Junior golfers around the country will be signing their national letters of intent during the early signing period, Nov. 14-21.
Golfweek has been and will continue recording all of the signings here.
With those signings underway, it reminded us just how much a single recruit can impact a golf program or college golf in general. Putting that in mind, here’s a look at the game-changing male recruits that have surfaced in recent memory:
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Texas wasn’t exactly in despair before Spieth arrived on campus, as the Longhorns had reached nine of the previous 10 NCAA Championships. Still, their last top 10 at nationals had come back in 2004 and they hadn’t won a national title since 1972.
In came Spieth, who dominated his freshman year (2011-12) on the way to a No. 2 individual national ranking by season’s end. His brilliance continued at 2012 NCAAs, with Spieth downing Justin Thomas in a 3-2 Texas triumph over Alabama to win the national title.
Spieth was also an electric presence who brought more exposure to college golf, even if he only stayed for a year and a half. Considering his pro record, we all know how that decision turned out.
Even with that finals loss to Spieth, Thomas helped usher in an era of Crimson Tide dominance.
Alabama hadn’t won a national title prior to Thomas’ arrival and had just one top-10 finish at NCAAs in the previous 35 years. Then Thomas came aboard, and as a freshman he won the Haskins Award and led Alabama to being the top-ranked team in college golf.
The Crimson Tide reached the 2012 NCAA Championship final, and the next year won it all for the program’s first national title. Thomas would leave after his sophomore season (2012-13), but the foundation had been laid and Alabama went back-to-back in 2014.
Dechambeau made headway in college golf for his success proving eccentric methods can work.
The SMU player’s presence exploded when he won the 2015 NCAA individual title and the U.S. Amateur later that summer. It helped that he did so embracing his different style – upright and single-plane swing, same-length irons and intense scientific approach to golf.
Some have made their comments since, but DeChambeau’s success has certainly translated to the pro ranks. The proof his methods were sustainable, though, first gained notoriety at SMU.
Braden Thornberry and Matt Wolff
There’s never been a shortage of unique swings at any level of golf, but a firm reminder of that is sometimes necessary.
Ole Miss’ Braden Thornberry and Oklahoma State’s Matt Wolff have proven again that what matters are the results a swing produces, not how it looks. Wolff and Thornberry have been open about criticisms regarding their unique motions, with Wolff noting that those telling him his swing would never work “scared me at first.”
They’ve even joked on Twitter about past comments.
But Thornberry’s swing led him to the NCAA individual title and the Haskins Award in 2017. Wolff isn’t far behind, as the reigning freshman of the year is currently No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings for 2018-19.
Both players and their swings have gained notoriety in the process and made it possible for potential future college golfers to fret even less about owning a unique swing.
Of course, Thornberry and Wolff have made huge impacts on their programs with their phenomenal play. But their steadfast belief in their swings may prove to have a positive trickle down effect.
The man who secured Oklahoma a national title in 2017 was fitting. Brad Dalke came from a family of Sooners and committed to the program at 12 years old.
Oh yes, was there criticism at the time. Local sports talk radio had a field day mocking Dalke’s early commitment and plenty wondered about the pressure put on the young lad.
Dalke, though, was determined and didn’t worry about the comments. He had to wait, but seven years later his closing out of a national title finally proved once and for all that the critics had been dead wrong.
Dalke’s commitment and presence was a big factor in Oklahoma securing its first national title in nearly 30 years. But his journey to this point has also been a nice reminder to recruits to follow the path they wish, and don’t worry about the critics.