Earlier this spring, Oregon head coach Casey Martin called Norman Xiong the best 19-year-old golfer he’s seen since Tiger Woods.
The statement immediately heightened expectations for the ultra-talented, ultra-powerful golfer from Canyon Lake, Calif. But Xiong has embraced the comparison.
“That’s something that I love to hear because ultimately I want to do what Tiger did, go out there and really be a dominant golfer and change the game in some way,” said Xiong, who was born in Guam.
And on Wednesday, Xiong joined a distinguished list of college players that includes Woods.
The Ducks sophomore won the 2018 Fred Haskins Award presented by Stifel, the same award that Woods won in 1996. The award honors the player of the year in men’s college golf, as selected by college golfers, coaches, members of the golf media and past Haskins winners.
“It means so much to win this award,” Xiong said Wednesday on Golf Channel. “It definitely allows me to reflect and look back at all I’ve accomplished this season. … This award is prestigious. The person who does win this award definitely has stood out in college golf.”
The two other finalists for this year’s award were Texas senior Doug Ghim and Ole Miss junior Braden Thornberry, who won the award last year.
Xiong, who captured the Phil Mickelson Award last season as the nation’s top freshman, won six times in his 2017-18 campaign, including the NCAA Stockton Regional. He finished his season – and his college career – with a T-11 at the NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek.
On Monday, Xiong, who left Oregon after three semesters, played his first event as a pro, a U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Memphis. He didn’t advance to the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, but figures to have a busy summer that includes several sponsor invites to PGA Tour events. Xiong has already received exemptions into the John Deere Classic and Barracuda Championship, and the Haskins Award victory will get him into the Greenbrier Classic.
He has signed deals with Callaway and Travis Mathew.
Starting his pro career 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour victories shy of Woods, Xiong has a lot of work to do. But he’s up to the challenge.
“I’m really excited for what the future holds,” Xiong said.