Matt Anderson once skipped his calculus class at Edina (Minn.) High School to watch the 1999 NCAA Division I Men’s Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in nearby Chaska. He dreamed of the day he could play in the event as a Golden Gopher.
The soft-spoken junior, who is majoring in finance, did much more than just play in the national championship June 1. Anderson shot a career-best, 5-under 66 to lead Minnesota to a four-shot victory.
“I felt like I had blinders on,” said Anderson, whose previous low was 69 at the Tillinghast Invitational last October.
Anderson, who did not make the team in his freshman season, walked-on as a sophomore and did not play. As a junior on a partial scholarship, he had played in 11 events prior to the NCAAs and had a scoring average of 74.7.
“He is a kid who just works and works and works,” said Minnesota interim coach Brad James. “For a kid to walk-on and shoot 66 in the final round of the national championship just shows how big his heart is.”
Grand design: Three years ago, Tom Weiskopf, an Ohio native who succeeded Jack Nicklaus as an All-American player at Ohio State, caused a stir when he suggested rebuilding the Alister MacKenzie-designed Scarlet Course’s steeply pitched push-up soil greens to U.S. Golf Association standards for composition and drainage.
Many of the 36-hole facility’s members, including course architect and 1966 OSU graduate Michael Hurdzan, protested the proposed project, and it wasn’t until the school’s three-year, $210 million facelift of Ohio Stadium drained university coffers and put the renovation project on hold that the debate died down.
OSU coach Jim Brown said there are still plans to restore many of Scarlet’s bunkers but added the school is not interested in tinkering with the course’s 61-year-old greens.
“The original plan was to change the bunkering,” Brown said. “Over the years the edges had been worn away and we wanted to restore them to the original design. Tom (Weiskopf) mentioned that if we were ever going to do anything with the greens that would be the time since he would have all the equipment there. But it was just a suggestion.”
Brown said the plan is to shift the bunker at the par-4 third hole back into the fairway and push the bunker guarding the middle of the seventh fairway 30 yards back, bringing it back into play for today’s longer hitters. Much of the remaining work would focus on improving the drainage in bunkers.
“We need to do something with the bunkers because of what happened on Thursday,” said Brown, referring to the thunderstorm that dumped more than an inch of rain on the course May 30 and made Scarlet’s bunkers unplayable. “I don’t think we need to do the greens. Over the last three, four years they’ve gotten very good. For now, however, the stadium project has everything on hold.”
Golf’s bowl game: The Golf Coaches Association of America, Hooters of America Inc., and Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C., held a news conference May 26 to announce the Hooters Collegiate Match Play Championship at Barefoot Resort.
The top 16 finishers at the 2002 NCAA Division I Men’s Championship will be invited to play in the inaugural tournament Nov. 7-10 on the Dye Course at Barefoot Resort. The event has been granted exempt status by the NCAA. As a result, participating schools will not be required to count the competition in their 24 dates of regular-season play.
“We feel this is going to be the bowl game of college golf,” said GCAA president Mark Simpson. “Our vision is to get 64 teams and make this event a true national championship.”
The GCAA and women’s National Golf Coaches Association are working together and hope to add a women’s event in 2003.
Sword play: Some pre-tournament horseplay nearly cost the University of Texas its top scorer. Jason Hartwick and teammate Rusty Kennedy were mimicking a sword fight with their golf clubs May 27 when Hartwick took an inadvertent shot to his right wrist from Kennedy’s club.
Hartwick was diagnosed with a deep bruise and coaches were concerned the 2001 Big 12 Freshman of the Year would not be able to play, so they had Matt Brost, the team’s sixth man, fly to Columbus. Hartwick iced his wrist and convinced coach John Fields he was able to play.
“After he hit five balls on the range, I knew he was OK,” Fields said.
Hartwick shot 75-69-70-77 to tie for 63rd.
Return to glory days: Georgia Southern used to be a postseason fixture in the 1970s, making nine consecutive championship appearances from 1972 to 1980.
