Well, it’s that time again. Time when many people – myself included – say something like, “Wow, has this year flown by,” or ask the question, “Where has the year gone?”
But this time around it’s more than just the closing out of another year. This time we close out a decade.
What a decade it has been, for sure. It definitely will be one for the forever history books, not only within golf, but within all sports, within all of America, within all of the world.
As I reflect back on the double zero decade of college golf, I see so many good and positive things. Most of all I see some very talented players who competed during this span.
In looking at each of the All-America teams since 2000, I started thinking about who were the best among the best. And believe me, there were some darn good ones.
Going through the A-A teams each year I began compiling a list. The only stipulation I put on myself was a player had to compete in a minimum of two seasons over these past 10 years. Thus, if your final season was 2000 you did not qualify or same if your first season was 2009.
Still, I didn’t want it based strictly on statistics. If that was the case I would have called on my friend and colleague Lance Ringler and let him fire up the computer and produce a Sagarin Ranking list. But where’s the personal touch in that.
So, while performance on the course carried a great deal of weight, it wasn’t the only thing I factored into my equation.
I considered a player’s personality, if he was media friendly – one you really enjoyed interviewing – if he was fan friendly, was exciting and entertaining to watch play, etc. Basically, I considered many intangible things that make someone not only a complete player, but complete person.
Combining all these ingredients, I came up with, let’s call it my “faves” of the past 10 years. Some you will agree with; some you won’t; that’s the way it goes.
My original list included close to 100 names. That was whittled down to about 80, then to about 60 and so on.
The finished product – my Double Zero Decade Double Dozen – actually it’s a Baker’s (25) Dozen.
Here they are (listed alphabetically):
Ricky Barnes, Arizona – 4-time A-A including first team in ‘03; a fun interview and never a dull moment watching him play; never one to hide his emotions, although I do remember once seeing him hit two tee shots OB and was still smiling.
Alejandro Canizares, Arizona State – 4-time A-A, twice first team and winner of ‘03 NCAA as a freshman; a native of Spain, his personality continued to emerge the more comfortable he became living in the U.S.
Rhys Davies, East Tennessee State – 3-time first-team A-A; a native of Wales who had a unique sense of humor and could really make things happen on the golf course; one of the hardest workers at the game I’ve ever seen.
Luke Donald, Northwestern – first-team A-A in 2000 and ‘01 (as well as 1999 when he won NCAA), while he didn’t hit it as far as some, this Englishman was absolutely deadly with his iron game; he was a true artist both on and off the course.
Matt Every, Florida – 4-time A-A including first-team his last three years; a quote machine who would always say what’s on his mind – whether you liked it or not. He could always be counted on for a good story.
Rickie Fowler, Oklahoma State – first-team A-A in his two seasons with the Cowboys and Hogan Award winner; he bubbled over with personality and always brought out his best in pressure situations.
Lucas Glover, Clemson – first-team A-A his last two seasons in 2001 and ‘02; always enjoyable to watch because he was the poster boy for fast play, once saw him hit his shot before his opponents ball hit the ground.
Bill Haas, Wake Forest – 4-time A-A including first-team his last three seasons and winner of Haskins, Nicklaus and Golfweek player of year honors in ‘04; one of the most complete college players I’ve ever seen and always seemed to have a smile on his face.
Billy Horschel, Florida – 3-time first-team and once 2nd team A-A; another quote machine; anytime you needed a note or something for a blog, you could always depend on Billy to give it to you, even if at times it was a bit off the wall.
Matt Hill, North Carolina State – honorable mention A-A as a freshman and first team as a sophomore last season; some may question this as he still has two more years to go, but to me, anyone who finishes the season with seven wins in his last eight starts, including the ACC, NCAA Regional and NCAA Championship, makes my list.
Dustin Johnson, Coastal Carolina – 3-time A-A including first-team his last two seasons; this guy was just fun to watch and once he got to know you the fun side of his personality came out.
Anthony Kim, Oklahoma – twice a 2nd team A-A and once first team in his three seasons; he didn’t always rub people the right way and could have a bit of an attitude about him, but for some reason he and I always hit it off.
Chris Kirk, Georgia – 3 time A-A and first team his last two seasons; very easy going; on the course you could never tell if he was on his way to shooting 73 or 63; very comfortable when dealing with the media.
Jamie Lovemark, USC – 2-tlme, first-team A-A in his three seasons and NCAA champ in ‘07 when he also was Haskins, Nicklaus and Hogan Award winner; sometimes was a tough interview, but never really dodged tough questions.
