The USC women can no longer boast of being undefeated in 2013-14 after losing to UCLA by six strokes Tuesday at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate. But that doesn't make the Trojans any less formidable than they were three days earlier. The defending NCAA champions still have the deepest lineup in women's college golf, and while their win streak ends at eight straight events dating back to last spring, they'll remain the favorite in every tournament they play between now and nationals in May.
While the most recent tournament finished after voting closed for the first spring edition of the Golf World/WGCA Division I college coaches' poll, USC would not doubt have still held the top spot in the ranking. Arguably the only difference might have been a few more first-place votes for UCLA, winners now of three team titles in five starts.
It took me a couple glances to make sure I wasn't seeing things. No, that number on Golfstat was right. The Alabama men had shot a 45-under 819 to win the Puerto Rico Classic on Tuesday, beating a hard charging Georgia Tech squad by four strokes.
And so running totals added another number:
Starts in 2013-14:
Wins in 2013-14:
Consecutive victories since the spring:
Starts until talk of being the greatest college team of all-time surfaces in earnest:
My favorite stat of all was the fact that in the Crimson Tide's four victories last fall, the team shot a combined 32 under par.
All this information only affirmed the results of the first spring edition of the Golf World/Nike Golf men's Division I coaches' poll -- voting closed Feb. 21 before the tournament began -- in which Alabama retained the No. 1 ranking, earning 18 of 19 first-place votes.
FURMAN UNIVERSITY ANNOUNCES PLAN TO SUSTAIN MEN'S GOLF PROGRAM WITH SUPPORT OF ALUMNI GREENVILLE, S.C.—Furman University announced today that due to the outstanding generosity of the school's many golf alumni to provide short-term operating funds and to establish an endowment for scholarships, the men's intercollegiate golf program will not be discontinued. Furman Interim President Carl Kohrt '65 said the plan provides the necessary financial support to sustain the men's golf program at a highly competitive level while allowing the University to retain the cost reductions realized by the board's original decision. Professional golfer Brad Faxon '83, a former All-America and Fred Haskins Award winner at Furman, said the university and the alumni group worked hard to find a solution that benefitted everybody. "We are all proud alums of the Furman golf program, and none of us wanted to see it discontinued," Faxon said. "So we talked with university officials, and discussed what we could do to bring the program back. Furman has a very dedicated group of men's golf alumni, and we had numerous people step up and make some very generous contributions that provided the kind of financial support the university needed. The outpouring of support from Furman alumni and the golf community has been amazing." Richard Cullen '71, chair of Furman's Board of Trustees, said the university was elated by the enthusiasm of Furman's alumni in support of the plan. "We said at the outset that the initial decision was not an easy one, but necessary to ensure that Furman's resources support its core mission," Cullen said. "This plan maintains our position. The goodwill with which the alumni have approached us, their genuine concern about the University's well-being, and their commitment to the tradition of golf at Furman has been inspiring." "We were caught off guard by the University's decision to discontinue men's golf, but appreciate the need to appropriately steward the University's resources," said Rob Langley '05, a former member of the men's golf team who is part of a group leading the alumni effort. "This plan allows both sides to achieve a win-win. The golf alumni are re-energized and committed to doing everything possible to strengthen the men's golf program for the long-term, which includes driving successful fundraising campaigns to support the program."
Seven months removed from announcing it would incorporate match play to determine a national champion starting in 2015, the NCAA Women's Division I golf committee has finally determined just how it will do it.
On Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet announced it had approved the recommendation from the women's golf committee to use the "4-2" format model: four days of stroke play, the first three determining the eight teams that advance to match play with the last used to crown a individual medalist, followed by two days of match play with the quarterfinals and semifinals played on one day and an 18-hole championship match played the next. This is the same format being used this spring by the men at the NCAA D-I Championship.
Related: College Golf's TV Issues Are A Good Problem To Have
The women's committee proposed this model Jan. 13 after holding a teleconference in which members weight its merits against a format that would have had only three days of stroke play -- which would have determined the schools to advance to match play as well as an individual champion -- with the three rounds of match play then contested over the next three days. (This was the format that the men used the past three seasons.)
The decision to follow the 4-2 plan was made in part based on feedback the committee got from coaches at the end of 2013 after both plans were explained during the WGCA Annual Convention. Of 191 coaches who answered a WGCA survey, 101 favored the 4-2 option compared to 87 for the 3-3 format and three abstaining votes.
