With the calendar reaching December, we know the fall season is behind us. But, that does not mean there has been no college golf news the past few weeks.
1. Tough break for the Bruins
Bittersweet may be the best way to describe it, but it should never have happened in the first place.
UCLA senior Stephanie Kono had every intention of helping UCLA make a run at winning back-to-back titles this spring. Now, she won’t have the chance. Kono attended the LPGA Tour’s final stage of Q-School with one goal in mind: to earn full playing privileges on the Futures Tour. Kono and UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth had been told by the LPGA office that she had to attend and finish Q-School to earn that right. It turns out that was not true.
Kono got off to a quick start and went on to tie for ninth place, well enough to earn an LPGA Tour card, which she had to accept on the spot, according to LPGA guidelines. However, had she been relayed the proper information, she never would have been there in the first place. This certainly will play a role in college golf this spring. Kono was a top candidate for Player of the Year honors and would have been a leader for the Bruins in their title defense.
My opinion on amateurs in Q-School is that they should not be there. Qualifying school for a professional tour should be limited to players who are professionals seeking a place to earn a living. Why not have a Q-School for college grads in June?
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2. Going strong
Having followed college golf for the better part of 20 years now, I had never paid much attention to the Western Refining All-America Classic, which just wrapped up year No. 37. What was I thinking?
I attended the event this year for the first time, and they have something special at El Paso (Texas) Country Club. The list of winners and participants stands alone.
I can’t think of any other college event that puts the much time and resources that they do for this tournament played annually just a few days before Thanksgiving. One of the most unique things I witnessed was a billboard with a live leaderboard near downtown El Paso.
Alabama’s Cory Whitsett won this year’s event in a playoff over Missouri’s Jace Long and San Diego State’s Todd Baek.
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3. .500 talk
Now that men’s college golf is several years into using the .500 Rule as a strict guideline to be eligible for postseason play, it’s safe to say that these coaches are figuring out how to schedule.
Just two teams in the top 70 have a won-loss percentage of less than .500. One of those teams is defending NCAA champion Augusta State, at 21-33-1 (.391). And it’s no surprise. With back-to-back titles, the Jaguars have earned an invite into the best tournaments college golf has to offer. The problem this year is Augusta State lost its entire starting five and head coach from last year. Middle Tennessee State also is below .500, with a record of 16-18-1 in three events.
Which teams inside the top 70 might be a bit concerned with the pesky .500 Rule?
• 45. Middle Tennessee State (16-18-1)
• 52. Augusta State (21-33-1)
• 55. SMU (34-28-0)
• 57. Arizona State (29-26-1)
• 58. Mississippi (34-29-2)
• 59. Notre Dame (32-29-1)
• 66. Lamar (29-27-2)
• 69. Houston (25-24-2)
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4. Change at the top
The top players in college golf, according to the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, exchanged places after the Western Refining All-America Classic. Jordan Spieth, who was No. 1 entering the All-America Classic, tied for 15th place and never challenged for the tournament title. Spieth finished seven shots behind teammate Dylan Frittelli, who was ranked No. 2, and led after 36 holes. Frittelli tied for fifth place.
Frittelli is now No. 1, with Spieth ranked No. 2.
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5. Viva Las Vegas
This week the GCAA (men) and NGCA (women) will journey to Las Vegas for the organizations’ annual coaches convention. In years past, this gathering has had as much pre-event hype as we might see with a heavyweight title match in Vegas. Not this year. In fact, I’m not even sure that we will have a headline coming out of this year’s convention.