College golf: Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford impress on National Signing Day

College golf: Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford impress on National Signing Day

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College golf: Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford impress on National Signing Day

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The pens have been put to paper and college golf’s Class of 2020 is officially starting to take shape.

Junior golfers around the country were finally able to sign and send their National Letters of Intent to the school of their choice on Wednesday, taking the next step in their careers as student-athletes.

After taking some time to break down and analyze both the men’s and women’s signings, there was a clear winner to the day and plenty of other storylines to follow before the players get to campus next fall.

Here’s what Golfweek’s Julie Williams and Adam Woodard learned from National Signing Day.

National Signing Day: Women | Men | Best Photos
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Stanford men win the day

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better class in 2020 than the group Cardinal coach Conrad Ray recruited to The Farm. Stanford signed three of the top 10 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings for 2020: No. 2 Karl Vilips, No. 6 Jake Beber-Frankel and No. 9 Michael Thorbjornsen.

“Depth is the name of the game,” Ray said of his team. “The lineup is wide open with those three guys, I think all three can come in and play right away based off what they’ve done, but you never know until they get on campus.”

Jake Beber-Frankel shakes hands with a spectator after the second round of the 2019 Boys Junior PGA Championship. (Photo: Hailey Garrett/PGA of America)

Ray called Vilips an “alpha dog” and said Thorbjornsen has “those days where you’re just like ‘holy mackerel this guy’s a freak.’” Beber-Frankel is “every bit as talented” as the others, but plays with panache and flair that pairs well with his impressive hair.

Ray didn’t want to make comparisons to other 2020 recruiting classes, but he did say 2020 is the best class the Cardinal have had in quite some time.

Florida men get better with youth

Head coach JC Deacon has something special cooking down in Gainesville. While starting an underclassmen-heavy lineup, his young Gators have instantly made an impact as the freshman trio of Ricky Castillo, Quentin Debove and John DuBois currently rank Nos. 2-4 on the team in scoring average.

Deacon tapped into the Florida’s rich junior golf market (and England’s), signing Ryan Hart, Jonah Leach, Tyler Wilkes and Joe Pagdin to further bolster his already-young and impressive squad. Expect the Gators to be national title contenders in the coming years.

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Cardinal women reload after LPGA loss(es?)

It’s no surprise that the Stanford women also had a strong signing day, inking commitments from two players in Golfweek’s top 10 among the class of 2020: No. 6 Rachel Heck and No. 8 Sadie Englemann.

If only they could play this spring.

Senior Albane Valenzuela, ranked No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, opted to leave the program last week in order to live out her LPGA and Olympic dreams after earning status for the 2020 season at the recent Q-Series. Valenzuela tied for sixth, while teammate Andrea Lee, No. 3 in the WAGR, also earned status by finishing T-30. Lee has yet to announce her decision.

Ohio State men lock down a local

There’s something to be said for keeping your best in-state talent in state. A cold climate doesn’t make that an easy sell for Ohio State head coach Jay Moseley, and who could blame a kid for wanting to head south?

But Moseley, in his fourth season leading the Buckeye men, has not only been able to keep Ohio’s best talent, but cultivate it. That continues with recent signee Maxwell Moldovan.

When he arrives next year, Moldovan, of Uniontown, Ohio, will help fill a void left by recent graduates – and Ohio natives – Will Grimmer, a two-time U.S. Open qualifier, and Daniel Wetterich, runner-up at the Western Amateur and now a Korn Ferry Tour card holder. Grimmer arrived in Columbus the same year as Moseley and Wetterich transferred in from Xavier a year later. (This season’s roster, by the way, includes freshman Jackson Chandler, who shared the 2018 Ohio State High School title with Moldovan.)

Moldovan is No. 5 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings. He’s the reigning Ohio Amateur champion, and Polo Golf Junior Classic champion. Days before signing his national letter of intent, Moldovan was named the AJGA Rolex Player of the Year and a Rolex First-Team All-American.

Not since 1993 has Ohio State signed one of those, but it’s not the kind of talent you can let slip away.

Alabama gets a double reload

No program experienced a professional exodus quite like Alabama did at the end of last fall. The women lost Kristen Gillman and Lauren Stephenson after the LPGA Q-Series in October and Davis Riley decided to turn professional after Thanksgiving.

Neither Alabama team advanced to the NCAA Championship in May, and the men failed to crack the top 50 in the rankings this fall. An infusion is coming with the class of 2020, though.

If it seems like Canon Claycomb was everywhere on Wednesday, it’s probably because he was. Claycomb, who checked in not just at the top of his class but at the top of Golfweek’s Junior Rankings, garnered nearly 700 Twitter “likes” for signing his NLI and later made a cameo on Golf Channel.

Claycomb, who lives in Orlando, Florida, brings every experience from practicing with PGA Tour players on the Lake Nona range to playing the Junior Ryder Cup to sharing an instructor with Justin Thomas (and sometimes texting JT with questions).

For the women, head coach Mic Potter kept things familiar, securing signatures from four-time Alabama Girls’ Junior winner Michaela Morard as well as Italian Benedetta Moresco, whose older sister Angelica is currently a junior for the Tide.

Both women were chosen to represent their respective sides in the Junior Solheim Cup, and interestingly, walked into the opening ceremonies side-by-side.

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