Arguably one of the reasons the 4-2 format received the majority of votes among the coaches surveyed is that it is format preferred by representatives of the Golf Channel, which will be televising the women's championship from The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., in 2015. Golf Channel is slated to broadcast the final three days of the event, which means that under the 4-2 format it will be showing the crowning of the individual champion on the first day of its telecast and the team champion on the third and final day.
It's hard to question the character of the members of the Furman men's golf team given the way they've handled themselves the last 72 hours. Friday afternoon coach Todd Satterfield broke the news to his team that the university's Board of Trustees had voted to discontinue the program after this season. Shortly afterward, Furman athletic director Gary Clark also spoke to the squad to try to explain the decision, which the school says was made to address a need to reallocate resources (read: save money).
As feelings of anger and disbelief surfaced over what the long-term future might hold, the group made the most impressive of short-term decisions. Saturday and Sunday the Paladins were supposed to be holding a qualifier at Furman GC for their upcoming opening spring tournament, and they would not change their plans even in the wake of such disappointing news.
"It was their choice," said Satterfield, among college golf's most respected voices. "They've been remarkably resilient."
I spoke with Satterfield Sunday as he was driving to Furman GC. He said he knew the university faced significant financial issues—an estimated $6.4 million deficit for the 2014-15 academic year according to one report—but said he learned of the possibility of shutting down the golf program only a day before the Feb. 7 vote was taken by the school's Board of Trustees.
The men's golf team was the only one of 18 varsity men's and women's sports programs at the school that was affected. In a release, the school said the decision to cut the men's golf team was based on "an extensive evaluation of criteria, including public visibility, attendance, competitiveness and overall cost."
The Paladins have won 13 Southern Conference titles since 1970, most recently in 2010, but had qualified for NCAA Regionals only four times and had not reached the NCAA Championships since 1986. The men's team currently is 122nd in the Golfstat team ranking. Sadly, Furman has struggled on the course of late.
Still, within college golf circles news of the team's disbanding was greeted with shock. Alumnus Brad Faxon, an All-American at Furman in the 1980s, was among those who publicly expressed his disappointment with the move, as did former Lady Paladin Dottie Pepper.
Related: Alumnus Brad Faxon laments about end of Furman golf team
The frustration from some about the decision stemmed not only for golf's long tradition at the school—a men's team first played there in 1930 and the women's team was one of the dominant national programs in the 1970s and early 1980s—but also that the school recently added men's and women's lacrosse teams, both of which are believed to require larger monetary resources from the school than the golf program.
The question now is whether there is any recourse that can be taken to appeal the decision. Other schools that have announced they would cut their golf programs had changed their mind when the team or its boosters managed to raise money to support the team. The most notable example: Minnesota in 2002, when boosters rallied to save the team as the squad responded by winning the NCAA title.
Satterfield (left) says he doesn't know if this is a possibility or not. Regardless, he said he was committed to making this next semester the best possible experience for him and his team.
"We've always done things a class way," Satterfield said. "We're going to continue to do it a class way."
You'll struggle to find any true surprises among the 30 golfers named Wednesday to the Ben Hogan Award watch list. The players below have all acquitted themselves rather well since Washington's Chris Williams won the honor -- given to the top collegiate golfer taking into account his record in both college and amateur competitions -- last May.
A total of 21 schools have players on the list, with six programs having multiple golfers named: Alabama (4), California (3), Georgia Tech (2), Kent State (2), Oklahoma State (2) and Stanford (2). (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the selection committee for the award and participated in selecting the watch list.)
Fifteen seniors have been recognized, followed by nine juniors, five sophomores and one freshman. Twelve of the 30 are from foreign countries. One non-Division I golfer was included: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps' Bradley Shigezawa.
A list of the 10 semifinalists will be named April 16 and the three finalists will be announced May 7.
The saving grace for those who don't see their name on this initial list? You don't have to be included here to be eligible for the award when it is handed out May 18 in a black-tie banquet at Colonial CC in Fort Worth.
The award is presented by the Friends of Golf, Colonial CC and the GCAA.
Ben Hogan Award Watch List
Name - School, Year
Anders Albertson - Georgia Tech, Jr.
Julien Brun - TCU, Jr.
Sebastian Cappelen - Arkansas, Sr.
Corey Conners - Kent State, Sr.
Ian Davis - Oklahoma State, Sr.
Bryson Dechambeau - SMU, Soph.
Thomas Detry - Illinois, Soph.
Greg Eason - UCF, Sr.
Joey Garber - Georgia, Sr.