After three consecutive postseason appearances (1988-91), however, Doug Gordin, who coached the Eagles for 13 years, left in 1993 to become the coach at Florida Southern College. After Gordin’s departure, Georgia Southern made the coaching job a part-time position, and the program suffered.
“They had a good program in the ’70s and ’80s with Jodie Mudd, Mike Donald, Gene Sauers and Buddy Alexander,” said Georgia Southern coach Larry Mays. “Now, with the community involvement in the Schenkel and the administration support, the future is bright.”
Mays was referring to the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational, a top college tournament that was stopped in 1990 and restarted in 1999. Past winners include: Curtis Strange (1974), Bob Tway (1981), Scott Verplank (1984) and Steve Scott (1999).
“The main thing I instituted was for the guys to have fun. It’s serious, but you are in college and you want them to have a college experience,” said Mays, who has guided the Eagles to back-to-back NCAA Championship appearances and was named the 2001 Southern Conference Coach of the Year. “We have set high goals, but at the same time we are trying to have a good time.”
Georgia Southern finished tied for 28th.
Graeme farewell: Although it may not have ended exactly like Graeme McDowell would have liked, the University of Alabama-Birmingham standout’s tie for fourth at Ohio State was a fitting swan song for the two-time All-American.
McDowell, who plans to turn pro in the next few weeks and will attempt PGA European Tour Qualifying School later this year, began the final round with a one-shot lead but faded to a closing 74.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here (UAB) and I knew this is where I needed to be for my game. I improved every year,” said McDowell, who was in position to claim his 10th college title after opening 71-67-67.
Justin’s time: Minnesota sophomore Justin Smith found his game and was a key to the Gophers’ success. Each of his four rounds counted toward the team score.
In his last 17 rounds, he averaged 71.4, including his 69-70-71-69 performance at the finals. Smith, who finished tied for fourth, averaged 74.1 in his first 19 rounds of the season.
Smith’s last five events highlight his short career at Minnesota. He has four top-10 finishes in his last five starts, including a tie for top honors at the NCAA West Regional May 18.
Smith began his solid run about the same time university officials announced the men’s and women’s golf teams were in danger of being eliminated.
Was that what ignited the sophomore from Moon Township, Pa.?
“Maybe a little bit, but nothing to the extent that has taken me to the next level. It’s just confidence in my game and hopefully I can stay at this level,” Smith said.
The start of Smith’s good play was at The Intercollegiate at the University of North Carolina. He played with Wake Forest’s Bill Haas, who is ranked fifth in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and gives some credit to his pairing with Haas.
“Seeing those guys, like Bill Haas and how good they play really helped me out,” said Smith, ranked No. 85.
History lesson: The wind may have sent scores skyrocketing May 31, but don’t try to tell Toledo interim coach David Graf how hard Ohio State’s Scarlet Course played.
Graf, a member of the Rockets golf team from 1979 to 1982, watched in amazement as player after player blasted drives over the massive bunker guarding the middle of the seventh fairway.
“When I played, you’d have to have a gale at your back to clear that bunker,” said Graf, who played the annual Kepler Intercollegiate on the Scarlet Course each year when he was in college. “With a persimmon wood, you would have to just kill it to get over.”
The fairway bunker on the 404-yard hole is 260 yards to carry, which leaves players with a short iron to its elevated green.
Third-round blues: If you declared a winner after the third round at the NCAA Championship – it was the par-71, 7,222-yard Scarlet Course.
Prior to the third round, seven of the 30 teams were below par. In the third round, only one team (Minnesota, 283) was able to post a sub-par team tally.
The 73.97 scoring average for Round 3, when wind gusts reached 25 mph, was more than 1 1/2 strokes higher than the first-round average (72.44). The scoring average for the final round was 73.63.
“I have played this course and coached three times in NCAAs and I believe this is the easiest I have seen it play,” said Florida coach Buddy Alexander after the first round.
