Blowing out the candles: Wildman’s nine wishes

The team leaderboard during the second round of the NCAA Championship.

The team leaderboard during the second round of the NCAA Championship.

Not only does The Wildman turn 27 today, but it also happens that tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

That means eight “crazy nights” of gifts and things to wish for – along with the wish I have to make before blowing out the candle on the cake.

Here are my nine wishes (birthday and eight Hanukkah) for college golf in the spring:

The birthday wish needs to be something special. It needs to be something only I can appreciate, of course, because it’s my birthday wish! Here it is: I wish that the Central Florida men’s and women’s golf programs win the NCAA Championship this year. That’s a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Arizona State double-dipped in 1990. I know, it’s a long shot. But what the heck?

1. For the first night of Hanukkah, how about a 72-hole individual NCAA Championship. This is something that has been discussed for years, but it’s something that needs to come to fruition. I’ll admit taking the top 100 ranked players isn’t the most liberal way of doing it, so perhaps there should be qualifiers. Nothing is going on right now in the college golf world, and now would seem as good a time as any. If you are worried about poor weather, I’m sure Golfweek’s home state of Florida could accommodate in December. This tournament needs to happen, needs to be televised, and the winner needs an exemption into the Masters.

2. Day two of Hanukkah I’ll dedicate to two guys I’d like to see in the TV booth: Ringler and The Wildman. Picture this: Ringler and I calling the NCAA Championship while families, friends and golf enthusiasts sit back on their couch and enjoy the show. It frustrates me every year that the NCAA bowling, volleyball, softball, swimming and rodeo championships are televised, but golf gets no such love. If it was done right, with the proper time slots and attention, it could be a must-see event for the college world. This year, the men’s championship will be held at Karsten Creek, in Oklahoma, and galleries are expected to be large. Sounds like something made for TV to me.

3. Speaking of crowds, let’s make that my wish for night No. 3. Last year, in Wilmington, N.C. there were well over 1,000 people on hand to see Purdue hoist the women’s championship, but on the men’s side, it was me, Ringler, Balicki, a couple families from Oklahoma State, Augusta State, the Honors wait staff and a bunch of birds. It was really disappointing for something that was so exciting. I hope that this year at Karsten Creek, which is known to be a big golf town (let alone Cowboys country), there will be thousands of fans for the men’s championship. Earlier this year I was a guest of a local Stillwater sports talk show that dedicated about 15 minutes just to the OSU golf team. We didn’t discuss anything else other than Cowboys golf. That leads me to believe that people will in fact be excited for a team that is expected to win it all once again. As for the women, I doubt 1,000 people will show in College Station, but can 500 show up? Hope so . . .

4. Hanukkah happens every year, and so do tournaments. That is why we need contracts for team committed to show up. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see a team hover around the .500 mark and all of the sudden, toward the end of the year, drop out of an event for a tournament with a field with “lower” ranked teams. Nothing says more about a coach’s confidence than when his team withdraws from a tournament with an average team ranking of 23 to play a tournament in which the average ranking of team is 123. And oh, by the way, if a tournament needs five or six wins, you can’t schedule a magical one-day event out of the blue. If teams were locked in to where they were going before their first tee shot of their first tournament of the fall, then I really believe it would be a great idea for the sport.

5. Each year transfers occur, and some schools or coaches have situations that if you transfer, you must sit out a year. However, on a few rare occasions, there are players that transfer in between semesters, and the next thing you know, they are suiting up for their new team right after winter break. I’ll never forget two years ago, when Jaclyn Sweeney in the fall was a student at Oklahoma State, but then in the spring she was helping ASU win a national championship. No way should this ever be allowed. If a player transfers, then you should be required to sit out at least one semester. Golf is a two-semester year-round sport, but going from one team to another, and playing for a new team in the middle of the year, should never be allowed.  

6. There are no mentions of a forced pace-of-play time on this year’s wish list, but a smaller tournament field? You betcha! Wishful thinking has me wanting 12-team fields for every event in the spring. The days are shorter, the sun sets earlier. It has always been amazing how many teams are loading up the van in the parking lot before their No. 5 guy has even putted out. With smaller tournament fields, players can feel a little bit more at ease. There will be less clutter and back-up on the golf course, which is important if the last tee time went off at 10 am. Players can finish a round of golf with the sun still up. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

7. This is more of an idea than a wish, but what if I could be a tournament director for a week and schedule three different tournaments? My first one would be the California Shootout, and my second would be the Texas Shootout. Don’t think these would be cool? Well then, just check out the fields and tell me these wouldn’t be interesting to watch:

California: UCLA (1), Stanford (11), California (12), San Diego State (14), San Diego (27), USC (32), Pepperdine (37), UC Davis (58), Pacific (73), San Francisco (75), Fresno State (80), UC Irvine (89)      

Texas: Texas (7), Texas A&M (10), Texas Tech (21), North Texas (29), Baylor (46), TCU (52), SMU (54), Texas-Arlington (65), Houston (71), Lamar (78), Texas State (106), Sam Houston State (108)

For fun, we could also do the Peach Tree/Orange Tree Classic, Florida vs. Georgia. This would be a match play state cup competition, and here’s how the matches would go:

Match One: Florida (3) vs. Georgia Tech (5)

Match Two: UCF (33) vs. Georgia (16)

Match Three: Florida State (34) vs. Augusta State (19)

Match Four: UNF (47) vs. Kennesaw State (68)

Match Five: Florida Gulf Coast vs. Mercer (111)

8. My eighth and final wish for Hanukkah would be quite simple. Being a native Floridian, and having just completing the pairings for the Peach Tree Orange Tree Classic, I can only stop and scratch my head. Something or someone is definitely missing. Ah-ha! Where is The U? I would wish that the University of Miami brings back a men’s golf program. It just doesn’t seem right that the school doesn’t have one. Woody Austin and Briny Baird are two proud alums on the tour with no program to give back to. If there is one school in the country that should have a men’s golf program, it would have to be Miami.

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