News & ToursNovember 19, 2010

Mid-season Awards: Disappointments

From performances that were fab, we now explore those that were ... well ... drab. Some college golfers and teams surprised this fall because of how much they exceeded expectations. Others, however, turned heads because of how far short them came from meeting them.

*Quick disclaimer, Part I: *If your name or the name of your school appears below, it means that you were thought of as a very talented golfer/team entering the fall.

Quick disclaimer, Part II: If your name or the name of your school appears below, it means you're STILL thought of as a very talented golfer/team—just one that didn't play to your potential.

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Eugene Wong, Oregon

With each successive steady finish during the 2009-10 season, the British Columbia native turned heads, becoming one of college golf's breakout stars with a 70.24 stroke average, two wins and nine top-10s. The results culminated in Wong winning the GCAA's Jack Nicklaus Award as national player of the year at the end of his sophomore season. Yet, as quickly as Wong burst on the scene, however, he has seemingly disappeared this fall, posting a T-33, 25th and T-30 in three starts.

It didn't appear that Wong lost his form during his amateur play in the summer. On the contrary, he managed to reach match play at the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in late August, eventually losing in the second round.

You can give him a bit of a pass because his fall season was disrupted by traveling to Argentina to play for the Canadian squad at the World Amateur Team Championship. At the same time, other collegians who made the trip to South America still managed to play well in their limited college starts (see Uihlein, Peter).

Honorable mention: Philip Francis, Arizona State

Granted the junior hadn't played college golf for a full season after having to sit out the 2009-10 campaign when he transferred from UCLA to ASU. However, he already had a full year to acclimate to a new school, which is located essentially in his home town, and Francis had been playing some amateur events prior to the fall. That's why, outside of a T-12 finish at the Topy Cup, Francis' T-45, T-28 and T-50 performances have seemed a bit flat.

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Natalie Sheary, Wake Forest

The 21-year-old senior from West Hartford, Conn., had twice been an honorable mention All-American as well as earning ACC player-of-the-year honors in 2009. Sheary then had a T-9 finish in the season-opening NCAA Fall Preview, suggesting that she was ready to roll in her last season with the Demon Deacons. Her subsequent fall finishes, though, have left much to be desired: T-41 at the Mason Rudolph, T-39 at the Tar Heel Invite and T-26 at the Landfall Tradition. Making matters worse was that her team, ranked preseason No. 8 in the Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll, failed to post any top-five finishes, dropping to 20th in the final fall ranking.

Equally confounding was the fact that days after the Landfall, Sheary competed as an amateur at LPGA Futures Tour Qualifying School and claimed medalist honors in the competition. Wake fans couldn't be blamed for thinking one thought: "Now you decide to win a title."

Honorable mention: Sally Watson, Stanford

A 74.58 stroke average with just one top-20 finish in four fall tournaments wasn't what many expected from the sophomore from Scotland. Particularly after she was coming off a summer where she played in her second Curtis Cup for Great Britain & Ireland, and managed to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. This too after a T-9 finish at the NCAA Championship in May with a career-low 66 in the final round.

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Oregon

The 2009-10 season was the best in school history, with Casey Martin's team winning five events, posting top-five finishes in 14 of 15 starts and reaching the Final Four at the NCAA Championship. Even more impressive was the fact that the Ducks had no seniors, helping create high expectations in Eugene this fall. All that good karma, however, seems to have been for naught. After the team's first five tournaments, U of O has yet to record a single top-five, with its best showing being a sixth at the Gifford Collegiate to close the fall.

Sadly, the blame can be spread throughout the entire roster when you compare this fall's scoring averages to the numbers compiled the end of last season. Only one Oregon golfer (Sean Maekawa) has actually improved his average. As for the six other who played both last year and this year, the average increase in their stroke averages is a whomping 2.93 strokes.

Player                   Fall 2010 avg.       09-10 avg.       Difference

Jack Dukeminier         76.50                  72.55                3.95

John Paton                 76.33                   72.44                3.89

Eugene Wong            74.00                   70.24                3.76

Isaiah Telles                75.44                  72.67                2.77

Daniel Miernicki          72.33                   70.62               1.71

Andrew Vijarro            73.67                   72.20               1.47

Robbie Ziegler            75.80                   DNP

Sean Maekawa          73.22                   73.42               -0.20

Honorable mention: Florida State

Similarly, Trey Jones' squad showed so much promise last spring in Chattanooga, reaching the Final Four at nationals, yet have struggled to regain the momentum with two top-five finishes but also two performances of ninth or worse at arguably their two biggest starts of the fall. Granted, there's been more turnover on the Seminoles roster (losing Seath Lauer to graduation, Michael Hebert to transfer and assistant coach Chris Malloy to a new job) than with the Ducks, but expected go-to players Drew Kittleson and Wesley Graham have struggled. Brooks Koepka remains a bright spot, but he can't shoulder the load all by himself.

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Auburn

Tiger fans could find some encouragement in Auburn's fifth-place finish at the Pac-10/SEC Challenge to close out the fall season. Of course, if a mere fifth-place finish is reason for encouragement for a team that's nationally ranked every season, it demonstrates the funk Kim Evans' group had been in during the first few months of the season, when it finished 12th, 12th and T-13 in its first three starts.

Granted Auburn has played the toughest schedule of any team in the country, according to Golfstat. Still, when you look through the school record book, you have to go back to 1994 to find the last time a Tiger team had only one top-five finish during the fall season, and that squad at least won and event. Meanwhile, the last time Auburn didn't have any top-four finishes in the fall was 1991.

Auburn's frustrations are made greater by the fact they're already getting solid performances from senior__Cydney Clanton__, who has had a 70.67 average this fall with two top-five individual finishes. To turn things around, Evans is going to need to get more out of her underclassmen.

Honorable mention: Florida

The Gators roster has plenty of talent. Evan Jensen was on the SEC all-freshman team. Isabelle and Marika Lendl were AJGA All-Americans. Mia Piccio won the Trans Amateur Championship this summer. Jessica Yadloczky has been a second-team college All-American. Andrea Watts ranked in the top 25 of her class coming out of high school. Yet these six players had only three top-20 finishes BETWEEN THEM in the four 54-hole tournaments that Florida played in during the fall. Is it any wonder that the Gators finished T-10, 15th and 18th in their last three starts before the winter break.

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