Late charge: Clemson, Augusta State and Purdue made their moves at the NCAA Championship, but they turned out to be too little, too late. All three teams posted 3-under 281s and joined Minnesota as the only teams to shoot below par on the final day. The Gophers, who were the only team to record sub-par rounds in the final two rounds, were 6 under.
Clemson, who began the NCAA finals ranked No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, were expected to be one of the teams to beat. However, the Tigers saw their title chances blown away by Friday’s high winds, falling from a tie for the lead with Georgia Tech to 13th after a third-round 298.
“It was a killer, really a killer,” said Clemson coach Larry Penley. “It was a train wreck and there was not much we could do about it. But the guys showed a lot of courage and determination and they got it done today.”
Clemson’s final-round efforts moved them into a tie for third at 1,142.
Augusta State was just too far back to make a run. The Jaguars, who have played in three of the last four championships, started the final day in 14th.
“We started off great. We were 6 under after three holes,” said Augusta State coach Jay Seawell. “Before we started the day, we talked about running through the finish line.”
Augusta State finished fifth at 1,143, and Seawell said “we became a program this year.”
Purdue’s final round helped the Boilermakers to a seventh-place finish at 1,145.
Number crunching: The top 10 players on the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings were named first-team All-Americans (see pXX). The top 11 women players in the rankings were named first-team All-Americans following the women’s finals May 24.
Individual champion, Troy Matteson moved up one spot to finish the season at No. 6. Minnesota’s Justin Smith, the only player to shoot par or better in each round, climbed from No. 111 to No. 85.
The Golden Gophers finished the season at No. 21, up one spot. Georgia Tech, who entered the finals at No. 1, remained there following its second-place finish.
Short shots: Clemson junior D.J. Trahan added another honor – the Jack Nicklaus Award as the top player during the college season. Earlier this year, Trahan won the Ben Hogan Award as the top college and amateur player over a 12-month period. . . . Toledo’s Kevin Kornowa saved his best for last, hitting his drive at the 427-yard, dogleg-left closing hole over the trees down the left side of the fairway. “I was a little angry because I had just doubled 17 so I took it over everything. I had about 100 yards in (for his approach shot on the par-4 hole),” Kornowa said. . . . The Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, is interested in playing host to an NCAA Division I Men’s Championship. The next open date is 2006. Oklahoma State will serve as host for next year’s championship in Stillwater at the Karsten Course. . . . Lightning from the storm that halted play for nearly an hour May 30 turned out to be a little too close to home. Tournament officials said a bolt of lightning struck a tree adjacent to the 15th fairway. . . . Each round there was a delay, and yet all 30 teams completed the event as scheduled without a cut. Play was halted May 29 when heavy rain made the Scarlet Course unplayable. After the first round was completed May 30, Round 2 was interrupted for more than an hour by another storm. The third round was intrupted for nearly two hours by more afternoon rain, and the start of the final round was delayed 35 minutes by heavy fog. . . . No. 3-ranked D.J. Trahan struggled to a third-round 78, his worst round of the year. Trahan, however, was one of seven players to shoot 5-under 66. He did it twice. . . . With three juniors and two sophomores, Minnesota will return all five of its players next season. There are a total of seven teams that return their entire lineups and 12 more teams will return four players. Baylor was the youngest team with three freshman and two sophomores. Colorado was the oldest team with three seniors and two juniors. . . . The toughest hole on the Scarlet Course was the 475-yard, par-4 No. 14. Each day it ranked the most difficult. The hole played to a 4.49 average. Matteson played the hole 1 over and Minnesota’s counting scores played the hole 3 over for the week. . . . Florida, the defending national champion, finished 18 shots behind Minnesota and tied for 11th place. . . . Virginia Commonwealth, the only team in the field to make its first finals appearance, placed 30th. . . . Ten schools participated in the men’s and women’s championship. Texas ranked as the best at each – the women tied for second and the men tied for third. . . . TCU’s Adam . Rubinson’s second-place finish matched the best national finish for a Horned Frogs golfer. J.J. Henry was runner-up at the 1998 championship.