Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll take a look back at the main storylines in college golf.
Biggest takeaway: Oregon is a legitimate top-5 team
The Ducks are the hottest team in the country, the only squad with wins in their first three starts, the latest coming Tuesday at the Nike Collegiate Invitational, where they beat top-tier programs like Stanford, Washington, Texas, Vanderbilt and Georgia en route a the six-shot victory. It is only the second time in school history that Oregon has won its first three fall tournaments (2011). Never have the Ducks won four in a row, so history could be made at their final start, Nov. 7-9 in Hawaii. It’s ill-advised to make predictions during the fall season, but there’s no denying the Quack Attack looks really good.
Team of the week: Alabama
The two-time defending-champion Crimson Tide headed into the long offseason on a high note, winning their own Jerry Pate Intercollegiate by 13 shots for their first win in four tries this fall. After failing to convert 36-hole leads at both the season-opening Carpet Capital and last week’s event at Shoal Creek, Alabama had three players finish in the top 10 at Old Overton, led by Robby Shelton (fourth) and Dru Love (career-best fifth), the son of 20-time PGA Tour winner Davis Love III. Tom Lovelady also carded a career-low 64 in the final round to tie for eighth individually. This team may look drastically different from the one that captured back-to-back national titles in 2012 and ’13, but it is still plenty dangerous.
Player of the week: Thomas Lim, Oregon
One of only five players to break par over three rounds at Colonial, the Ducks sophomore birdied three of his last five holes to earn medalist honors Tuesday at the Nike event in Fort Worth. Even better: His victory, the second of his career, came with an exemption into the PGA Tour’s Crowne Plaza Invitational next May. “It’s a huge carrot for a college kid,” coach Casey Martin said. Lim already has a pair of top 3s this young season.
Texas' Beau Hossler at the 2014 World Amateur Team Championships.
Biggest disappointment: Texas
Three shots behind entering the final round at Colonial, the Longhorns carded three rounds of 74 on the final day to finish fifth, 12 shots behind Oregon. Beau Hossler (sixth) and Gavin Hall (seventh) recorded top-10 finishes, but this event underscored how there is often a steep learning curve for freshmen, even those as highly touted as Scottie Scheffler and Doug Ghim (both finished outside the top 20). The Longhorns, No. 2 in Golf Channel’s preseason rankings, have now finished outside the top 4 in each of their first two starts, though Hossler was out of the lineup for the season opener, participating in the WATC in Japan. Not that the Longhorns’ uneven start to the season is a surprise to your correspondent. Last month I wrote this piece on how success was far from a guarantee for Texas’ all-star lineup. Its next event is the Oct. 17-19 U.S. Collegiate, one of the biggest events this fall season.
Keep an eye on: UCLA, Stanford’s Maverick McNealy
• The Bruins, No. 9 in Golf Channel’s preseason rankings, won their second event in as many starts Tuesday with a 12-shot victory at Erin Hills, site of the 2017 U.S. Open. What began as a back-and-forth battle between UCLA and SMU turned into a rout, thanks to the Bruins’ 14-under 274 in the final round. Leading the charge was Jonathan Garrick, whose closing 66 vaulted him into a tie for seventh individually, while Manav Shah and Lorens Chan shared second place.
• This was supposed to be a down year for Stanford after the top two players in college golf, Patrick Rodgers and Cameron Wilson, headed to the pro ranks. Maybe not. Maverick McNealy, a sophomore, has finished 1-1-3 in his first three starts this season for the Cardinal, which finished second in Fort Worth. He’s a (very) early contender for national player of the year.
What you may have missed: Alison Lee’s days numbered?
UCLA sophomore Alison Lee, the reigning player of the year in women’s college golf, tied for second in LPGA Q-School’s second stage and advanced to the finals in December. If she finishes in the top 20 at LPGA International, she’ll be fully exempt on tour in 2015. Her potential departure would leave a huge void for her college team. The Bruins had national-title hopes – they won four times last season and were No. 3 in GC’s preseason rankings – but struggled mightily without Lee in the lineup in their most recent start, finishing ninth at the Annika Invitational.