Mid-season Awards: Players of the (mid)year
The first half of the 2010-11 campaign has come and gone. With roughly eight weeks to catch their breathe before beginning the spring march to the NCAA Championship, players and programs must assess where they stand overall and consider how to repeat any success from the fall or recover from a disappointing start to the season.
And just who, exactly, will be doing the repeating and who is looking at recovering? Gaze no further than Golf World's sixth annual Mid-Season Award package, a compendium that serves as both a review of the season to date and a primer for what's to come when players tee it up again in late January. Each day we'll reveal another award winner in men's and women's college golf, culminating with the Mid-Season All-American teams being unveiled on Tuesday, Nov. 23.
I'm doing things a little different this year. We'll start with one of the bigger honors: Golf World's top players for the mid-season
__PLAYER OF THE MID-YEAR
Peter Uihlein__, Oklahoma State
Had the 21-year-old junior gone half speed during the first few months of the 2010-11 season, few likely would have held it against him. Uihlein was coming off a busy summer that culminated with an exciting but draining victory at the U.S. Amateur. Plus he knew his fall semester would be cut short anyway when he traveled to Argentina to compete for the U.S. at last month's World Amateur Team Championship.
Instead of letting up, Uihlein left no doubt who was the country's top amateur. A victory in September's Fighting Illini Invitational was followed with runner-up finishes in the Golfweek/Ping Preview and the Jack Nicklaus Invitational. Competing at Olympia Fields CC, Karsten Creek GC and Scioto CC, Uihlein carded a nifty 69.78 average while helping maintain the Cowboys' No. 1 spot in the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll. Last time Uihlein didn't have a top-10 in a college event? A T-32 at the Morris Williams last April.
Honorable mention: Bank Vongvanij, Florida
Perhaps it's fitting that the Gator senior is battling Uihlein for POmY, having finished second, T-5 and first in his three fall starts. The two golfers were best friends in high school when they attended the Leadbetter Academy. They were so close that when Vongvanij chose Florida, many thought Uihlein would follow suit. In his final year in Gainesville, Vongvanij is living up to his blue-chip recruit status, sporting a 69.67 stroke average through the fall.
Megan McChrystal, LSU
The way the 22-year-old from Stuart, Fla., finished her junior year at LSU last May, shooting a record 64 in the final round of the NCAA Championship, foreshadowed what she has done this fall. Still, with final-day scores of 65, 68 and 66 in three starts, McChrystal's closing-round 66.3 average was lower than even she could have predicted, helping her claim victory at the NCAA Fall Preview, a T-4 finish at the Mason Rudolph and second at the Tar Heel Invitational.
"I just finally get comfortable on the course," said McChrystal when asked what gives come the final day. "I get really comfortable on the greens."
LSU coach Karen Bahnsen credits McChrystal's concentrated work on her short game for a 68.89 overall average. "I wish it was as easy as she makes it look," Bahnsen said. "She's a real competitor. I'm just glad to have her see some results from all the hard work because the girl has worked her tail off."
Honorable mention: Brooke Pancake, Alabama
A playoff victory over McChrystal at the Tar Heel Invitational was the individual highlight of the fall for the junior from Chattanooga, Tenn., whose worst finish in four starts was a T-10 at the Pac-10/SEC Challenge. Pancake's 70.25 was the lowest on the top-ranked team in the final fall Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll.
*Photos: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images (Uihlein); LSU sports information department (McChrystal)