Notebook: Co-champs highlight Preview storylines
The Ping/Golfweek Preview is exactly what it sounds like: a preview. It gives the college golf world a look of what’s to come not just for the upcoming season, but also what we can expect at the NCAA Championships in May at Capital City Club's Crabapple course.
And if it showed us anything, we're in for one heck of a treat.
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EXCITING FINISH: Entering the final round, UCLA, the host of last year’s NCAA Championship at Riviera, held the 36-hole lead, but nine teams were within eights shots entering the final round. It was a battle most of the day, with the likes of Texas, UCLA, California, Washington and Georgia Tech all getting to the top of the leaderboard at some point.
This year’s host Georgia Tech and 2012 NCAA semifinalist California, shot a team score of 4-under 276, a tournament best, to take the title as co-champions, finishing at 845. In a tie for third was Texas, No. 3 in Golfweek’s preseason rankings, and UNLV eight shots back. Rounding out the top 5 were the Bruins and Washington at 854.
It was an exciting finish, as California senior Max Homa made a clutch birdie putt on No. 18 to move the Bears to within one shot of leader Georgia Tech. Junior Bo Andrews, the last player out on the course for Georgia Tech, then made a bogey at the last, leaving the Bears and Yellow Jackets tied at the top.
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'BERRY' GOOD: San Diego State's Tom Berry notched his first collegiate victory at the Preview; not a bad way to start the season. Berry, a junior Englishman, was the only player under par at Crabapple during the 54-hole event (67-69-72), finishing at 2 under. Berry's previous career-best finish was a fourth-place showing at the 2009 Firestone Grill College Invite.
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CAL'S SENIOR LEADER: The last time California's Max Homa finished outside the top 10 was in the spring at the Pac-12 Championship – he was T-13. Homa’s scoring average in the first two events of the fall is 70.6, which has helped him finish second both times. With his senior leadership, the team has either won or tied for first in both tournaments it's entered (Gopher Invitational and Ping/Golfweek Preview).
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DYNAMIC DUO: Since the beginning of last season, Washington's top individual has been either Chris Williams and Cheng-Tsung Pan. During that span, Williams, the world's top-ranked amateur, has won three times and finished in the top-10 eight times, while Pan, a sophomore, has won twice, including this year at the team's host tournament, the Kikkor Golf Husky Invitational. Pan has also had six top-10 finishes and will have to carry more of the load for the Huskies as Williams is headed to the World Amateur Team event in Turkey next week and looks doubtful to make it back in time for their next tournament.
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LOW TIDE: Did Alabama play this week? Scroll down the leaderboard just a bit and you’ll find them. No. 1 in Golfweek’s preseason rankings, the Tide finished T-9. Not a single player finished in the top-10. They didn’t even start on the No. 1 tee during the final round of the tournament.
Luckily, Alabama has a few weeks to get its game back in order. The Tide's next tournament is the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate, which is in their backyard. Justin Thomas will head to Turkey with Williams and U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox for the World Amateur Team Championship, but when he returns, expect 'Bama to return to the top.
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ALL SYSTEMS GEAUX: LSU seems to be on the rise again. This week, it won the Graeme McDowell Shoal Creek Intercollegiate by five shots over Houston. Sophomores Curtis Thompson and Stuart Jolly have been the team’s best finishers in both events this season, including tying for first at Shoal Creek along with North Texas senior Rodolfo Cazaubon. It was Thompson’s second individual win and Jolly’s first.