Oliver Goss - Tennessee, Soph.
Gavin Green - New Mexico, Jr.
Brandon Hagy - California, Sr.
Toni Hakula - Texas, Sr.
Chase Koepka - USF, Soph.
Denny McCarthy - Virginia, Jr.
Trey Mullinax - Alabama, Sr.
Jordan Niebrugge - Oklahoma State, Soph.
Cheng-Tsung Pan - Washington, Jr.
Taylor Pendrith - Kent State, Sr.
J.T. Poston - Western Carolina, Jr.
Patrick Rodgers - Stanford, Jr.
Ollie Schniederjans - Georgia Tech, Jr.
Robby Shelton - Alabama, Fr.
Bradley Shigezawa - Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Sr.
Joel Stalter - California, Sr.
Scott Vincent - Virginia Tech, Jr.
Michael Weaver - California, Sr.
Cory Whitsett - Alabama, Sr.
Cameron Wilson - Stanford, Sr.
Bobby Wyatt - Alabama, Sr.
There wasn't a need for a phone call or a knock at the door. Danielle Downey was allowed in Kim Evans' house at any time. She had the garage code. And utilized it nearly every day.
When Evans -- the Hall of Fame women's golf coach at Auburn -- was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last May, she relied on Downey, a former player back working for her alma mater, to attend to more than simply her golf team. Try walking Evans' dog. And bringing over groceries or a meal. Or simply stopping by to make her smile.
Downey was always there for Evans, which made the news of Downey's death in a single-car accident the evening of Jan. 30 that much more difficult to accept. Downey was 33.
"She was a special kid," Evans said Monday before flying out to attend services in Downey's hometown of Rochester, N.Y. "I'm going to miss her dearly. And the Auburn community will miss her."
Evans said the accident occurred less than half a mile from Downey's home in Auburn, Ala. Initial reports stated that Downey lost control of her car, which then flipped multiple times. Downey was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
A report from the Auburn Department of Public Safety, released Monday evening and reported by the Associated Press, showed that Downey had alcohol in her system at the time of the crash.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 31, Evans happened to be awake when she received a call from associate head coach Andrew Pratt. Evans phoned Downey's father, Michael, who immediately drove from Tampa, Fla., to Auburn. Michael Downey stayed with Evans as they made arrangements.
"For me, I'm celebrating her life," Evans said. "I'm glad I was able to get to know her and her family for the time that we had her."
Evans recruited Downey as high schooler in upstate New York to come to Auburn in the late 1990s. Downey made her mark as a player by winning the SEC title in 2000 and finishing tied for second at the 2002 NCAA Championship, still the best individual showing by a Lady Tiger at nationals in school history.
A year later Downey turned professional and made it onto the LPGA Tour from 2006-'10. When her playing career wound down, she stayed on the pro circuit caddieing for Sarah Kemp (full time) and Laura Davies until calling Evans a little more than a year ago to tell her, "It's time I hang it up, coach."
Evans offered Downey the chance to help administratively with the Auburn golf teams, but her role on campus took a different dynamic when Evans' illness was diagnosed on the eve of the 2013 postseason. Downey stepped in as the interim coach while Evans met with doctors to determine her treatment, overseeing the squad as it claimed a sixth-place finish at NCAAs, its best result in the last eight years.
Every morning and every night during the championship, Evans said she and Downey spoke. And there were multiple text messages throughout the day to keep the 20-year head coach up to date on her team's status.
"She was a blessing," Evans said. "Occasionally, she'd call and say she was coming over. But most times she didn't have to knock. She was family for me."
Last fall, Downey took the role of Director of Golf Operations for both the men's and women's golf teams, and along with Pratt, helped guide the team with Evans finishing her cancer treatments.
As Evans spoke on Monday, she had just gone through the 190 text messages she received about Danielle last weekend. Which she didn't mind at all. To her, it was a fitting tribute to a player and friend she'll always remember.
"Someone asked if I needed help answering them, and I said, 'Heck, no.' I want to answer every one of them," Evans said. "I can't wait to talk about Danielle, and say thank you to them for reaching out.
"I still need to look at my emails and thank them for reaching out. And I'm still writing thank-you notes for what people did for me all last year. I have lots of thank yous, which I certainly don't mind doing because I am very thankful. And especially thankful for Danielle."
Evans says her own health has progressed as her doctors predicted. And she should be on schedule to coach the team in Puerto Rico later this month as the spring season begins.
A memorial service for Downey is scheduled for Feb. 13 at Auburn Arena.