in the championships beginning on the fourth Friday in May.
The 2015 dates will be May 22-27 at The Concession GC in Sarasota, Fla., the same location that the men's D-I championship will be played the following week.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.—There was little in the way of drama Sunday afternoon at the 44th Walker Cup, the 10-man American squad seeing to it that a Great Britain & Ireland comeback wouldn't be the storyline associated with 2013 edition of the biennial event as it made its return to National GL of America for the first time since the inaugural playing of the competition here in 1922.
Instead there is another one-word description that will be used to characterize this week's affairs—domination.
The Americans' 17-9 drubbing of Great Britain & Ireland was the most lopsided score since the Americans won 18-6 at Quaker Ridge in 1997. A four-point lead after Saturday's play on the C.B. Macdonald masterpiece was extended to eight when the captain Jim Holtgrieve's squad left nothing to chance by winning seven of the 10 Sunday singles matches. The effort lifted their overall singles record to an impressive 13.5-4.5 mark, as a befuddled GB&I roster was left bruised and bloodied.
If domination doesn't quite fit the bill, perhaps vindication might be appropriate.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.—Great Britain & Ireland captain Nigel Edwards got just the kind of momentum-swinging victory he was looking for when Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan turned around a 4-down deficit to beat Americans Patrick Rodgers and Jordan Niebrugge, 2 up, in final match of the Sunday morning foursomes at the 44th Walker Cup.
But Edwards' optimism about a spirited final-day comeback at National GL of America was muted by the disappointment of giving away a point in the preceding match and thus failing to pick up any ground entering the afternoon singles session.
Garrick Porteous, the reigning British Amateur champion, and Rhys Pugh never trailed in their match with former Cal-Berkeley teammates Max Homa and Michael Kim, holding a 1-up lead with two holes to play. But Pugh missed a six-foot par putt on the 17th to let the Americans square the match. Then, after Porteous stubbed a chip from behind the green on the par-5 18th, leaving his partner a 12-foot par putt, Pugh couldn't convert, allowing Homa's four-foot par putt to clinch the hole and the match.
With that, the morning session was split 2-2 and the Americans clung to the same four-point advantage (10-6 overall) they held at the start of the day, with 10 Sunday afternoon singles matches remaining.
"You know we were down the whole match but for some reason we had just a really optimistic view about it," Kim said. "We knew we could comeback. It wasn't pretty but we got the job done."
The morning began with Alabama teammates Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt defeating Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin, 2 and 1, in the lead match while Matt Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond knocked out the U.S. duo of Michael Weaver and Todd White, 3 and 2.
With GB&I unable to make a dent in the U.S. lead, the Americans now only need to claim 3.5 of the 10 available points in the afternoon to win back the cup and improve its record in the last four editions of the biennial event to 3-1.
There was some solace for Edwards' charges from the Moynihan-Phelan comeback. The duo birdied the eighth and ninth holes to quickly cut the deficit to 2 up at the turn. They then won the par-3 13th with a conceded birdie and the par-4 16th with a par to square the match, before taking the lead with a birdie on the 17th hole.
On 18, the GB&I side hit the green on the par-5 home hole in 2 and had their birdie putt conceded when Niebrugge missed his birdie attempt.
"We were just trying to put as much pressure on them as possible," Phelan said.
While GB&I is down, they're certainly not out. And if the squad needs any inspiration, all it need to do is recall what transpired in Sunday singles at last year's Ryder Cup. The European side faced a similar four-point deficit (albeit with 12 matches to play) yet stormed back to win at Medinah.
It might be a long-shot but it's the only bit of hope the visitors can cling to now.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.—Jim Holtgrieve left National GL of America Saturday with a well-deserved smile on his face, his American squad holding a commanding 8-4 lead in the 44th Walker Cup after an impressive 6.5-1.5 drubbing of Great Britain & Ireland in the afternoon singles session. When he returns, then, to the C.B. Macdonald's masterpiece Sunday, his team needing just 5.5 of the available 14 points to win the cup, he will get to experience something for the first time in the four years he has led the American side.
He'll get to captain from ahead.
