News & ToursDecember 3, 2008

This week's syllabus: December edition


My look at the top five teams in the country right now

(Updated: Dec. 5)__





  1. Georgia (Last syllabus: 1)

Fall results: 4 starts; 2 wins (Brickyard Collegiate; Isleworth/UCF Collegiate), 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s

The Bulldogs not only lead the country with the lowest average adjusted score (72.70) but also have the lowest drop-score average (76.90).

Spring opener: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar GC (River course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 27-March 1



  1. Oklahoma State (2)

Fall results: 3 starts; 1 win (Ping/Golfweek Preview), 2 top-5s, 3 top-10s

The Cowboys had a losing head-to-head record this fall against just two schools: Indiana (0-2) and Texas Tech (0-1).

Spring opener: Puerto Rico Classic, Rio Mar GC (River course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Feb. 27-March 1



  1. USC (3)

Fall results: 3 starts; 1 win (CordeValle), 3 top-5s

If the Trojans can improve their final-round stroke average (75.63), they can certainly fight on all spring.

Spring opener: UH Hilo Invitational, Mauna Lani North Course, Kohala Coast, Hawaii, Feb. 4-6



  1. Alabama (4)

Fall results: 4 starts; 1 win (Jerry Pate Collegiate), 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s

If college golf had a most valuable player award, my vote would go to Matthew Swan. Besides the senior's 71.5 stroke average, he's been key to the acclimation of a band of freshmen that have the Crimson Tide back among the national elite.

Spring opener: John Hayt Collegiate Invitational, Sawgrass CC, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 22-24



  1. Illinois (5)

Fall results: 5 starts; 3 wins (Olympia Fields, Windon Classic, D.A. Weibring), 4 top-5s, 4 top-10s

The Fighting Illini no doubt have national championship aspirations, but they are in great position to win their first Big Ten title since 1988.

Spring opener: Big Ten Match Play tournament, Coral Springs, Fla., Feb. 13-14




  1. UCLA (1)

Fall results: 4 starts; 3 wins (Topy Cup, Mason Rudolph, Stanford Intercollegiate),   4 top-5s

You know things are going well when you've got a former U.S. Women's Amateur winner (Maria Jose Uribe) on your squad who has the sixth best stroke average and you've still won three tournaments.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11



  1. USC (3)

Fall results: 4 starts; 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s

My favorite team stat posted by the Trojans this fall: 72.60 final-round stroke average, second best in the country.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11



  1. Arizona State (2)

Fall results: 3 starts; 2 wins (NCAA Fall Preview, Derby Invitational), 3 top-5s

With Golf World's player-of-the-(mid)-year Anna Nordqvist leaving school early, there's more pressure on January additions Carlota Ciganda and Giulia Molinaro to hit the ground running in the spring.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11



  1. Oklahoma State (4)

Fall results: 4 starts; 3 top-5s, 4 top-10s

Short term, loss of Laura Mathews hasn't been too tough; long term, Cowgirls signed AJGA All-American Jane Rah but failed to get NLIs from Kimberly Kim and Sue Kim during the early signing period after both gave verbal commitments to the school earlier in the year.

Spring opener: Arizona Wildcat Invitational, Peninsula GC, Puerto Penasco, Mexico, Feb. 22-24



  1. Wake Forest (NR)

Fall results: 4 starts; 2 wins (Lady Tar Heel, Landfall Tradition), 2 top-5s

I took a little more time to digest the Demon Deacons' fall ... after disappointing start  (9th at Preview; 14th at Mason Rudolph) two wins to close out the semester provides the right kind of momentum.

Spring opener: Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Palos Verdes GC, Palos Verdes, Calif., Feb. 9-11




Number of playoff holes needed for Marquette's Mike Van Sickle to claim the title at the Western Refining College All-American Golf Classic last month at El Paso (Texas) CC. Van Sickle outlasted Oklahoma State's Trent Leon after shooting a final-round 63 that included two eagles. Leon also made two eagles during a final-round 66, but three bogeys in the final four holes dropped him to six-under 207 overall and forced the playoff. Van Sickle holed a seven-foot birdie putt on the sixth sudden-death playoff hole to win the event and end the longest overtime in the tournament's 34-year history.


  • At next week's National Golf Coaches Association convention in Las Vegas, a trio of deserving honorees will be inducted into the NGCA's Hall of Fame: LSU women's coach Karen Bahnsen and former standout players Wendy Ward (Arizona State) and Shauna Estes-Taylor (Georgia).

Bahnsen was LSU's first recruit as a player when the program was formed 30 years ago and has spent the past 25 seasons as the Tigers coach. Her teams have won 29 tournament titles and appeared in eight NCAA Championships. She has had 29 players win individual titles and 15 named NGCA All-Americans.

Ward was a four-time All-American at Arizona State from 1991-95, helping the Sun Devils win three straight NCAA titles while winning national player-of-the-year honors in 1994 and 1995.

Estes-Taylor, the current women's coach at Arkansas, tied the Bulldogs' school record for individual titles (seven) during her time in Athens (1996-2000), including two SEC championships. She contributed to 18 team victories and a runner-up showing at the 1999 NCAA Championship.

Additionally, Penn State women's coach Denise St. Pierre will receive the Gladys Palmer Meritorious Service Award, the NGCA's most prestigious honor. St. Pierre, in her 16th season with the Nittany Lions, spearheaded the NGCA's fundraising effort following Hurricane Katrina, assisting in raising $60,000 that went to Habitat for Humanity as well as recruiting a group of coaches to go down to the New Orleans area and help building the home they sponsored.

  • The D-I men's NCAA Championship handbook is online and a quick glance shows a couple of procedural changes to how the match-play portion of the championship will be conducted compared to what the men's committee outlined last summer. Specifically, in setting their 1-to-5 man starting line-ups for match play, teams will have to use the Golfstat ranking, which will include all results from throughout the year, including regionals and the stroke-play rounds at nationals. Previously, the committee had said that the line-up would be determined based on how players finished after the 54 stroke-play holes. Secondly, the handbook says that all individual matches "will be played to their competition," presumably rather than allowing a match that's all square after 18 holes to be declared a tie. This change will eliminate the possibility of having a 2 1/2-2 1/2 tie between teams and require some form of tiebreaker to determine which school advances to the next round, or wins the NCAA title. My two cents: both changes will only enhance the championship in the long run.

Also, from a scheduling standpoint, there will be only one practice round prior to the start of stroke play at nationals and after the eight teams advance to the new match-play portion of the championship, the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will take place on the same day rather than over two days.

  • Another announcement that got lost amidst the Thanksgiving holiday is that Methodist's Vici Pate has decided to step down as women's coach at the end of the 2008-09 season. Since taking over the program in 2003, she has done alright for herself (if you like perfection that is)--six D-III national championships in six seasons. While the program was similarly successful before Pate took over, to maintain a dynasty like this isn't necessarily a low pressure task. It's what also makes the search for Pate's replacement intriguing. Methodist director of athletics Bob McEvoy is going to have to find somebody who not only can coach but can handle the expectations that come with overseeing the Monarchs' program.

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