Western Refining rich in tradition, competition

San Diego's Alex Ching won the 2010 Western Refining.

San Diego's Alex Ching won the 2010 Western Refining.

Men's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Joey GarberGeorgia  68.65 
2Robby SheltonAlabama  68.65 
3Patrick RodgersStanford  68.71 
4Ollie SchniederjansGA Tech  68.85 
5Cameron WilsonStanford  69.10 

Men's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Alabama 68.97 
2Georgia Tech 69.68 
3Georgia 69.68 
4Oklahoma State 69.77  10 
5California 69.86  11 

Until 1974, there was no real recognition for collegiate golfers who achieved All-American status – at least, there was nothing like the way college football and basketball All-Americans were recognized. In the early '70s, Bill Eschenbrenner decided to change all that, effectively creating one of the most elite amateur golf tournaments in the country, the Western Refining All-America Golf Classic.

Eschenbrenner, the head pro at El Paso (Texas) Country Club and member of the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame, combined forces with then-New Mexico State head coach Herb Wimberly and set up a 54-hole event preceded by a weekend of living large in the Lone Star State. 

It’s safe to say nowhere but West Texas could do the Western Refining justice.

Players participate in two banquets on the Saturday and Sunday leading up to the event – which features 36 holes on Monday and 18 on Tuesday – and each player is “drafted” to a two-man team that is responsible for taking care of him throughout the week. Those relationships last long after tournament week is over, and many host families still keep in touch with former players who have moved on to the professional ranks. 

photo

The putting competition at the Western Refining.

Players also compete in a college-am, long-drive contest and a Texas-themed putting competition (imagine hay bails, cow horns, saddles and boots as obstacles), but the mental image that most sticks with tournament director Bob Kimble is watching each player select a pair of cowboy boots from Lucchese, a supplier in El Paso.

“It’s kind of fun to watch,” Kimble said. “Quite a few of these guys, they’ve never had a pair of boots on in their life – back east or West Coast, cowboy boots don’t necessarily fit into their lifestyle.”

Players know that when the sun comes up Monday, they’ll be testing their mettle against some of the top collegiate players in the country. It’s always been that way. In order to even get in the field, players must have All-American status, or have been a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team. The reigning U.S. Amateur champion and the Division II player of the year, if those individuals were underclassmen when they received those honors, also make the field. In the past, a player from Division III and NAIA also have been in the field, but those divisions won’t be represented in El Paso this year.

“We have had them in the past, and they’ve always represented very well at the tournament,” Kimble said of lower-division players.

One of the unique aspects of the Western Refining is that it gives top college and amateur players the chance to interact with one another during the college season. During a regular-season tournament, they might not get the opportunity to break away from their respective teams after the round.

The past-champions list from El Paso is impressive, featuring names such as Jerry Pate (winner of the inaugural championship), Davis Love III, Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson. The chance to join such company is a major draw for the Western Refining, as is the opportunity to improve a player’s World Amateur Golf Ranking with a high finish in a tough field. The Western Refining is an NCAA-ranked event.

“It goes to show you, if you come to El Paso, you’re playing in an elite group,” Kimble said. “These guys are obviously looking at a pro career, and this is just kind of a good testing ground and springboard for where they’re going.”

–Julie Williams


2011 Western Refining All-America Golf Classic field

Jordan Spieth, Texas (Frosh), Dallas

Golfweek rank: 1

The standout freshman jumped to No. 1 in college golf after an 8-shot win at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational. Placed in the top 6 in three starts.

• • •

Dylan Frittelli, Texas (Senior), Pretoria, South Africa

Golfweek rank: 2

The senior trying to go out with a bang in his final season was ranked No. 1 most of the fall. In four starts, has finished runner-up three times and seventh in the other.

• • •

Chris Williams, Washington (Junior), Moscow, Idaho

Golfweek rank: 5

Quietly one of the best players in college golf. Four top 20s in four starts, including a victory in season-opening home event.

• • •

Luke Guthrie, Illinois (Senior), Quincy, Ill.

Golfweek rank: 7

Has been a big reason for Illinois’ success the last few years. Won the Big Ten individual title last spring and has a victory and a fourth in last two starts.

• • •

Andrew Yun, Stanford (Junior), Chandler, Ariz.

Golfweek rank: 20

Finishing the last year ranked No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, Yun is the highest-ranked player in the All-America Classic field from last year. Has placed in the top 25 in four starts this year with a best of third at the OFCC/Fighting Illini Invite.

• • •

Todd Baek, San Diego State (Soph.), Auckland, New Zealand

Golfweek rank: 35

The Aztecs’ No. 1 player this fall finished in the top 5 in last two starts.

• • •

Ben Kohles, Virginia (Senior), Cary, N.C.

Golfweek rank: 58

Now a senior, Kohles is a player who often has been overlooked. The five-time winner in college golf has posted three top-20 finishes this fall.

• • •

Alex Ching, San Diego (Senior), Honolulu

Golfweek rank: 65

The defending champion comes to El Paso Country Club this week with a streak of five consecutive top 10s.

