We're finally down to the brass tacks ... here's a look at the best of the best from the fall semester:
__COACH OF THE (MID)YEAR
Mike Small, Illinois
For as talented a player as Small is (he has four Illinois Open titles to his credit and has competed in four PGA Championships, most recently in 2007), the 42-year-old in his eighth year as the Fighting Illini men's coach showed this fall he is an equally gifted motivator. With the team coming off a trip to nationals last spring, he got them thinking early that they should be a team to contend not just in the Big Ten but nationally. It was a message that the rest of the country received when Illinois beat defending NCAA champion UCLA, Oklahoma State and Stanford to take the team title at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational, the first of three victories this fall.
"The best thing a college coach can provide is an environment for success and improvement," says Small. Most certainly he accomplished that, as two of his players (Scott Langley and Zach Barlow) won individual titles and three others (Matt Hoffman, Chris DeForest and Luke Guthrie) recorded top-three finishes, helping Illinois jump from an unranked squad in the preseason to No. 6 in the final fall Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll.
"This team was talking that they wanted to contend for a national championship even before the season," Small said. "And they believe it. First you've got to say, then you've got to believe, and then you can go do it."
Small's next challenge will be trying to carry over the momentum of the fall through the winter break. A two-year-old, $5 million state-of-the-art indoor practice facility opened in Campaign, however, will allow the team to maximize their time between semesters and hopefully hit the ground running in February.
"Last year we had nine players that hit 25,000 balls in the winter," Small says. "And if you look in the spring, we started out ranked around 50th and we finished third at regionals and got to nationals. I think we've got the opportunity to stay sharp."
Honorable mention: Brad McMakin, Arkansas
Three years since arriving in Fayetteville after a successful 10-year run at Lamar, the 39-year-old has the Razorbacks on the rise again, having won two fall tournaments and finishing fourth in another start.
Carrie Forsyth, UCLA
With a loaded roster out there in Westwood--complete with a U.S. Women's Amateur champion, a two-time U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion, four players who've competed in the U.S. Women's Open--most would think all Forsyth has to do is get her players to the first tee on time to have success. Often, though, it's getting a talented team to reach its full potential that can be the toughest task in the business, and the 10th-year Bruins coach has accomplished it quite well through the first half of the 2008-09 season superbly. After winning their three stroke-play starts (Topy Cup, Mason Rudolph and Stanford Intercollegiate), UCLA lost in a tiebreaker to Michigan State in the first round of the Hooters Collegiate Match Play, but won its next two matches for a fifth-place showing.
Forsyth's line-up truly does run eight players deep, creating a competitive environment on campus that allows the players to improve and be best prepared for what they'll see in tournaments. So far so good, as the seven players who've competed in stroke-play events all have averages better than 73.67, with five at 72.0 or lower.
Honorable mention: Melissa Luellen, Arizona State
Like her Pac-10 colleague, Luellen had a talented team that lived up to expectations, winning twice in three starts during the fall. Give her extra credit, too, for succeeding while five of her players had left Tempe for part of October to play in the Women's World Team Amateur Championship.
__PLAYER OF THE (MID)YEAR
Jorge Campillo, Indiana
After winning the Big Ten individual title, finishing tied for second at the NCAA Championship and earning first-team All-American honors last spring, big things were expected of the Spanish import at the start of his senior season in Bloomington, Ind. That he lived up to expectations in the first half of the 2008-09 season--winning twice, finishing in a share of second, seventh and ninth in his other three starts, posting a 70.27 average--might say as much about Campillo's character as it does his golf game.
"Mentally and emotionally he's far more advanced than when he came here," says Hoosier coach Mike Mayer, in describing the maturation of his top player. "We've helped develop some patience and discipline and collegiate golf has helped him develop that. His golf game is basically the same as it was when he got here."
Mayer first noticed a difference last March after Campillo was in contention at the Pinehurst Intercollegiate but stumbled in the final round. Previously, there might have been more sulking, but rather than "have his tail dragging and feeling sorry for himself," he became more focused and won three straight tournaments later in the spring.
In that sense, the way Campillo actually closed out the season might wind-up being a blessing for him in the long run--and a nightmare for his competitors. After posting a front-nine 32 in the final-round of the Isleworth/UCF Collegiate to take the lead, Campillo made a double bogey on the final hole to lose the tournament by two shots. "He knows what could have been," Mayer says. "That will only motivate him."
Memories of a better finish will help ease Campillo's pain. In early October, he closed the Windon Memorial Classic at North Shore CC near Chicago with a eight-under 63, a round Mayer describes as one special in one way and in another way one of the easiest rounds of golf you'd ever seen.
