Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll take a look back at the main storylines in college golf.
Biggest takeaway: Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt are as good as advertised.
Of all the coaches I talked to during the offseason, Yellow Jackets coach Bruce Heppler was probably the most apprehensive. Sure, he took comfort in knowing he had the best player in college golf (Ollie Schniederjans), but that was about it. Relax, Coach. Turns out these relative unknowns can play a little too – Drew Czuchry chipped in on the last hole to give Tech a one-shot victory in the stroke-play portion of the Dick's Sporting Goods Collegiate Challenge Cup, while Vincent Whaley thumped his opponent, 8 and 7, to tie the overall championship match, 2-2-1.
These two teams were Nos. 7 and 8, respectively, in our preseason rankings and have yet to disappoint. Vandy is shaping up as a quiet title contender. First, senior Hunter Stewart earned medalist honors in his first start of the season at Pebble Beach, then junior Carson Jacobs tied for fourth in stroke play and birdied the last to square the Dick's championship match. Head-to-head wins against such teams as Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia help, too.
Team of the week: Illinois
The Illini finished 1-2 on the individual leaderboard (and occupied four of the top 8 spots) during a dominating victory at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate. That’s now back-to-back wins to open the season for Golf Channel’s No. 3 preseason team, following a come-from-behind victory at its own Olympia Fields event that featured, among others, Oklahoma State, Texas, Alabama and Texas A&M. Brian Campbell and Charlie Danielson were the only players to finish this event under par, Thomas Detry tied for fourth in his season debut and freshman Nick Hardy (T-8) added a top-10 finish as Illinois blew out Florida by 30 shots and won its fifth consecutive Wolf Run title.
Player of the week: Lee McCoy, Georgia
The junior earned medalist honors at last month’s U.S. Amateur and has thoroughly impressed in limited action this season. McCoy finished second at the season-opening Carmel Cup (which the Bulldogs won), then shot 8-under 205 at the Dick’s event to win for the second time in his college career. One of Golf Channel’s top 10 players to watch, McCoy was No. 32 in last year’s Golfstat rankings.
Biggest disappointment: Texas A&M
The Aggies finished 37 (!) shots behind Georgia Tech during the stroke-play portion in Tennessee, a performance so poor that it prompted head coach J.T. Higgins, in a school-issued release, to say: “That was about as bad as I have ever seen us play. It is really disappointing.” It didn’t get much better in match play either, as A&M lost to N.C. State, 4-1. Ranked No. 10 in the preseason, the early returns haven’t been good so far for the Aggies, who shot 60 over as a team during the opener and tied for 11th.
What you may have missed: There was yet another tweak to the NCAA Championship format. Reported last month and approved last Friday, the 2015 NCAAs will now feature a fourth day of stroke-play qualifying for the low 15 teams. That will determine not only the low eight teams for match play but also the 72-hole stroke-play champion.