As college golf’s talent pool gets deeper and deeper, there are more players starring for teams outside the traditional “power conferences.” Here are five such players. Though this following fivesome may not compete at Isleworth or Olympia Fields, it has put together impressive performances this fall.
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Jeff Karlsson, Kennesaw State junior
2010-11 Golfweek rank: 54
2009-10 Golfweek rank: 160
Jeff Karlsson only began playing golf at 15 years old, but has developed into a top amateur in both this country and his native land.
Karlsson represented Sweden at the recent World Amateur Team Championship. He played in the No. 1 position, ahead of Augusta State’s Henrik Norlander and Arizona State’s Jesper Kennegard, both All-Americans.
Karlsson, who stands 6-foot-3, finished fourth at this year’s European Amateur, and sixth in a Challenge Tour event.
While his quick development is impressive, it’s not the first thing those watching him will notice. Karlsson has a bizarre, and lengthy, pre-shot routine. After Karlsson addresses the ball, he stands over it for almost 30 seconds, and takes one hand off the club about eight times. He tugs his shirt sleeves, adjusts his shoulders and shakes out his elbows. It brings to mind Sergio Garcia’s struggles in 2002 to start his swing.
In three events this season, Karlsson has finished first, second and sixth, for a head-to-head record of 214-6-1. He won the Sam Hall Intercollegiate for a second consecutive season, shooting a 14-under 199 total.
Kennesaw State head coach Jay Moseley said Karlsson’s athleticism allowed him to find quick success on the fairways. Moseley said Karlsson is good at any ball sport, except basketball.
“He is a special talent. He was pretty raw when he came to college and even last fall his wedge game was well below average but his long game is an impressive combination of length and accuracy,” Moseley said. “He has focused on his wedge game over the past year and it is very respectable. He has basically become a complete, well-rounded player.”
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Jarred Bossio, Idaho junior
2010-11 Golfweek rank: 30
2009-10 Golfweek rank: 562
Jarred Bossio, of Olympia, Wash., was one of a handful of locals to make match play at this year’s U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay. He also was one of the surprising names in the match-play bracket.
His perfomance at Chambers Bay was just the beginning of an impressive recent stretch. He started the college season with a second-place finish at the Palouse Ridge Intercollegiate (with rounds of 68-65-70), a third-place finish at the Husky Invitational (thanks to a final-round 63) and a fifth-place finish at the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate (where he shot a final-round 64).
His head-to-head record is 229-7-1.
Bossio’s strength is his ability to shape his shots, Idaho head coach John Means said. Bossio has made strides with his short game this fall, Means added.
“He has the ability to hit the shot that is required and is fearless when it comes to hitting that shot,” he said. “He is also a fierce competitor who believes in his ability to perform at the highest level.”
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Harold Varner, East Carolina junior
2010-11 Golfweek rank: 58
2009-10 Golfweek rank: 228
Varner couldn’t have asked for a better way to close his fall season. He shot 20-under 196 (65-66-66) to win the OBX Intercollegiate Oct. 26 by nine shots. It was his first college victory.
At the OBX Intercollegiate, he had 33 birdie putts of 15 feet or less in 54 holes, McPhaul said. He described Varner as an “explosive and accurate” driver, but also said Varner has developed the ability to take speed and hands out of the swing, which allows him to better control his trajectory.
“Harold has developed a quiet confidence during competition that usually equates to patience,” McPhaul said. “He knows good stuff is bound to happen if he just keeps on working the process.”
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Scott Travers, Santa Clara senior
2010-11 Golfweek rank: 256
2009-10 Golfweek rank: 107
One year before his breakout season, Santa Clara’s Scott Travers had to redshirt due to mononucleosis. Rob Miller, head coach at Santa Clara, said that was a “blessing” for his star player.
“He worked hard on his game and came to play,” Miller said. Travers redshirted in 2008-09 because of mono, then won West Coast Conference Player of the Year honors last season.
Travers finished fourth in his most recent event, the St. Mary’s Invitational. He was tied for the 36-hole lead at Bayonet and Blackhorse near the Monterey Peninsula, but struggled to a 77 and finished five shots back.
That result is surprising, considering Travers’ success this year in California. Travers won both the California Amateur and Southern California Amateur. Only three players have won both titles in the same season, and none since 1942.
The keys to Travers’ success? His short game.
“He is deadly accurate with any sort of wedge in his hand which gives him a lot of birdie opportunities,” Miller said. “He is a fearless putter. You rarely see him “baby” a putt. If he happens to miss a short one and hits it four feet past the cup, he just putts it again and doesn’t worry about it.
“He scares me to death but it works for him.”
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Nick Delio, Cal State-Northridge senior
2010-11 Golfweek rank: 101
2009-10 Golfweek rank: 156
Delio has improved with each start this season, finishing 20th at the Palouse Ridge Intercollegiate, sixth at the Santa Clara Cabo Collegiate, and winning the Bill Cullum Invitational by four shots.
Delio has been a first-team, All-Big West selection in all three of his seasons. He won last season’s Southwest Regional, a win that earned him a spot in the NCAA Championship as an individual. He finished 103rd at the Honors Course.
He also has won the past two Southern California Match Play Championships, and tied for 16th at this year’s Sunnehanna Amateur.
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A look ahead
The Gifford Collegiate at CordeValle
CordeValle Golf Resort, San Martin, Calif.
The skinny: UCLA, the No. 1 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, hosts its “home” event nearly five hours from campus. The Bruins have finished second in their first two events this season. Not only is the Gifford a chance for UCLA to validate its ranking with a victory, but it’s the last major college competition of the fall season. UCLA’s Pedro Figueiredo is coming off a ninth-place finish at last week’s World Amateur Team Championshhip.