Thumbs up: Tulsa | Thumbs down: Pace of play
Happy Wednesday, everyone! As you might have noticed, the postseason is right around the corner. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, though, because first we need to do another installment of Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down.
Tulsa (men). It had been a quiet year for the Golden Hurricanes, but a win at the National Invitational Tournament changed that. Tulsa went 5 under in the final round and snuck out a victory over SMU. Bill Brogden’s squad started rough with an opening-round 302, but then came back strong in Rounds 2 and 3 with scores of 282-283. This was the first win of the year for 54th-ranked Tulsa as it followed up its fifth-place finish at the Desert Shootout with a win. On the season, Tulsa has had only two finishes outside the top 5 and will have a tough challenge next week at the Morris Williams Intercollegiate in Austin, Texas. At the National Invitational Tournament, however, Tulsa picked up quality head-to-head wins over SMU, Indiana, TCU, UNLV and Kent State.
Bank Vongvanij (Florida). The Florida senior continues to make a case for himself as the player of the year with his third victory at the Schenkel Invitational. Vongvanij shot 9 under for the tournament and edged out UNF’s Kevin Aylwin and Auburn’s Kyle Kopsick by a single shot. When you look at Vongvanij’s victories this year, they have come at the Gators’ toughest tournaments on the schedule. To start the year, Bank won the Olympia Fields Invitational and closed out the fall with a win at the Isleworth Invitational. Now he has won the Schenkel Invitational over a field that included a handful of top-30 teams including sixth-ranked Auburn and 13th-ranked LSU. Just when you thought Patrick Cantlay, Peter Uihlein or Morgan Hoffman were starting to pull away, Vongvanij scores another great win over another impressive field.
Wisconsin (women). After a sluggish start to the spring with a 13th-place finish at the Kinderlou Forest Challenge, the Badgers have turned in great back-to-back finishes. Just a few weeks ago, Wisconsin was runner-up to East Carolina at the Barefoot at the Beach Invitational, but more impressive was that all five players finished in the top 11 on the leaderboard. Most recently the 57th-ranked Badgers won the BYU Entrada Classic. The win was Wisconsin’s second of the year after winning its own Badger Invitational in the fall and claiming its sixth team title in school history. It’s interesting to see the remaining schedule for Wisconsin this year because they will be at two Big Ten-heavy fields to close out the regular season. First, they will be at the Indiana Invitational, followed by the Lady Buckeye Invitatonal before heading to the Big Ten Championship. Purdue is clearly the team to beat in the Big Ten, but if Wisconsin can continue to play well down the stretch, maybe this team can put some pressure on the Boilermakers?
Pace of Play. I know I have been on my soap box enough about this subject, but now another team has fallen victim to slow play. St. John’s was forced to WD from the Folino Invitational because the pace of play was so bad the players thought they would miss their flight. What’s really disappointing about this is that St. John’s was entering the final round in fifth place and was looking at a solid finish. Another crushing blow to St. John’s golf was that freshman Ryan McCormick was in a six-way tie for first place and had to leave wondering what if.
Match Play Tiebreakers. I have never heard of matches being settled by tiebreakers before. In baseball you go extra innings. Basketball has overtime, and even hockey has shoot outs. However, at the Callaway Collegiate Match Play, Washington State was stuck looking at scorecards to determine that they had lost to Georgia Tech. The Cougars and Yellow Jackets went 2-2-1 in their matches, but because the Yellow Jackets had a better hole differential in their victories (5-2) they were able to advance to Round 2. This would never happen at the national championship, so why should it happen at any other match play tournament? Match play events were designed to be exciting and compelling. If the final match is all square through 18, then go to No. 1 and play until there is a winner. For a tournament that is supposed to be exciting and entertaining, it really missed the mark by settling a match by looking at scorecards. Two thumbs down to this one!
California (women). Just when it appeared that the Golden Bears were making a legitimate case for themselves as a title contender, they finish in 13th place out of 17 teams at the Battle at Rancho Bernardo. The tournament hosted several of the top teams in the country, including top-ranked USC, UCLA, and defending national champions Purdue. For three days Cal shot 60-over par and finished 45 shots back of tournament champions Purdue. Cal entered the event after back-to-back victories at the Peg Barnard Invitational and Juli Inkster Spartan Invitational before failing to finish in the top 5 for only the second time all season. Chalk this up as a disappointment for the Bears, but now it’s time for them to move on. We will get to see what the Bears are made of next week when they play at the PING/ASU Invitational against several of the top teams in the country.