Last week’s trip to College Station, Texas, was the 12th consecutive NCAA Women’s Championship I have attended. Which means that it’s time to place this year’s site – Traditions Golf Club, hosted by Texas A&M – on the Ringler Championship Feel Test chart.
There is no exact criteria to follow. It’s simply the feel test I compile throughout the week. And it’s very tough to follow a winner.
Last year, UNC-Wilmington hosted the championship at The Landfall and was by far the best championship when all things are considered, at least from my point of view.
There are numerous things that go into consideration, but the golf course itself is the first thing to examine. After talking with players and coaches throughout the week, I was able to get a pretty good overall consensus on the course. The playability of the Traditions Course being a championship test passed easily, but there were a few issues, such as the sand in the bunkers not being the best and a few spots on the greens that might not have been up to championship conditions.
The Traditions Club passed the playing test, but did not pass the gallery-friendly test. Sure, the area around the Nos. 9 and 18 greens with the No. 1 and 10 tees all being within close proximity was great, but once out on the course, it was very difficult to see more than one hole at a time.
While the course tops the checklist, there are other things I must consider to get a high ranking on my Feel Test. Things such as: lunch menu for players and, of course, media; speed of the Internet connection; media parking; weather; comfort in the media room; media room’s proximity to the course; and evening entertainment.
I have always preached that these championships need to be on a campus. The thought behind that is to ensure there is support from a collegiate atmosphere, from people who know how to run a collegiate golf event – and here at Texas A&M, you get that. They know how to run major events, but there is one problem: waay too much Maroon and khakis.
More often than not, the feel was we were at the Texas A&M Invitational, not the NCAA Championship. Perhaps volunteers should wear neutral colors. Just a thought.
The perfect example of this was the final pairing/grouping that had very little following. With UCLA and Purdue coming down the stretch, and the championship up for grabs, the galleries consisted of just a few parents of the competitors and media, all while there were occasional roars that could be heard at the final green, where the host Aggies were posting a seventh-place finish.
Nothing wrong with supporting the home team, but the feel was of a regular-season event hosted by Texas A&M.
Simply put, there was very little interest outside the A&M circle in the championship as a whole, which is surprising considering the number of junior golfers in the state of Texas. You would have thought the event could have been marketed to surrounding junior organizations to boost the attendance. And, of course, comparing it to the crowds last year, it’s tough to follow that. There were hundreds following the final group a year ago, and a total of 5,034 tickets were sold at last year’s championship. The reported figure for this year was 1,607.
Despite the lack of a championship environment, overall everything was in place.
The media room had plenty of Peanut M&M’s and Snickers bars and the A&M SID getting the Golfweek Crew on the pass list for a sold-out, standing-room-only Texas/Texas A&M baseball game was a bonus. College Station offered plenty of good food and things to keep all entertained away from the course.
This year’s championship falls in the middle, at No. 6.
Up next: Vanderbilt Legends Club, hosted by Vanderbilt. I am looking forward to Nashville, and if they can get the locals to come out watch golf, it’s a spot I hear could give a run toward the top of the Ringler Championship Feel Test!
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Ringler’s Championship Feel Test Rankings:
1) 2010 Landfall Tradition (UNCW)
2) 2004 at Auburn (Grand National)
3) 2003 at Purdue’s Kampen Course
4) 2008 at University of New Mexico GC
5) 2002 at Washington National GC
6) 2011 at Traditions Club at Texas A&M
7) 2006 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course
8) 2001 at Howey-in-the-Hills
9) 2009 at Caves Valley Golf Club
10) 2000 at Sun River Crosswater GC
11) 2005 at Sun River Meadows GC
12) 2007 at LPGA Interanational