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 â¿¿ just one that didn't play to your potential.
__BIGGEST SURPRISE: PLAYER
Jon Curran__, Vanderbilt
A year ago, the Hopkinton, Mass., native had eight top-10 finishes in 12 tournaments, a season where he finished with a flourish: a T-7 showing at the Courtyard by Marriott Intercollegiate, followed by a T-9 at the SEC Championship, a T-2 at the West Regional and an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championship. Curran continued to shine during the summer, posting top-fives at the Monroe Invitational and the Porter Cup before advancing to the second round of the U.S. Amateur. So how do you explain that in his first four starts this past fall, the junior had a 73.4 average and just one top-20 performance before finishing T-4 at two-round WCU Intercollegiate—a last minute addition to Vandy's schedule with a field that included no other major conference participants?
The easy answer is that replacing All-American Luke List as the Commodores' No. 1 player is a tough burden to carry. The real explanation, however, is that Curran is struggling mightily with his putter. While having a better percentage of fairways hit (79.4 percent) and greens in regulation (69.1 percent) than he did in 2006-07, he is averaging 31.56 putts a round and is averaging 1.893 putts on greens he's hitting in regulation.
Honorable mention: Joseph Bramlett, Stanford
After posting seven top-10s and a 71.5 stroke average in 2006-07, the second-team All-American's best showing in five starts this year is a T-11, while his stroke average is 73.1. Can you say sophomore slump?
Jacqui Concolino__, Vanderbilt
En route to a first-team All-American showing a year ago (six top-fives and 10 top-10s), the junior from Orlando had a 71.9 stroke average during the fall, making the 74.33 number she has posted thus far during the 2007-08 season seem even more astonishing. A T-42 on Vanderbilt's home course at the Mason Rudolph Women's Championship was a head scratcher that didn't look a whole lot better after she finished T-21 at the NCAA Fall Preview. A third-place showing at the Lady Tar Heel Invitational suggested that maybe Concolino was returning to her old form, but a T-47 performance at the Stanford Intercollegiate wasn't the way she wanted to head into the winter break.
Perhaps you can chalk it all up to adjusting to new coach Greg Allen, although when you look at Concolino's stats, they suggest otherwise. Like Curran, Concolino's disappointing play can be attributed to poor putting. She ranks fifth on the Vanderbilt squad in putting with a 32.5 average while averaging 1.5 three-putt holes per round. Last year she had 110 birdies, fourth most in the country. Thus far she has only 27.
Honorable mention: Paola Moreno, Southern California
Tied for runner-up at the NCAA Championship last May, but the Colombia native hasn't broken par in any of nine rounds during her senior season.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: TEAM
Following up a storybook seven-win season that culminated in an NCAA title is a lot to ask of any team. It's just that the Cardinal appeared to have the talent equal to the task with returning All-Americans Rob Grube, Joseph Bramlett and Daniel Lim and incoming blue-chip recruit Sihwan Kim. Raise your hand, then, if you thought Conrad Ray's squad would have been winless this fall? Yeah, didn't think we'd see any.
Interestingly enough, while Kim has made a smooth transition to the college game (one win, four top-15 finishes) and sophomore Jordan Cox has showed glimpses of solid play (T-4 at CordeValle and T-8 at the Prestige) it's the veterans who have struggled. Bramlett had only four finishes outside the top 20 in 13 events as a freshman, but this year has three in five starts. Grube started well but a T-48 at the Isleworth-UCF Invitational was disappointing from a senior captain.
Suffice it to say, the Cardinal's dream of becoming the first repeat men's national champion since Houston in 1984-85 isn't lost. Working in their favor for an improved showing in the spring is the fact that many of the distractions of the fall will be behind them, most notably the loss of assistant coach Sam Puryear (hired to take over the top job at Michigan State) just days before the start of the season.
Honorable mention: Texas A&M
Fellow coaches looked the other way at the fact the Aggies failed to qualify for the 2007 NCAA Championship when they ranked them No. 11 in the Golf World/Nike Golf preseason poll. But with a dead-last showing at Isleworth and no finish better than a fourth in five fall starts—plus a 27-39 record overall—J.T. Higgins' group needs to step things up.
Ranked ninth in the Golf World/NGCA preseason poll, the Cardinal posted only two top-10 finishes in four fall tournaments, including a disappointing ninth-place showing at their home event, the Stanford Intercollegiate. Troubling for Caroline O'Connor's team is the fact that only twice did any player post a top-10 finish (Mari Chun's T-8 performances at the Edean Ihlanfeldt and Stanford). Versus top-25 teams, Stanford has a 4-37 record (.098), leaving in question whether the team will continue its string of 20-straight NCAA Championship appearances.
Honorable mention: North Carolina
Started T-6 at the Cougar Classic and have finished no better in three other fall events, including an 11th-place showing at the Lady Tar Heel Invitational.
NEXT MID-SEASON AWARD:
Most Improved Player