UCLA back on top of the Golfweek rankings?

Patrick Cantlay won the individual title at the Gifford Collegiate.

Don’t be surprised to see UCLA back in the top spot when the new Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings come out next week.

The Bruins ended the fall season No. 1, but dropped to No. 2 this week behind Oklahoma State after the Cowboys’ impressive victory at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii.

But the two teams are oh so close. OSU is at the top of with a 69.53 rating, while UCLA is at 69.55.

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Connor Driscoll uses a little body language at No. 9.

The two could easily flip-flop again following the Bruins’ victory this week at the Battle at the Beach in California.

UCLA topped the 13-team field with a 7-over 1,057 in the play-six, count-five format, three shots better than San Diego and eight lower than defending NCAA champion Augusta State.

San Diego’s Kenneth McCready was medalist at 7-under 203, but UCLA was sparked by Patrick Cantlay, who finished second at 205, and Connor Driscoll, who tied for third with Augusta State’s Patrick Reed at 204.

The Bruins and Cowboys have matched up twice this season, with Oklahoma State besting UCLA both times by four strokes – at the Ping/Golfweek Preview in the fall and at the Amer Ari to open the spring.

They are scheduled to square off two more times this spring – at next month’s Southern Highlands in Las Vegas and in early April at Augusta State.

And you can expect more Bruins-Cowboys battles in the postseason.

• • •

Keep those cards coming . . .

Mike Griffin, the former Troy State and Auburn men’s coach, always thought that college golf was one big family during his long career, and his sentiments certainly were proved true recently.

In January, Griffin sent out a mass e-mail to coaches, his former players and a number of the many friends he made while coaching over the years. He asked them for what he termed “a big favor.”

Griffin’s father, Tom, would be celebrating his 92nd birthday on Feb. 7. He knew how much his dad enjoyed receiving cards or notes, so Griffin and his wife, Joyce, asked if people would send Tom a birthday card with a short note.

“We want to make the day special by having at least 92 birthday cards sent to him,” Griffin wrote in his e-mail.

The response was overwhelming. By Feb. 7, Tom had received more than 210 cards.

Wrote Griffin in a follow-up thank you e-mail: “Dad had a great time receiving and reading the many cards, letters and stories sent his way. Some even enclosed photographs of family. Needless to say, it was a special time for dad.”

Griffin says cards came in from California, Bermuda and just about everywhere in between.

On Feb. 10, Tom received a proclamation from the Alabama State House of Representatives recognizing his special day.

“That was a good way to end an exciting two-week chapter surrounding his birthday,” Griffin said of his father. “He will remember this forever.”

Now there’s a story with a happy ending.

• • •

What Northwestern men’s coach Pat Goss needs to do is figure out a way for his Wildcats to make it to match play at the NCAA Championship. If the Wildcats can get that far, they might just be the team to beat.

Northwestern competed in five stroke-play tournaments in the fall, with a top finish of third at the Gifford Invitational just before the holiday break.

Last week, the Wildcats opened their spring by successfully defending their Big Ten Match Play Championship at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. They defeated Indiana, 4 and 2, in the title match to improve to 10-1 in the event’s three-year history.

Just as impressive, Northwestern junior Eric Chun is undefeated in his three appearances at the event, compiling a 10-0-1 record. The victory marked the 26th team title for the Wildcats in Goss’ 14-year reign.

• • •

Short shots: Texas Tech finally broke out of its rut this week, posting its first victory of the season at the UTSA/Oak Hills Invitational. In their five previous starts, the Red Raiders had three sixth-place finishes along with a seventh and an eighth. But behind medalist Nils Floren, Texas Tech rolled to a 12-stroke win over Oklahoma in the 17-team field at Oak Hills. Floren finished at 5-under 208, one shot better than Oklahoma’s Ben Klaus. Looks like the Red Raiders are back on track to be the top-tier team most had expected them to be. . . . Mitchell Griffin of host team Texas-San Antonio scored a hole-in-one on the 281-yard 13th hole Feb. 14 during the first round of the Oak Hills event. Earlier in the round, which had a shotgun start, Tulsa’s Johannes Veerman, playing in the same foursome as Griffin, registered an ace at the 210-yard 18th hole.

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