__ORLANDO--__Do I have to go back to Connecticut? There's something very appealing about the 80-degree temperatures down here in the land of Mickey as compared to the snow/cold/endless winter we're experiencing back at GW HQ. It's the trademarked line I tell many coaches when they ask where we're based and I tell them in New England: "When January rolls around, we all wonder what a golf magazine is doing in the northeast."
In departing from another well-run Golf Coaches Association of America national convention--coaches who aren't attending this event miss out on getting the latest scoop from the NCAA and having an impact on shaping the future of the sport--there were a few other odds and ends that are worth noting.
The USA vs. Japan Collegiate Golf Championship matches, played annually since 1975, have been postponed for 2009. Blame it on the troubled economy as a Japanese sponsor backed out of the event late last month. GCAA officials say they're working on an alternative team event to be held about the same time in the U.S., but it was too early to discuss any details.
Despite some conjecture recently that NCAA might change its stance on college players competing in professional qualifying schools, one of the association's compliance personnel, Steve Clar, clarified that the NCAA actually was still OK with this, provided they enter as amateurs and decline any prize money. Even if a college players earns a tour card of some sort at Q school, Clar said, the NCAA was fine with the golfer returning to school if they have declined the card. Only once a player takes the next step and actually enters a tournament as a professional, Clar said, is their eligibility in jeopardy.
Stanford junior Joseph Bramlett can't seem to catch a break. The Cardinal junior who missed last spring and much of the summer with an injury to his left wrist, only to come back this fall and post a 72.4 average with no finish worse than T-14 in four starts, once again has injured the wrist. It's not the same problem, says Stanford men's coach Conrad Ray, and there is optimism that Bramlett will be able to return to the line-up at some point in the spring.
While Jack Nicklaus has kept ties with his alma mater, including overseeing the redesign of the Scarlet course in 2006--he golf legend has not had much interaction with the Ohio State players themselves. That is expected to change, however, next month as the Buckeyes head to Florida to play in the newly created Big Ten Match Play Championship at Heron Bay GC in Coral Springs, Fla. During their stay, Nicklaus is going to meet up with the group, potentially playing a golf with the team members. Nicklaus mentioned doing this during his acceptance speech for the LIfetime Achievement Award he received from the GCAA on Monday. "I called the guys that night," noted OSU associate head coach Brad Sparling, who said it was the first he had heard of Nicklaus' intentions. "They were pretty pumped."
If the NCAA Division I men's golf committee needs another advocate for implementing a match-play component to the NCAA Championship starting this spring, they've got one in Nicklaus. Again during his acceptance speech, the Golden Bear recalled the use of match play for determining the NCAA medalist when he was in school. He continued by saying that he felt having match play in the championship was a concept that he fully endorsed, hinting at the fact that there is not enough of match play contested by young players.
PGA Tour executive VP/COO Rick George was the keynote speaker at the convention and talked about how tour officials spent a good deal of time over six months developing/fine tuning/modifying its appearance and etiquette policy. He shared much of what the tour has done with the hope that the details could be passed down to the college players in order for them to be better prepared when they move on to professional golf.
GCAA officials, meanwhile, are hopeful a more formal partnership with the tour might be forthcoming this spring where the two organizations can share information and resources. Any arrangement with the PGA Tour would be a good thing for college golf. Who knows, it might even create a way for the long-held wish of many coaches of getting top college golfers direct access to the larger pro tours (e.g. exempting first-team All-Americans into PGA Tour events or giving them a conditional Nationwide Tour card) to some day become a reality.