__By Ryan Herrington
I like to think I make some decent educated guesses in the players I've selected for these awards in years past. With Thomas Pieters, Matt Hill, Nick Taylor, Lizette Salas and Marta Silva Zamora among them, I've had a decent track record. Last year my selections included Michael Kim and James Erkenbeck. The former won earned the Jack Nicklaus Award as the national collegiate player of the year at California and the latter was a first-team All-American at New Mexico who reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links, so I think my credibility remains for another season.
With that, here are some players who devoted college golf fan might know about but who casual fans should become familiar with in the near future.
__BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
__[#image: /photos/55ad77bfb01eefe207f6d31a]|||Scott Vincent.jpg|||
Scott Vincent, Virginia Tech
The junior from Zimbabwe gave you a first glance at how he might be a true up-and-comer when he played for his country as a high schooler at the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship. As a Hokie freshman in 2012 he finished third at NCAA regionals, propelling the squad to a berth at nationals (its first since 2002). He built on that success last spring with three top-five finishes and two top-10s in his last seven starts, and this summer won the Harare Amateur Championships back home by a record 17 strokes.
It's been more of the same during the fall as Vincent claimed victories in three of his first four starts (Golfweek Conference Challenge, VCU Shootout and Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate). In 14 fall rounds, Vincent has eight sub-70 scores, including a school-record 64 in the final round of the Golfweek event to claim co-medalist honors (for the fall his final-round stroke average was 69.50).
He entered the season No. 2 among all-time scoring leaders (72.82) at Virginia Tech behind only countryman Brendon de Jonge (72.60), who hasn't met personally. Vincent's steady improvement, however, suggests finishing No. 1 when his career is done isn't out of the question.
Photo: Virginia Tech Sports Information Department
Honorable mention: Joey Garber, Georgia
The senior transferred from Michigan in 2012, played the spring semester but was sidelined much of 2012-13 with a shoulder injury. Anxious to finally play a full year for the Bulldogs before running out of eligibility, Garber posted three top-five finishes this fall, including a win at the Invitational at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
__[#image: /photos/55ad77bfadd713143b428411]|||Yu Liu.jpg|||
__Yu Liu, Duke
__Hailing from a country longing to make a name for itself in golf, the Chinese native helped the cause by building a solid junior golf resume (three AJGA wins, a semifinalist berth at the 2011 U.S. Girls' Junior as well as two victories as an amateur on the Chinese LPGA tour). She then showed little trouble with the transition to college this fall, posted three top-10 finishes in her three starts and sharing ACC player of the month honors in October while carding the best stroke average (71.67) on the fifth-ranked team in the latest Golf World/WGCA coaches' poll. She also returned home in October and made the cut at the LPGA's Reignwood Classic.
Distance off the tee and with her irons is seemingly Liu's biggest strength. "[She] would be a natural to do really well on a course like this because it was playing long and she hits it really hard," said Blue Devil coach Dan Brooks when Liu made 11 birdies at Finley GC in Chapel Hill, N.C., en route to the team's victory the Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational last month.
"She's a seasoned player, very talented," Brooks told the Duke Chronicle earlier this fall. "She's capable of playing any golf course."
Photo: Duke Sports Information Department
Honorable mention: Regina Plasencia, Arkansas
The 19-year-old from Mexico made an solid debut as a freshman in 2012-13, starting in all 12 tournaments for the Lady Razorbacks and earning SEC all-freshman honors. This fall she's offered no hint of a sophomore slump, posting a team-best 70.91 average (outpacing All-Americans Emily Tubert and Gaby Lopez and ranking 10th in the country) with a pair of top-five finishes.
__BEST PLAYERS YOU'LL HEAR PLENTY OF THIS SPRING
Greg Eason, UCF
Sure he had a standout season a year ago, earning first-team All-American honors, winning the school's first individual NCAA regional title and contending for a spot on the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup side. Yet the Englishman remains under the radar to many, a late bloomer who found his way to UCF just hoping to get a civil engineering degree and be able to go into the construction industry after college.
"It's not just that he's talented," UCF coach Bryce Wallor said previously of Eason. "He's maturing as a golfer and turning into one hell of a player."
After failing to be among the 10 picked to play at National GL in September, Eason could be excused if he had a brief letdown as his senior year began this fall, but opening rounds of 68-69 at the Isleworth Collegiate en route to an eighth-place showing suggests once he's re-energized after the winter break, his high-caliber play is likely to continue.
Photo: UCF Sports Information Department
Honorable mention: Chase Koepka, USF
You could say the success of older brother, European Tour standout Brooks, has rubbed off on the sophomore from West Palm Beach, Fla., but that is disservice to the 19-year-old who claimed two victories this fall (AutoTrader.com Collegiate and the Rees Jones Invitational). Koepka's worst round to date in 2012-13? A one-over 73 on the Ocean Course at Kiawah.
__[#image: /photos/55ad77bfadd713143b42840d]|||Bronte Law.jpg|||
__Bronte Law, UCLA
__She was a member of the victorious 2012 Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup team, a credential that usually helps you claim top billing in your recruiting class. Yet the England native arrived in Los Angeles this fall along with six-time AJGA first-team All-American Alison Lee, explaining how she might have been somewhat forgotten.
Law changed that with a victory at the Pac-12 Preview in Hawaii to close out the fall semester, giving her a second top-two finish as she posted a 71.3 average (T-17 in the country). It came thanks to a bogey-free, eight-birdie 65 in the second round at Nanea GC, tying UCLA's 18-hole school record. More importantly, it helped prove the notion that the rookie wasn't going to play second fiddle to anyway, including her teammate.
Photo: UCLA Sports Information Department
Honorable mention: Julie Yang, Oklahoma State
The sophomore from South Korea by way of Thailand and Arizona is set to play in next month's final stage of LPGA Qualifying School and has said if she earns a tour card she'll turn pro. If she doesn't, however, she's an All-American caliber talent who posted a 71.0 average this fall and has had five top-10 finishes (and seven top-20s) in 11 career college starts.