Last weekend during a timeout at the Georgia-vs.-Arkansas football game, Russell Henley was awarded the Haskins Award for being the top player in college golf. Entering this season, the senior from Macon, Ga., is one of the favorites to again top the rankings.
Henley also finished the season as the No. 1 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, earning him Golfweek’s Player of the Year honor. It should have been a clean sweep with Henley winning all three prestigious player of the year honors, but the Golf Coaches Association of America’s Jack Nicklaus Award went to Oregon’s Eugene Wong. (I’m still scratching my head over that selection.)
2010 – Russell Henley*
2009 – Matt Hill*
2008 – Kevin Chappell
2007 – Jamie Lovemark*
2006 – Pablo Martin*
2005 – Ryan Moore*
2004 – Bill Haas*
2003 – Hunter Mahan*
2002 – Graeme McDowell*
2001 – Bryce Molder*
2000 – Charles Howell III*
*finished season ranked No. 1 in Golfweek/Sagarin rankings
The way I look at it heading into the season, two players stand out: Henley and Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein. Uihlein, to whom many give the overall edge, is a good choice. He won his first tournament of the year, against a top-notch field at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational, after having closed the summer by winning the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.
There are a few others whom I put on the early-season watch list:
• Stanford’s David Chung
• Illinois’ Scott Langley
• Oklahoma State’s Morgan Hoffmann
• Alabama’s Bud Cauley
• Augusta State’s Patrick Reed
The Haskins Award is a unique award because it allows every Division I college player and coach to vote. It’s not determined solely by the computer and not determined by a committee of just a few coaches.
However, being a computer-rankings kind of guy, I must point out that since the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings started during the 1999-00 season, the Haskins Award winner and the top player in the rankings have been the same in nine out of 10 years. The only year the two differed was during the 2007-08 season, when UCLA’s Kevin Chappell won the Haskins Award while Rickie Fowler was the No. 1 player. Chappell won the NCAA Championship that year at the Kampen Course at Purdue and finished No. 2 in the rankings.
Is that a coincidence? I doubt it. So again, this year we gear up for the long season to see which player will be the top player in college golf. Odds point to the No. 1 player in the computer rankings. But, Division I participants, exercise your right to vote on the Haskins Award Web site. At the end of the season, of course.