Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll review the main storylines in college golf.
After more than nine months of nonstop golf, after the spring season and the NCAA postseason and the summer amateur schedule and the start of the fall semester, the best players in college golf finally get a 2 ½-month reprieve.
How to spend their much-needed downtime? Well, they will cram for finals, and then spend time with their families, and then, eventually, continue to work on their games. The season doesn’t resume until late January, when each week will be an important step toward the NCAA Championship.
Now that the fall season is over, here are some midseason awards and the top 10 men's teams in my Power Rankings:
Team of the fall: Oregon
The Ducks are off to their best start in school history, after winning all four of their fall starts. Their schedule was the 38th toughest, weakest of any top-10 team (per the Sagarin rankings), but they did record an eye-opening win at Colonial that was against one of the top fields of the fall. Freshman Aaron Wise and sophomore Thomas Lim have been terrific so far.
Honorable mention: Florida State, Illinois, UCLA
Player of the fall: Ollie Schniederjans, Georgia Tech
Surprise, surprise: The No. 1-ranked amateur in the world continued to play like it this fall, with a victory, a pair of runners-up and no finish worse than sixth in five starts. He finished the fall with a 68.07 scoring average. Expect even better results in his final semester.
Honorable mention: Hunter Stewart, Vanderbilt; Maverick McNealy, Stanford
Biggest surprise of the fall: LSU
Senior All-Americans Ben Taylor and Stewart Jolly have been as good as advertised, helping the Tigers to back-to-back wins. The Tigers finished third in their toughest event (the U.S. Collegiate), which is a promising sign, for their schedule will only get more difficult.
Biggest disappointment: Oklahoma State
A victory at Royal Oaks helped salvage a miserable fall for the Cowboys, who twice finished outside the top 8 in an event as they tried to break in new players. Jordan Niebrugge is back from injury, but Wyndham Clark and Zachary Olsen haven’t yet been able to recapture their form from 2013-14. Fortunately for them, the season is only just beginning.
Team most likely to rise: Wake Forest
You have to what Jerry Haas has brewing in Winston-Salem. Will Zalatoris, the 2014 U.S. Junior champion, has stepped in and contributed right away, while Danny Guise and David Womble continue to play solidly. This is a team that will contend for titles not just this year, but for the foreseeable future.
Team most likely to fall: Alabama
There likely won’t be a three-peat this year for the Crimson Tide. They can still be very competitive with Robby Shelton and Tom Lovelady at the top, but the midseason departure of Gavin Moynihan in the middle of the lineup means ’Bama will have a lot of fresh faces competing against the top teams on the biggest stages. Usually, that spells trouble.
1. Illinois: From top to bottom, the Illini have the best (and deepest) team in the game.
2. Oregon: Will be interesting to see how they fare against better competition, but the Ducks can only beat the teams they have in front of them – and right now, they’re 44-0-2.
3. Florida State: They lost to only two teams during the fall, and they just so happen to be the host schools (Illinois, Alabama). This team won’t fade.
4. Texas: Figured it would take time to establish a starting five, but the U.S. Collegiate win shows this team’s immense potential.
5. UCLA: Their three fall wins weren’t a fluke – behind Jonathan Garrick, Lorens Chan and a strong supporting cast, this team has title aspirations.
6. LSU: Ben Taylor and Stewart Jolly can send this team into the postseason, but back-end depth remains a question.
7. Vanderbilt: The ’Dores have the best 1-2 punch in the country in Hunter Stewart and Carson Jacobs, and with Matthias Schwab on the mend this group will only get better.
8. South Carolina: The team that returned all five starters has quietly picked up two wins in the fall.
9. Georgia Tech: It helps to have the best player in college golf on the roster, but the Yellow Jackets will only go as far as Nos. 2-5 can take them.
10. Virginia: With the emergence of Derek Bard, the Cavs are poised to take advantage of Denny McCarthy’s last season in Charlottesville.