Don't call it an upset
What happened yesterday at Purdue's Kampen Course in West Lafayette, Ind., is what makes college golf such an interesting sport to follow. Traditional men's power Oklahoma State was taken down in the final round of the Ping/Golfweek Preview by upstart Charlotte. The 49ers entered Sunday's play three strokes back of the Cowboys, then posted a three-over 291 to OSU's 10-over 298 for the four-shot victory. (Click here for full results.)
A couple of points to digest. First, this is not an upset. Charlotte tied for third at last year's NCAA Championship and returned all eight players from that squad. Among them is junior Stefan Wiedergruen, a German native who claimed the individual title yesterday with a final-round 68 and a seven-under 209 total, two strokes better than his teammate, senior Jonas Enander Hedin. Meanwhile, Charlotte coach Jamie Green's team had won its season-opener 11 days earlier, the Scenic City Invitational, where sophomore Corey Nagy earned medalist honors and All-American Andrew DiBitetto finished 10th.
Telling was this quote from Green afterward: "I think there was an excitement level that this team has grown accustomed to," said Green, whose squad had been ranked ninth in the most recent Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll. "There's something about the personality of this team and how they approach it that is pretty special."
Second, this is not the last time we're going to see a "mid-major" team win a marquee event, defeating elite programs in the process. It's hard to even define exactly who is "elite" these days. Any men's coach worth his NCAA manual should start every season by writing eight words on a blackboard in front of his team:
2002 NCAA Champions: Minnesota
2004 NCAA Champions: California
The Gophers had been told they were going to be dropped from the school's athletic department the next year and went on to win a national title. The Bears only offered 2 1/2 scholarships when they brought a trophy back to Berkeley.
In other words, winning college golf's biggest prize -- or any tournament for that matter -- doesn't require starting five AJGA All-Americans in your line-up. Rather, it requires players who believe in themselves and each other. That's what Green's got at Charlotte. People joke about golf being a team event, but if you don't think positive vibes can run through a line-up and get the whole to play better than the sum of the parts, you're kidding yourself.
Third, this is the biggest win in the history of the Charlotte program. This doesn't contradict the first two points ... it merely shows how much the 49ers have elevated their program in recent years.
Other news from the weekend:
Skinny: Could the Golden Flashes be the women's version of Charlotte?
Penn State men make strong rally to win Wolf Run Invitational.
Skinny: The Nittany Lions football team couldn't have taken a lesson from the golfers.
Esther Choe misses advancing to the final stage of LPGA Q school by one stroke.
Skinny: She's got another shot next week to get there, but you wonder if she's thinking about that scholarship to Arizona the 18-year-old right about now.