2010 in review: Top men’s college storylines
1.) The Little Engine That Could
That would be the Jaguars of Augusta State. When the little school from Augusta, Ga. – total student enrollment just over 7,000 – defeated Oklahoma State, 3-1-1, June 6 at The Honors Course to claim its first NCAA Championship trophy, it became the poster-child for the book The Little Engine That Could, and its most quotable set of lines: “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.” That was the Jaguars from start to finish in this 112th national collegiate championship and certainly in the final match against the Cowboys, the No. 1 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings all season.
Behind the dominant play of junior Henrik Norlander and sophomore Patrick Reed – taking down Oklahoma State’s two heralded Walker Cup players, Peter Uihlein and Morgan Hoffmann – and some gutsy performances by Mitchell Krywulycz , Carter Newman and Taylor Floyd, Augusta State showed it, in fact, can. And, remember, Augusta State competes in Division II in all sports except golf.
Adding to the magical ride to the top was a mighty effort from Taylor, who came down with a stomach virus Friday night. His match with Trent Whitekiller was scheduled as the second of the day but was pushed back to the last spot as Taylor was being given IV treatments in the locker room.
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2.) Hitting OB . . .On Purpose
That’s what Grant Whybark, a sophomore at St. Francis University in Joliet, Ill., did on the first playoff hole in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship at Heritage Bluffs Golf Club. The winning team and individual from the conference championship advance to the NAIA national championship, and after St. Francis captured the team title in the 36-hole event, Whybark and his four teammates already had their tickets. Whybark also tied for the individual crown with Seth Doran of Olivet Nazarene, meaning a playoff was in order.
On the first playoff hole, Whybark was informed the winner would garner the conference’s individual spot for nationals. He already was going. He addressed his ball, aimed right, and proceeded to hit his tee shot 40 yards askew of the fairway onto the practice range, which was out of bounds. He would make double bogey while Doran made par and was headed to nationals.
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3.) Champions Row
For a number of college programs, 2010 was a most memorable year as far as winning a championship is concerned. Florida Southern won its 12th NCAA Division II title, closing with a 19-over 307 at Sagamore Golf Club in Noblesville, Ind., for a 1,206 total, seven shots better than Central Missouri. The Moccasins are the only Division II team to have won more than six national crowns. Methodist College, which was in 12th place after the opening round, closed with a 5-over 293 at Hershey (Pa.) Golf Links and won its 10th NCAA Division III Championship, finishing at 29-over 1,177, one shot better than Guilford College. Oklahoma City University won its seventh NAIA title since 2001 with a 48-over 1,184 total, one shot better than Malone in Silvis, Ill.
OCU won four consecutive national titles from 2001-04, and also in 2006 and ’07. At the conference level, Kent State captured its record 18th Mid-American title, while Pepperdine won its 17th West Coast crown, also a record.
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4.) For Pete’s Sake!
After an outstanding summer – which he capped off by winning the U.S. Amateur Championship – Oklahoma State junior Peter Uihlein had no let-down this fall on the college front. He was a force from the start with a victory at Olympia Fields. He followed with a T-2 at the Ping/Golfweek Preview, and was runner-up at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational before and tying for 15th at the Western Refining All-America Classic, an individual college event. He finished the fall with a 69.9 scoring average and the No. 1 spot in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
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5.) An Eye On The Hawkeyes
Iowa had its best fall ever. After finishing sixth to open the season, the Hawkeyes became a victory machine, closing with four wins and earning the No. 12 ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarins. The streak started at the Golfweek Conference Challenge with a convincing 15-shot win over runner-up North Carolina State. Iowa went on to win the Fighting Irish Gridiron Classic, Rod Myers Invitational and closed the fall with a victory at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate.
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6.) Taking It To The Bank
During his first two seasons at the University of Florida, Bank Vongvanij competed in a total of five tournaments. As a junior he started to get in the groove and finished the year No. 85 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. This past fall, Vongvanij emerged as the star in the Gators’ lineup. He closed out the 2010 fall campaign with his first college victory at the Isleworth Invitational, and as the No. 2-ranked player in the nation. He also finished second at Olympia Fields and earned a top-5 finish at the Jerry Pate – two other high profile events – and ended with a 69.7 scoring average.
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7.) Pace of Play
It’s long been a problem in golf, and in college golf in particular. The Golf Coaches Association of America put together a panel during the summer to examine ways to speed up play. This fall, a group called Under Four (as in hours) made initial attempts to address the problem. Three events in the fall used ideas set forth by Under Four – the brainchild of Washington coach Matt Thurmond and one of his former players, James Lepp, a past NCAA champion and owner of Kikkor Golf. These events included the Husky Invitational, the Pacific Invitational and the women’s Eden Ihlanfeldt Invitational, which led the way with an average 18-hole time of 3:57. The Pacific event averaged 4:07 while the Husky was 4:15. A far cry from the normal five-and-a-half to six hour rounds often seen on the college front.
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8.) Ducks Waddling Backwards
Last spring, the Oregon Ducks were the talk of college golf. They won five tournaments in the spring season, including the NCAA Southwest Regional, were ranked No. 1 by Golfstat, finished fifth in the stroke-play portion of the NCAA Championship and advanced to the semifinals before losing to Oklahoma State. With all five NCAA starters returning, much was expected from Oregon this past fall. So much for expectations. In five fall starts, Oregon did not have a single top-5 finish (last season, in 12 starts, it did not place out of the top 5) and ended the fall No. 41 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
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9.) Small School, Big Win
This past fall the NCAA Division II Colorado Springs Mountain Lions scored their biggest tournament victory in school history. They defeated 17 Division I teams at the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational with a 54-hole total of 3-under 861, beating San Diego by eight strokes. San Diego and fifth-place UNLV competed in the 2010 Division I NCAA Championship finals.
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10.) Taylor And The Torch
Golf is not yet in the Olympics, but a college golfer played a role in the 2010 Winter Games. Washington senior Nick Taylor, of Canada, carried out his duties as an Olympic torchbearer for the games in Vancouver on Feb. 7 in his hometown of Abbottsford, British Columbia. With torch in hand, Taylor ran 300 meters in front of his hometown crowd.
“Once in a lifetime experience,” said Taylor, who in May was named recipient of the Ben Hogan Award, considered by many to be college golf’s version of the Heisman Trophy. “There were people out on the streets cheering. I was the next-to-last person to carry the torch before it entered a stadium with 12,000-14,000 fans waiting.”