Ringler's Championship Feel Test: UGA is No. 2
PHOTOS: NCAA Women's Championship (Rd. 3)
Images from Round 3 of the Women's NCAA Championship. USC Trojans have a 17-shot lead heading into the final round.
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ATHENS, Ga. –– Making the turn from Riverbend Road into the parking lot at the University of Georgia Golf Course for Thursday’s third round, my colleagues and I were quick to notice something different. It was a vibe, a feel that something of significance was going on.
Of course we knew it was the NCAA Championship, but it was clearly visibly to anyone driving by that some sort of big event was taking place. Then the parking lot attendant approached us and said something we had never heard before at an NCAA Women’s Championship: “The parking lot is full and you will have to park on the grass.”
There you have it. Something concrete that will help vault this year’s event toward the top of the Lance Ringler Championship Feel Test rankings.
That is the sort of thing you hear at a big event and this is a big event – the biggest on the women’s schedule.
This year marks my 14th consecutive trip to the NCAA women’s finals. There are no exact criteria or guidelines that are followed in deciding the ranking order of the championships. It’s simply the atmosphere from my point of view during the week. And with that being said there are things that carry some weight that may not matter much to someone trying to read putts or avoid a bunker.
For example, things such as internet connection, lunch menu, snacks and proximity of the media room to the golf course play a role in how the event feels. While the lunch menu and snacks fall well behind places like Landfall (fried chicken and sweet tea) and Purdue (snickers bars and ice cream), I am confident that the Boyd Golf Center, which houses the media, is the best we have ever experienced.
The proximity to the action might be the best any golf championship has ever seen. The view from my work area allows us to see the No. 9 and 18 green and in an air-conditioned climate with plenty of cold drinks. It also allows us to see anyone lingering in the vicinity.
We can’t forget about the importance of the golf course, which is in pristine condition, and what the players experience. That’s where this venue picks up most of its points. Experience can mean a lot and in this case the University of Georgia Golf Course is no rookie, having had many repetitions to make sure the execution of a quality golf tournament is met.
PHOTOS: NCAA Women's Championship (Rd. 2)
Browse images from Round 2 of the Women's NCAA Championship in Athens, GA.
You could even say this venue is to women’s collegiate championships in the same fashion as what Oakmont Country Club might be to the U.S. Open.
Five times the UGA Golf Course has hosted the women’s national championship (1971, '81, '83, '93 and 2013). Oakmont Country Club has hosted eight U.S. Opens.
Earlier this month the Web.com Tour’s Stadion Classic was held for the fourth consecutive year at the UGA course. That has given this facility the opportunity to get much better.
This course is extremely gallery friendly. There are multiple locations throughout the layout that allow a spectator to view action on many holes from one spot. And the area around the closing holes, as well as the first and 10th tees, is perfect for fans. All of the little things such as parking, media room comforts and the proximity of need-to-get-to areas all pass with flying colors.
Time to rank this year’s NCAA championship with the past 13 finales I have attended.
Like last year at the Vanderbilt Legends Club, the University of Georgia and its golf course have a tough task in knocking off No. 1 on the chart. Three years ago, UNC-Wilmington hosted the NCAA Championship at Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C.
That will remain on top.
This week in Athens was good – not Wilmington good – but, good enough to get to No. 2, bumping Vanderbilt down one notch to third. And while it was close, it’s the little things that can get bonus points, like the view from the media room that made this week just a bit better.
Landfall will almost be an impossible act to follow. A total of 5,034 tickets were sold at the 2010 championship. The environment that week with the homes surrounding the course added an element that we have never seen. There were numerous “tailgate” parties, complete with school flags waving and people cheering the players on as they walked by. Also, the fried chicken and sweet tea in Wilmington will be hard to top by any future venue.
PHOTOS: NCAA Women's Championship (Rd. 1)
View pictures of teams as they make their way through Round 1 at the NCAA Championship at University of Georgia Golf Course.
There has been an increased interest in recent years to put on an event that is very memorable. There is no doubt that the best events I have seen have been recently. Next year this championship will be hosted by the University of Tulsa at Tulsa Country Club, which hosted the 1999 championship. The course has some experience – not as much as Georgia, but if they can get the crowds and the menu right, they have a chance to land near the top.
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Ringler’s Championship Feel Test Rankings
• 1. 2010 at Landfall Tradition (UNCW)
• 2. 2013 at University of Georgia Golf Course
• 3. 2012 at Vanderbilt Legends Club
• 4. 2004 at Auburn (Grand National)
• 5. 2003 at Purdue’s Kampen Course
• 6. 2008 at University of New Mexico GC
• 7. 2002 at Washington National GC
• 8. 2011 at Traditions Club at Texas A&M
• 9. 2006 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course
• 10. 2001 at Mission Inn Resort, Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
• 11. 2009 at Caves Valley Golf Club (Georgetown)
• 12. 2000 at Sun River Crosswater GC
• 13. 2005 at Sun River Meadows GC
• 14. 2007 at LPGA International
• Up next in 2014: University of Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.