• • •

James White, Georgia Tech (Senior), Acworth, Ga.

Golfweek rank: 76

Finished the season last year ranked No. 10 by Golfweek, but is off to a bit of a slow start this year. Placed in the top 20 in all three starts this fall.

• • •

Sebastian Cappelen, Arkansas (Soph.), Odense, Denmark

Golfweek rank: 78

Won his last start at the Santa Clara Cabo Collegiate and has helped Arkansas to four team titles this fall.

• • •

Cameron Peck, Texas A&M (Junior), Olympia, Wash.

Golfweek rank: 80

Got off to a slow start this year, but rebounded well with a T-2 at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate and then a T-3 at the Amelia Island Intercollegiate.

• • •

Jace Long, Missouri (Junior), Dixon, Mo.

Golfweek rank: 86

On pace to become most decorated golfer in Missouri history. Won twice this fall and has won six of his last 13 collegiate starts.

• • •

Abraham Ancer, Oklahoma (Junior), Mission, Texas

Golfweek rank: 87

Sooners’ top player since he arrived in Norman last year. Very consistent fall with five top-20 finishes in five starts.

• • •

Pontus Widegren, UCLA (Junior), Danderyd, Sweden

Golfweek rank: 91

Improved in each event this fall for the Bruins. Posted four top 25s in four starts.

• • •

Cory Whitsett, Alabama (Soph.), Houston

Golfweek rank: 94

Arrived in Tuscaloosa last fall as one of the top recruits in the nation and did not disappoint during his freshman season. Off to a slow start this year, with just two top 20s in four starts.

• • •

Albin Choi, N.C. State (Soph.), Toronto

Golfweek rank: 97

Had a solid freshman year at North Carolina State and looks to be on pace for another outstanding season. Has improved in each event this fall and won his last start at Bridgestone Golf Collegiate.

• • •

Jordan Russell, Texas A&M (Senior), College Station, Texas

Golfweek rank: 111

Set the Texas A&M single-season scoring record last year with a 71.6 average. Off to slow start this fall, with a T-2 at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate highlighting the fall.

• • •

Hunter Hamrick, Alabama (Senior), Montgomery, Ala.

Golfweek rank: 112

The senior is a three-time All-American and won the 2009 Western Refining All-American Classic. Recorded just one top 10 in four starts this fall with a fourth at Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate.

• • •

Austin Cook, Arkansas (Junior), Jonesboro, Ark.

Golfweek rank: 133

Has helped Arkansas to win four times in five starts this fall and to a No. 6 team ranking. In five starts has posted two top-6 finishes.

• • •

Lee Bedford, Wake Forest (Senior), Cary, N.C.

Golfweek rank: 135

The senior is coming off his best year as a junior, but is off to a sluggish start this fall. Recorded two top-15 finishes with a fall best of fourth place at the Rees Jones Invitational.

• • •

Brinson Paolini, Duke (Junior), Virginia Beach, Va.

Golfweek rank: 150

Played in five events this fall with his best finish coming at the Rod Myers Invitational where he posted a T-4.

• • •

J.J. Spaun, San Diego State (Senior), San Dimas, Calif.

Golfweek rank: 166

Played in three events this fall with a T-9 at William H. Tucker and T-12 at Alister MacKenzie Invitational.

• • •

Jeff Karlsson, Kennesaw State (Senior), Gothenburg, Sweden

Golfweek rank: 168

Was the top player for the Owls last season in their run to the school’s first NCAA Championship appearance. Posted his best finish in his last event, with a T-7 at the Kiawah Island Intercollegiate.

• • •

Chris Brant, Iowa (Senior), Edwardsville, Ill.

Golfweek rank: 191

Steps up this year as the go-to guy for the Hawkeyes. Responded well out of the gate with a victory in season-opener at The Gopher Invitational, but struggled a bit during the late fall.

• • •

Matt Hansen, UC Davis (Soph.), Los Osos, Calif.

Golfweek rank: 202

Played in just three events during the fall season with a T-9 at the SCVB Pacific Invitational.

• • •

Alex Moore, Oregon State (Soph.), Richaland, Wash.

Golfweek rank: 223

If you toss out his season-opening round of 82 at The Prestige at PGA West, Moore has played well, placing second and T-12 in last two starts.

• • •

Evan Beck, Wake Forest (Junior), Virginia Beach, Va.

Golfweek rank: 305

Finished inside the top 20 just once in five starts this past fall. Posted best finish of the fall with a T-6 at Bank of Tennessee at Blackthorn.

• • •

Alex Carpenter, Abilene Christian (Junior), Little Rock, Ark.

Golfweek rank: 28th

Named Division II Player of the Year last year. Won three times in five starts this fall, pushing his career win total to 14.

–Lance Ringler

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification

  • PGA
  • CHMP
  • WEB
[[PGAtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next
[[CHMPtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next
[[NWIDtourn]] Full Leaderboard >
Prev
  • [[player._CurPos]]
  • [[player._Lname]], [[player._Fname]]
  • [[player._TournParRel]]
  • [[player._Thru]]
Next