I've done my best to assess as many players as I can to see who among college golf's populace has made the biggest strides this fall. It's inherently a subjective endeavor, and I admittedly shy away from some high profile names to help recognize the efforts of others who have put in the time and effort to lower their stroke averages and climb up leader boards.
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.
__MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS of the Mid-Season
Sean Bosdosh, Maryland
The 20-year-old from Clarksburg, Md., son of noted teaching pro Steve Bosdosh, has had impressive summer performances. In 2010 he became the youngest player to win the Maryland Amateur and this past summer he won the Maryland Open title with brother/Terp teammate__Stephen__ on the bag. This fall, he's finally carried over the solid play to the college scene, posting four straight top-10 finishes—including victories at the VCU Shootout and Firestone Invitational to become the first Maryland golfer to win an individual title since 2010. His 71.29 average has lifted him to No. 25 in the Golfstat Cup ranking.
"Sean's been nothing short of spectacular," said Maryland coach Jason Rodenhaver. "He's been great, he's been consistent. He's on his way to being an all-conference player this year."
That would be no small feat for a Terrapin golfer; since 2003 the school has had only two All-ACC performers (Chris Gold, 2008; John Popeck, 2009). Moreover, only once since 1978 has a Maryland golfer claimed All-American honors (Del Ponchock, 1994), an aspiration Bosdosh no doubt has in the back of his mind as he waits for the spring season to begin.
Honorable mention: Blake Morris, Mississippi
The sophomore from Waterbury, Conn., had a solid freshman season, posting a 72.9 average with one top-10 finish at the Schenkel Invitational last spring. But this fall he has taken a leadership role with the Rebels, posting four top-five finishes in five starts and helping Ernest Ross' squad claim two team titles. Throw out the 15-over 231 he shot at the David Toms Intercollegiate (where he finished a respectable T-17) and his average in 10 fall rounds is 70.0. Even with the DTI result, his fall average was an impressive 71.62 and he settled in as the fourth best golfer in the SEC according to the Golfstat Cup ranking.
__[#image: /photos/55ad7572b01eefe207f6b947]|||OU-Emily Collins.jpg|||
Emily Collins, Oklahoma
Talent never has been a question with the junior from Colleyville, Texas; she did after all qualify for the U.S. Women's Open between her freshman and sophomore years with the Sooners. Yet consistency—or lack there of—best explains how she had stroke averages north of 76 her first two years of college. In particular her bunker play was hit or miss, according to OU coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell. So it was that Collins' spent the summer getting sand in her shoes.
"She spent countless hours in the bunkers practicing," Drouin-Luttrell says. "That helped her out, just being more confident that she can get up and down and not be [losing strokes to par]."
Apparently so, as Collins lowered her sophomore average of 77.25 to 72.44 in four starts this fall. Twice she has posted top-10 finishes equaling the number she had in her first 20 college appearances.
In particularly, Collins is getting off to solid starts; her 70.50 first-round average is the ninth best in the country.
More important than actually her specific results, Collins is no longer playing with a sense of fear when faced with trouble shots around the green.
Honorable mention: Kendall Martindale, Vanderbilt
A year ago, Vandy coach Greg Allen watched Lauren Stratton emerged into a standout performer for the Lady Commodores, improving from a 75.1 stroke average as a sophomore to 70.8 in the fall of her junior year. This fall, he has witnessed a similar transformation from Martindale, a sophomore from Johnson City, Tenn. Martindale finished her freshman season with a 74.9 average and one top-20 finish in a multi-team tournament. This fall in four starts she posed three top-10s and a 72.5 average, ranking as the team's top performer in three of the four events.