Campillo's impact goes beyond just his own scores. The standard he sets has given his Hoosier teammates something to shoot for in practice, pushing them to new heights as well. Most notable is Alex Martin, who lowered his stoke average to 71.87 this fall. "What Jorge has allowed Alex to do is help him realize how really good he is," says Mayer, whose squad finished in the top five in all five of its fall starts. "That says something right there."
Honorable mention: Mike Van Sickle, Marquette
Only once in 15 rounds this fall did the 21-year-old senior from Wexford, Pa., shoot a score higher than 72, and that was a 74 in the opening 18 of the season at the Gopher Invitational, a tournament he eventually won. He added two more titles in the fall to improve his career victory total to nine, had a T-4 and T-7 in his other two starts and closed with a 69.33 average.
Anna Nordqvist, Arizona State
If it wasn't for the fact that the 21-year-old native of Sweden had such an impressive fall season--she broke par in seven of her nine rounds--maybe people wouldn't be so bent out of shape that she might be leaving school in the next month if she earns a LPGA Tour card at Q school. After a runner-up showing at the NCAA Fall Preview and a T-7 finish at the Mason Rudolph, the junior continued her fine play for the victorious Swedish team at the Women's World Team Amateur Championship in Australia. Upon her return, she closed out the fall (and maybe her college career) with a victory at the Derby Invitational.
For a woman who stood nearly 6-feet-tall, Nordqvist didn't hit the ball all that far actually when she arrived in the desert. Suffice it to say, her length has improved, and without taking anything away from the ball striking skills that helped her win the British Ladies' Amateur title last summer. During the fall her greens-in-regulation percentage is 77.8 and her GIR within 15 feet being an impressive 35.2.
Honorable mention: Jane Chin, UC Irvine
Three victories and a second-place finish by the fifth-year senior appear to made the decision to redshirt the previous season to improve her game a wise one.__ __
__GOLF WORLD MID-SEASON ALL-AMERICAN TEAM
Zahkai Brown, Colorado State, Fr.__
70.08 avg., 4 starts, 1 win (Del Walker), 4 top-10s
Bronson Burgoon, Texas A&M, Sr.
70.22 avg., 3 starts, 1 win, 2 top-5s
Jorge Campillo, Indiana, Sr.
70.27 avg., 5 starts, 2 wins, five top-10s
Kevin Foley, Penn State, Jr.
71.57 avg., 5 starts, 1 win (Lehigh), 3 top-10s
Dustin Garza, Wichita State, Jr.
68.53 avg., 5 starts, 3 wins, 2 runner-ups
Matt Hill, N.C. State, Soph.
69.43 avg., 3 starts, 1 win, two top-5s
Scott Langley, Illinois, Soph.
71.13 avg., 5 starts, 1 win (D.A. Weibring), no finish worse than T-12
Eddie Olson, UNLV, Jr.
69.44 avg., 4 starts, 1 win, 3 top-3s
Kyle Stanley, Clemson, Jr.
71.42 avg., 4 starts, 1 win (Carpet Capital), 3 top-fives
Derek Tolan, Colorado, Sr.
71.0 avg., 2 wins (USF/Olympic Club, Tucker)
Cameron Tringale, Georgia Tech, Sr.
71.5 avg., 4 starts, 1 win (Brickyard)
Mike Van Sickle, Marquette, Sr.
69.33 avg., 5 starts, 3 wins, five top-7s
Jane Chin, UC Irvine, Sr.__
69.92 avg, 4 starts, 3 wins, 1 runner-up
Kirby Dreher, Kent State, Sr.
72.44 avg., 3 starts, 1 win (, 3 top-10s, 3-0 at Match Play
Jodi Ewart, New Mexico, Jr.
71.56 avg., 3 starts, 1 win (Dick McGuire), 2 top-5s
Caroline Hedwall, Oklahoma State, Fr.
71.17 avg., 4 starts, 1 win (NCAA Preview), 2 top-5s
Therese Koelbaek, UNLV, Soph.
70.67 avg., 3 starts, 2 top-10s, 3 top-14s
Cindy LaCrosse, Louisville, Sr.
70.08 avg., 4 starts, 3 top-3s, 4 top-7s
Lisa McCloskey, Pepperdine, Fr.
70.78 avg., 3 starts, 1 win (Las Vegas), 2 top-10s
Sydnee Michaels, UCLA, Jr.
70.56 avg., 3 starts, 1 win (Mason Rudolph), 3 top-6s
Azahara Munoz, Arizona State, Sr.
71.56 avg., 3 starts, T-2 at NCAA Preview, 2 top-4s
Anna Nordqvist, Arizona State, Jr.
70.44 avg., 3 starts, 1 win (Derby), 3 top-7s
Lizette Salas, USC, Soph.
70.56 avg., 3 starts, 1 win (Stanford), 3 top-10s
Candace Schepperle, Auburn, Jr.
71.83 avg., 4 starts, 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s