Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll take a look back at the main storylines in college golf.
Biggest takeaway: Illinois is the clear-cut No. 1 team
The first Golfstat ranking of the season was released Wednesday and – no surprise – the Illini are ranked No. 1. They cemented their place at the top with a rain-shortened victory over No. 8 Auburn at the Sagamore Fall Preview, the team’s third in a row to begin the fall. (Oregon is the only other team with three wins so far.) Junior Thomas Detry finished first in the 36-hole event in Indiana, with Brian Campbell (T-2) and Charlie Danielson (T-5) also in the top 5. All three of those players are ranked inside the top 11 nationally. This year’s bunch will look to join the 1988-89 Illinois team – which featured both Steve Stricker and current head coach Mike Small – as the only squad in school history with four fall victories when it heads to Florida this weekend for the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational.
Team of the week: Cal
The Golden Bears erased a final-round deficit to win the Alister MacKenzie Invitational – the team’s home event – for the sixth consecutive season (and ninth time in the last 12 years). Playing in wind, cold and fog in Northern California, freshman Sebastian Crampton finished third to record his third consecutive top 10, while Keelan Kilpatrick closed with 69 to sit joint sixth. Cal has now twice and finished in the top 4 in all four starts this fall.
Player of the week: Max Rottluff, Arizona State
The Sun Devils junior finished solo sixth in the team’s first event, then shot 9-under 204 (68-66-70) to earn medalist honors by two shots at the Alister MacKenzie. It was the German’s first career victory, after a trio of top 10s a year ago. Rottluff, now ranked No. 12 by Golfstat, was the only ASU player to finish in the top 10, helping the Sun Devils to a season-best runner-up finish.
Biggest disappointment: Rain wiping out 54-hole events
What a rough weather week in college golf, as the Sagamore Fall Preview, Bank of America at Blackthorn, Rod Myers Invitational and AutoTrader.com Collegiate Classic, among others, were reduced to 36 holes because of inclement weather. Heck, the final round of the AutoTrader was scrubbed because of a tornado watch!
Keep an eye on: U.S. Collegiate Championship
This is the big daddy in the fall schedule: 11 top-30 teams, including four of the top 10. Oklahoma State and Texas – teams I had ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, heading into this season but have gotten off to slow starts – are here, and so are the likes of UCLA, Stanford, Washington, Auburn and LSU. I’ve written often here that fall success isn’t always a predictor of postseason play, but the final leaderboard at the U.S. Collegiate should hint at where this season is headed.
What you may have missed: Wake Forest freshman Will Zalatoris shot rounds of 66-68 to beat Virginia’s Denny McCarthy by two shots at the rain-shortened Bank of America event. Zalatoris, remember, is the reigning U.S. Junior champion. Seems some freshman transitions are shorter than others. … Just days after advancing to the final stage of LPGA Q-School, USC junior Annie Park returned to school to capture the school-record sixth victory of her career. … The new No. 1-ranked player in college golf is probably not who you’d think: Jacksonville’s Franck Medale, who earlier this week won the Donald Ross Intercollegiate. Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans, Georgia’s Lee McCoy and Illinois’ Charlie Danielson are Nos. 2-5, respectively. That’s more like it.