Finally, the award we've all been waiting for. And the winners are ...
PLAYER OF THE (MID)YEAR
Stefan Wiedergruen__, Charlotte
His numbers this fall speak for themselves: the junior won two tournaments, was runner-up in a third and posted a 69.83 stroke average with six of his 12 rounds being 68 or lower. What's interesting to note, though, is that Wiedergruen actually didn't qualify for the 49ers first tournament of 2007-08, the Scenic City Invitational. Charlotte coach Jamie Green had to use one of two wild-card selections to bring the 23-year-old German along to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he finished tied for second.
Even after winning the Ping/Golfweek Preview in his next start, Wiedergruen wasn't positive about his spot in the line-up. "We're sitting in the airport after this event," Green recalled, "and somebody asked him something about the next tournament and he said, 'Well, I'm not sure I'm going.' "
Suffice it to say, Green has a player he can rely on in Wiedergruen, who didn't sulk about being left out in the line-up during the postseason a year ago for the 49ers, but instead got to work around the greens during the summer, shoring up the weak spot in his game. "We changed a couple of things on my grip," he said earlier this fall, "and I just spent more time on the putting green than I have before."
Wiedergruen contends that the depth of competition on the country's No. 3-ranked team is what eventually led him to his fall success. "It's really forces you to get better and work on your game every day," he says. "If you're No. 1 all the time and don't have any trouble to stay No. 1, you probably don't have to do anything. Because it's so competitive you try to work as hard as you can and work every day to get ahead of the guys and get into the line-up. That only helps in the tournament. You know you can play well because you accomplished a lot just to make the team."
Honorable mention: Rickie Fowler, Oklahoma State
Finished six strokes back of Wiedergruen at the Ping Preview en route to a fourth-place finish, but followed it up with an impressive victory at Olympia Fields and a third top-four finish at Isleworth. You get impression, too, that the best is still to come.
Amanda Blumenherst__, Duke
It says a great deal about the talent of the 21-year-old junior when her accomplishments have gone from being considered extraordinary to expected. With victories at the Mason Rudolph Women's Championship and the Lady Tar Heel Invitational this fall, Blumenherst now has nine college titles to her credit, only three back of Mary Anne Widman for Duke's all-time mark. With a second-place finish at the Margaret Branch NCAA Preview and a T-5 at the Stanford Intercollegiate, she now has 20 top-five finishes in 25 career starts and still hasn't ended a tournament worse than tied for 10th.
That's not to say that the rest of the college golf world has conceded Blumenherst a third-straight NCAA player of the year award. Arkansas senior Stacy Lewis, the defending NCAA individual champ, also had two wins this fall, and beat Blumenherst in their only "head-to-head" match-up at Stanford. Separating the two is like trying to decide which flavor of ice cream you like better, chocolate or vanilla. Both taste great ... it all depends what you're craving at the time.
We give the nod for top-player honors through the fall to Blumenherst because her stroke average is a bit lower (69.58 to 70.92) and her competition was a bit higher (Duke's strength of schedule ranks third in the country; Arkansas' ranks 30th). It wouldn't surprise us, though, if the two were still battling all the way to the final round at the University of New Mexico's Championship Course come May and the NCAA Championship.
Honorable mention: Stacy Lewis, Arkansas
Except for two 76s there's not much to complain about from the senior this fall. (P.S.--Every other round was 72 or better.)
__Golf World Mid-season All-American team
Jonas Blixt, Florida State, Sr.
71.58 avg. in four starts; one co-win (Inverness), three top-5s; 4-0 at Match Play
Ryan Brehm, Michigan State, Sr.
71.25 avg. in five starts; three wins (Inverness, ND, Big Ten/Pac-10), four top-4s
Jonas Enander Hedin, Charlotte, Sr.
69.92 avg. in four starts; three top-6 finishes; worst finish a T-16
Harris English, Georgia, Fr.
70.78 avg. in three starts; two wins (Isleworth-UCF, Brickyard Collegiate)
Rickie Fowler, Oklahoma State, Fr.
69.89 avg. in three starts; one win (Fighting Illini/Olympia Fields) and two fourths
Chesson Hadley, Georgia Tech, Soph.
69.78 avg. in three starts; one win (Carpet Capital), three top-6s
Clayton Rask, Minnesota, Sr.
71.33 avg. in five starts; two co-wins (Windon, Prestige), 4 top-6s; 3-0 at Match Play
Joel Sjoholm, Georgia State, Sr.
71.67 avg. in four starts; one win (Club Glove), four top-10s
Ryan Spears, Wichita State, Sr.
70.8 avg. in five starts; three wins (Falcon, Bill Hill, Sycuan), five top-10s
Michael Thompson, Alabama, Sr.
68.67 avg. in three starts; two runner-up finishes, three top-3s
Mike Van Sickle, Marquette, Jr.
69.67 avg. in five starts; two wins (Windon, Big East/MAC), four top-10s
Stefan Wiedergruen, Charlotte, Jr.
69.83 avg. in four starts; two wins (Ping/Golfweek, Pacific), one runner-up
Amanda Blumenherst__, Duke, Jr.
69.58 avg. in four starts; two wins (Mason Rudolph, Lady Tar Heel), four top-5s
Stacy Lewis, Arkansas, Sr.
70.92 avg. in four starts; two wins (Stanford, UA/Ann Rhodes), four top-3s
Sandra Gal, Florida, Sr.
72.0 avg. in three starts; one win (Mercedes-Benz), worst finish: T-15
Tiffany Joh, UCLA, Jr.
71.58 avg. in four starts; one co-win (Kent Youel), three top-6s, worst finish: T-13
Laura Kueny, Michigan State, Soph.
72.33 avg. in four starts; one win (Mary Fossum), two seconds
Pernilla Lindberg, Oklahoma State, Jr.
71.67 avg. in four starts; three top-8s, worst finish: T-21
Belen Mozo, USC, Soph.
72.17 avg. in four starts; one win (Edean Ihlanfeldt), three top-10s, worst finish: T-11
Azahara Munoz, Arizona State, Jr.
71.67 avg. in four starts; three top-6 finishes, worst finish: T-12
Anna Nordqvist, Arizona State, Soph.
71.25 avg. in four starts; three top-4s, worst finish: T-8
So-Hyun Park, Notre Dame, Fr.
72.53 avg. in five starts; one win (Napa River Grill), two seconds
Maria Jose Uribe, UCLA, Fr.
72.25 avg. in four starts; one win (Kent Youel), three top-10s, worst finish: T-16
Alison Walshe, Arizona, Sr.
71.33 avg. in five starts; one win (Edean Ihlanfeldt), three top-3s, worst finish: T-10