The college season may be young, but there are some numbers worth a closer look in Fantasy vs. Reality.
Stanford is the No. 1 team in the country: Reality. It may have been just one tournament, but the Cardinal won Olympia Fields by 16 shots over Auburn. To start the year, Olympia Fields is traditionally known as one of the best fields in college golf. With head-to-head wins over Oklahoma State, Auburn, Alabama, Texas, FSU, Florida and Illinois, Stanford sent an early message that it is ready to bounce back after a disappointing season a year ago. Freshman Patrick Rodgers also won the event, which was his first collegiate start. It’s too early to compare Rodgers to Patrick Cantlay’s great freshman run last year, but the game is undoubtedly there. What was so impressive about Stanford’s win to start the year was that even with Rodgers winning medalist honors, teammates Andrew Yun and Cameron Wilson finished third and fourth, respectively.
Central Florida is a top-10 team: Fantasy. I have been getting a lot of calls and emails about my alma mater, and even with all its recent success I am still being cautiously optimistic. Currently, the Knights are sixth in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and have started the year with back-to-back wins, at the Northern Intercollegiate and Adams Cup. The Knights have an overall record of 30-0, but 19 of those wins have come against teams ranked outside the top 100. UCF has faced only nine teams from the top 50, including one from the top 25. At the end of this week, UCF will be tested at the Prestige at PGA West, followed by the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational at the end of the month. Winning is not easy, and the Knights are 2-for-2 to start the year. Is this a team that can finish the fall ranked inside the top 10? As of right now, I’ll say no.
Oklahoma State’s women will be a top 25 team: Reality. I’m buying the early success the Cowgirls have had to start the year. First-year head coach Alan Bratton was the perfect hire for that team, as a proud alumnus and former Cowboy golfer himself. Oklahoma State has the facilities and staff to have a successful team. It is only a matter of time before Bratton can have the Cowgirls back as a top-5 program, like they were just a handful of years ago. To start the year, Oklahoma State won the Dale McNamara Invitational. That was huge, because this team had a nightmare season a year ago. The season is young, but the Cowgirls are a talented bunch that with the right leadership can climb back up the rankings for good. Expect to see the Cowgirls at the top of the leaderboard often this year.
Women’s golf is ready for a .500 rule: Reality. There is plenty of parity in women’s golf. In the men’s game, you can make a case for about 75 teams to make the postseason; in the women’s game, maybe 50. However, there is still competition deep enough to have a .500 rule, which requires that teams beat at least half of their opponents to make the postseason. The fact that coaches make their own schedule is reason enough to have a .500 rule. No school is required to play certain head-to-head tournaments with in-conference rivals or play their conference foes a certain number of times. Coaches and teams should be rewarded based on their performance. If a team fails to have a winning percentage of .500, is that team worth being called a postseason team? Many people will argue that some schools have tougher schedules than others, but remember, the coaches are making them and not the school. One major problem in women’s golf is that the same teams often play in the same tournaments each year. There’s no penalty for having a poor team in a particular year, because you play top competition all year long. If there were a .500 rule, it would open the door for so many more programs and perhaps allow for the emergence of some hidden gems in women’s golf.