Brock Mackenzie, Washington – 4-time A-A, including first team his last two seasons; he was always fun to be around and you could always depend on him for a good quote or two.
Hunter Mahan, USC/Oklahoma State – 2nd team A-A as freshman at USC and first-team in two seasons with Cowboys, everyone’s ‘03 player of the year; pretty quiet, but when he opened up it was always very interesting.
Pablo Martin, Oklahoma State – 3-time A-A in his three seasons, including twice first team, Haskins, Nicklaus and Golfweek POY in ‘06; talk about fun to watch, you never knew where his ball might go and how he would get himself out of a jam (which he always seemed to do); once told me after a round he didn’t putt well, but it was because he lost his putter cover and his putter got cold (hard to believe since we were in Puerto Rico at the time).
Troy Matteson, Georgia Tech – 3 time A-A including first-team his last two seasons, ‘02 NCAA champ; once he learned how to win he went on a tear; besides, you have to love a guy who, during a practice round, left his golf bag in the middle of the fairway and ran full blast into the woods — to chase a wild turkey.
Bryce Molder, Georgia Tech – first-team A-A in 2000 and ‘01 (as well as 1998 and ‘99), ‘01 Haskins, Nicklaus and Golfweek POY; a great personality and one who loved a practical joke; as his partner during a college-am, he wrote my name down on a long drive marker and when they called my name during the prize presentation I looked over and saw Molder laughing so hard he about fell out of his chair (and, yes, I declined the prize).
Ryan Moore, UNLV – 4-time A-A including twice first team, won ‘04 NCAA and in ‘05 won Haskins, Nicklaus and Golfweek POY honors; difficult to get to know early on, but once you did he was great; asked him for a few minutes of his time once and it turned into about a 45 minute interview after which he asked, “You mean that’s all you need?”
Chris Nallen, Arizona – 4-time A-A including twice first team; always had a smile on his face and was about as laid back as you can get; was pretty quiet and often times overshadowed by his always expressive teammate Ricky Barnes.
Kyle Stanley, Clemson – twice a first-team A-A in his three seasons and Hogan Award winner as a senior; very quiet and pretty much stayed within himself, but would always return calls or e-mails and would always make time to talk.
D.J. Trahan, Clemson — 4-time A-A including twice first team, ‘02 Nicklaus and Hogan Award winner; his fun-loving personality knew no boundaries and he was always someone you enjoyed interviewing or just plain talking with.
Camilo Villegas, Florida – 4-time A-A including 3 first team; okay, he didn’t sport the flashy fashion back in his Gator days, but the native of Colombia was still packed with personality and was fun and exciting to watch.
Nick Watney, Fresno State – 3-time A-A with first team his last two seasons; always seemed to have a smile on his face and a happy-go-lucky attitude about him.
And, as a special bonus, here’s my Honorable Mention Double Zero Decade Double (Baker’s) Dozen:
Ryan Blaum, Duke; Jorge Campillo, Indiana; Nick Cassini, Georgia; Roberto Castro, Georgia Tech; Kevin Chappell, UCLA; John Engler, Clemson; Rob Grube, Stanford; Brian Harman, Georgia; Russell Henley, Georgia; John Holmes, Kentucky; Graeme McDowell, UAB; Niklas Lemke, Arizona State; Tyler Leon, Oklahoma State; Trent Leon, Oklahoma State; James Lepp, Illinois/Washington; Jeff Overton, Indiana; Michael Putnam, Pepperdine; Webb Simpson, Wake Forest; Brandt Snedeker, Vanderbilt; Hudson Swafford, Georgia; Nick Thompson, Georgia Tech; Brendon Todd, Georgia; Cameron Tringale, Georgia Tech; Dawie van der Walt, Lamar; Oliver Wilson, Augusta State.
And, finally – the drum roll please – taking in performance and all the intangibles as previously mentioned, my Player of the Double Zero Decade:
That would be Florida’s Billy Horschel. His playing record speaks for itself and he was a golf writer’s (at least this one’s) dream for an interview, even when he was in a funk over the way he was playing. There were times he may have been short on birdies, but he was never short on words. He was fun to be around and even more fun to watch because you just never knew what he might do next. I hope he keeps that same personality, attitude and playing performance as he heads to the PGA Tour in this new decade.
Oh, and Happy New Year and Happy New Decade!