News & ToursNovember 18, 2008

Mid-season awards: Disappointing player/team

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

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

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


__BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: PLAYER

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Stefan Wiedergruen, Charlotte__

This time last year, the 24-year-old native of Germany was having such a sensational fall--69.83 average; two wins; six of 12 rounds of 68 or lower--he earned Golf World's Player of the (Mid)year honors. What a difference 12 months makes. There's not much positive in the numbers the senior is putting up this time around. In five fall tournaments, he has a 74.47 average while managing to break par just once in 15 rounds. He doesn't appear in the Golfstat Cup's top 250 players.

Playing armchair psychiatrist for a moment, here's wondering if the loss of graduating seniors Jonas Enander Hedin,Andrew DiBitetto and Trevor Murphy has had a bigger effect on Wiedergruen than anyone (read: coach Jamie Green) might rightly have expected. After all, the trio were a steadying, veteran force that allowed Wiedergruen to play with little pressure on his shoulders. Now, expected to take on the leadership role for the 49ers and be an anchor for the squad, he has struggled to fill that role. Just a thought.

Honorable mention: Chesson Hadley, Georgia Tech

It wasn't a good sign when the second-team All-American failed to qualify for the Yellow Jackets traveling squad in the first event of the fall. Since then the junior from Raleigh, N.C., played in three tournaments with only one top-10 showing. Good news: his T-10 was at Isleworth to close the fall and could help him regain some confidence.

__WOMEN

Amanda Blumenherst, Duke__

When you're the three-time defending college player of the year, not to mention reigning U.S. Women's Amateur champion, there's not much room for improvement. Suffice it to say, the 22-year-old senior from Scottsdale, Ariz., is a victim of the fact she never had finished outside the top 10 in her first three years of school (32 tournament starts), then not only had a T-14 finish to start the fall but a T-32 showing (gasp!) at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Is it any wonder, with the Blue Devils' most reliable player playing unusually unreliable, that Duke is uncharacteristically ranked outside the top-five at the end of the fall? (No. 7--double gasp!!)

There does appear to be an explanation, however. Playing for the U.S. at the Women's World Amateur Team Championship in Australia cost her not just 10-plus days of travel to and from but also additional time trying to get back into the swing of things once back stateside. No doubt, Blumenherst was exhausted before even stepping foot on the plane heading from North Carolina to northern California for the Stanford event.

There is also reason to believe Blumenherst will rebound just fine and still contend for POY award No. 4 come the spring. You might recall that the same scenario happened in 2006 to her as a sophomore: played in the WATC, failed to win any fall college tournament, needed winter break to recharge. In the spring of 2007, she proceeded to win her first three starts and four of seven.

Honorable mention: Ashley Freeman, Texas A&M

Coming off an honorable mention All-American season in 2007-08, and then winning the Trans National Amateur this past summer, a 76.0 average and no finish better than a T-28 in three starts this fall wasn't exactly the results many figured the 21-year-old junior would produce.

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BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: TEAM

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UCLA

Granted, the defending national champions knew they had to replace last year's national player of the year, Kevin Chappell. And granted, the Bruins had to overcome the mid-fall decision by senior All-American candidate__Lucas Lee__ to turn pro. Still, with senior Erik Flores and sophomore Philip Francis returning and talented freshmen Gregor Main arriving in Westwood, that UCLA finished 12th, T-9 and third in its first three starts has to make you scratch your head. After all, this was the team that won all three fall tournaments last year, en route to their NCAA title. This autumn, the best finish by any individual UCLA player in a "varsity" event is a T-10. After being ranked No. 1 in the preseason Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll, the Bruins are just 22nd at the break. Call it a sophomore slump for second-year coach Derek Freeman.

__Honorable mention: Charlotte __

It wasn't just Wiedergruen that seems to have lost his way; junior Corey Nagy's stroke average is also two shots higher than a year ago, explaining how the 49ers have just one top-seven finish in five starts and a 16-44 head-to-head record.

__WOMEN

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Florida

For all the obstacles the Gators and coach Jill Briles-Hinton overcame last season--winning their first SEC title since 1995 despite, most notably, the departure of senior Sandra Gal at mid-season after she earned a LPGA Tour card at Q school--Florida hasn't been able to rekindle the we-believe-in-us-if-nobody-else-does vibe that made them so much fun to follow in 2007-08. A fifth-place showing at the Landfall Tradition made an otherwise dismal fall (14th at the NCAA Preview, 10th at the Mason Rudolph, 16th at the Hooters Match Play) only slightly less disheartening.

A few factors seems to be hurting the Gators. After losing a couple veteran players, Florida was counting on sophomores Jessica Yadloczky and Hannah Yun to hold things together as a pair of freshmen (Andrea Watts and Evan Jensen) became integrated with the team. Yadloczky, however, has broken par just twice in nine rounds. Meanwhile, the 17-year-old Yun, who announced after nationals last May she was leaving school only to return at the end of the summer, has jumped ship again after two poor performances.

Honorable mention: Denver

The Pioneers won their home event, but struggled in bigger national tournaments (10th at NCAA Preview, 14th at Mercedes-Benz), explaining their drop from 11th to 16th in Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll. If Katie Kempter and Dawn Shockley play more consistently, Sammie Chergo's group should be OK. Third-place at Hooters Match Play is also a good sign.

Tomorrow's topics:

  • Best player you've never heard of

  • Best player you'll hear about by the end of the season

  • Biggest question marks for the spring

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