With the start of a new college golf season, it’s a good time for a little reflection on this past summer. It was a quiet one for the most part, but a few things hit my radar that could affect the college golf landscape.
Golfweek recently conducted a poll asking NCAA Division I women’s coaches (yes, all 255 of them) if they would like to see match play used at their national championship. The men are starting their fourth season using that format, and it has created a different environment in college golf.
Are the women next? Not likely.
The results were a little bit of a mystery to me. Of the 203 coaches who responded, 152 coaches were against match play and only 47 were in favor of it (four were undecided). In the history of NCAA women’s golf, one would be hard pressed to find a true underdog team that won a national championship. Without even researching, I think it’s safe to say a team ranked outside the top 10 has never won. Match play could only help a team from down the list. The voting should have been closer to 189-10.
The summer began with a lot of talk about college coaching jobs. Immediately after postseason, there were women’s vacancies at Stanford, Florida and Georgia. On the men’s side, Rick LaRose stepped down at Arizona and Tom Shaw departed from Vanderbilt. There was a lot of talk that the dominoes were going to fall hard and fast this summer, but it never happened.
The Georgia and Florida jobs went to assistant coaches, but had they gone to head coaches, it could have started a big ripple in the coaching pond.
On the men’s side, there was serious talk that several of the top coaches in the game wanted to move into the high-profile jobs, but nothing materialized and the coaching carousel came to a screeching halt there, too.
Among the best hires of the summer is Kelley Hester, who went from Georgia to Furman. It will be tough to duplicate the success that current Alabama coach Mic Potter had in his long tenure with the Paladins, but Hester certainly has a chance. Also put Anne Walker in this category. She moved from UC Davis to Stanford – a natural fit.
Jamie Bermel was a great hire for the Kansas men’s golf program. Bermel had done about all he could at Colorado State, and has already proven himself by creating winning environments at Drake and Iowa State. Expect Kansas to improve to the caliber of Bermel’s best Colorado State teams.
Now for one other thing that bothered me a bit this summer. How much ink did Chattanooga senior Steven Fox receive for winning the U.S. Amateur? Not to take anything away from Fox, because he is indeed a top-tier player in the college game, but this year’s NCAA champion received only a fraction of that attention.
“Steven (Fox) may get to play a PGA Tour-like schedule and it seems like our NCAA champ gets a pat on the back,” Chattanooga head coach Mark Guhne said.
Guhne wasn’t taking anything away from his player. He was only suggesting that he agreed that college golf may lack the attention many feel it should garner.
Who is to blame? Is it an effect of the NCAA individual champion being determined in 54 holes when 72 holes would be more appropriate? Even when the NCAA Championship did include 72 holes of stroke play, the champion received little attention. The majority of college events are 54 holes and I don’t recall men’s basketball games being 10 minutes longer once a team reaches the Final Four.
Is it because of the history and tradition that surrounds the U.S. Golf Association and this event? Maybe the NCAA just doesn’t compare? Whatever the case, college golf advocates should be bothered by this.
And one more thing: If you were wondering about that NCAA champion, his name is Thomas Pieters, and he plays for Illinois.