That his 10-man roster would have any advantage, let alone a four-point edge (its largest first-day lead since 1997), was something that was difficult to imagine only six hours earlier. As was the case two years ago when Holtgrieve oversaw the U.S. side in its 14-12 loss at Royal Aberdeen, his charges stumbled early in morning foursomes, trailing in all four matches at one point.
But a late rally from the duo of Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt to pull out a half point by winning the 18th hole and halving their match against GB&I's Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin followed by Patrick Rodgers and Justin Thomas winning 2 and 1 in the final match against Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan left Team USA trailing only 2.5-1.5 and gave the squad a boost heading into the afternoon.
From there, the Americans sprinted out to leads in the majority of the eight afternoon singles matches and never looked back.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.—You know you have a talented Walker Cup roster on your hands when the defending NCAA individual champion, and arguably your hottest player, isn’t slotted for the first round of competition.
That’s precisely what happened Saturday morning at National GL of America in Southampton, N.Y., when United States captain Jim Holtgrieve chose to keep Max Homa, along with former Cal teammate Michael Kim (himself the college player of the year) out of the foursomes lineup against Great Britain & Ireland.
Holtgrieve has often preached that the biennial competition is less about winning and more about the overall experience; how else do you explain sitting the NCAA champ and No. 2 amateur in the world?
Well, maybe he’s just a managerial genius. After benching Homa in the morning, Holtgrieve sent him off in the second singles match of the afternoon, hoping he would provide the fire the U.S. team needed after winning only just 1.5 points in the morning.
“Disappointed isn’t the word,” said Homa about how he felt watching from outside the ropes. “It’s a bit of a letdown when you’re so excited, and all of a sudden you have to wait four more hours."
SOUTHAMPTION, N.Y.—He claimed 1.5 points on Day 1 of the 44th Walker Cup, but Justin Thomas wasn't quite himself. A back injury that surfaced during Thursday's practice round at National GL of America flared up again Saturday, causing the 20-year-old from Goshen, Ky., to ask U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve to sit him out of Sunday morning's foursomes session.
Holtgrieve said that Thomas, who is playing his last amateur event this week, having previously announced he was skipping his final two seasons at Alabama to turn pro, spoke to him Saturday morning and expressed concern about whether his back would hold up. However, it didn't stop him from pairing with Patrick Rodgers and claiming the only U.S. victory in A.M. foursomes.
But in afternoon singles when Thomas hit his tee shot on the 12th hole in his match with Nathan Kimsey, Holtgrieve noticed him flinch. While Thomas managed to finish the round, claiming a half point when the match ended all square on the 18th, Holtgrieve decided to switch his Sunday foursomes lineup, dropping Thomas from his pairing with Rodgers and replacing him with Jordan Niebrugge).
"It seemed like when he was able to hit a pull shot, he was OK," Holtgrieve said. "It was the shorter shots he was having problems with. When he got done he was hurting. I think the adrenaline got him going, and i think that he was able to finish. But he's in some pain."
Thomas is scheduled to play in the Sunday afternoon singles session, facing GB&I's Max Orrin in the No. 2 match.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.—The scoreboard might read Great Britain & Ireland 2.5, United States 1.5 after Saturday morning's foursomes session at the 44th Walker Cup but the Americans could rightfully consider it a win/draw given how things looked for a while at National GL of America.
At one point, Jim Holtgrieve's squad was down in three of the four matches and appeared destined to repeat the auspicious stumbling start from 2011 at Royal Aberdeen.
But a birdie from the duo of Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett on the par-5 18th to win the hole and halve their match with Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin helped the red, white and blue scrape out a half point. And with the pairing of Patrick Rodgers and Justin Thomas holding on to beat Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan, 2 and 1, the Americans had reason to be upbeat entering the afternoon singles session.
Greedy U.S. fans will lament how Jordan Niebrugge and Nathan Smith could only make par on the home hole while their GB&I counterparts, Matt Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond, birdied the 501-yard par 5 to win, 1 up, in the second match. Scrapping out a half point there, however, would have been a tall ask even considering the duo's rally from 2 down with four holes remaining.
Instead, the Americans were appreciative of what they could salvage.
"You know obviously a lot of nerves this morning, a lot of thoughts going on," said Whitsett, a 22-year-old from Houston playing in the biennial match for the first time.