Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll review the main storylines in college golf.
Biggest takeaway: Florida State has taken the next step
There’s a new No. 1 on the men’s side after the Seminoles made four birdies in the last two holes and beat seven top-30 programs – including former No. 1 Illinois – at the Tavistock Collegiate. After runner-up finishes in each of its first two starts – both times losing to the host school, Illinois (Olympia Fields) and Alabama (Jerry Pate) – FSU finally got in the win column after four Seminoles finished inside the top 13 individually, including T-3s from both 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year Jack Maguire and junior Rowin Caron. Florida State reached the NCAA finals a year ago, but flamed out in the stroke-play portion. Expect a deeper run this year, with a strong, well-balanced lineup that features three sophomores and two juniors. This mightn’t be the Seminoles’ last week atop the rankings.
Team of the week: Texas
Ah, now that’s more like it for the preseason No. 2. Locked in a compelling duel with Virginia, the Longhorns eked out a one-shot victory at the U.S. Collegiate to take home its first team title of the season. Top-10s by Gavin Hall and Scottie Scheffler were welcome signs in the best tournament on the fall schedule, but the key for the No. 5-ranked Longhorns might have been the addition of Kramer Hickok. To underscore just how deep and talented this roster is, consider this: Hickok is a two-time All-Big 12 selection, but he couldn’t even crack the starting five coming out of team qualifying. He squeaked through for the U.S. Collegiate, then finished 15th in his season debut. One of only two seniors on the team, Hickok is the glue that holds this squad together.
Player of the week: Derek Bard, Virginia
The sophomore (pictured above), ranked No. 34 by Golfstat, dusted the field with a closing 64 at the U.S. Collegiate to capture medalist honors by six shots. Bard’s 15-under 201 was the third-lowest 54-hole total in school history (behind only PGA Tour players Ben Kohles and Steve Marino). In just 14 career starts, Bard has already amassed six top 10s, though this was the first victory of his career. His win, along with teammate Denny McCarthy’s runner-up finish, nearly helped Virginia pull off a big upset in Georgia. The Cavs, now ranked No. 8, ultimately finished one shot behind Texas.
Biggest disappointment: Oklahoma State
Things went from bad to worse for the Cowboys, a team we had ranked No. 1 entering the season. After placing no better than fifth in its first two starts, Oklahoma State finished 14th in the 15-team field at the U.S. Collegiate and now has tumbled all the way to No. 41 in Golfstat’s latest rankings. Three OK State players finished outside the top 60 individually, including junior Jordan Niebrugge (73rd), who was making his first start of the season after being sidelined with a wrist injury. Sophomore Wyndham Clark, one of the nation’s best a year ago, has yet to record a top 10 this season. The Cowboys will look to salvage what has been a disappointing fall at their final event, the Oct. 28-29 Royal Oaks Intercollegiate.
Keep an eye on: USC
Sophomore Rico Hoey and freshman Jonah Texeira finished second and third, respectively, at the Bill Cullum Invitational in helping lead the Trojans to an 11-shot win over Arizona State and their second first-place finish of the season (lost in a team playoff at the Itani Quality Homes Collegiate). Losing Anthony Paolucci (Q-School) definitely hurts, but Hoey has stepped up to record a pair of top 3s this season. Last year, he had eight top 10s and earned first-team Pac-12 honors. Freshman Sean Crocker also looks like one of the country’s brightest newcomers, twice finishing in the top 4 in four starts.
What you may have missed: Vanderbilt’s Hunter Stewart and Carson Jacobs comprise the best 1-2 punch in the country. That much was clear after they held down the top two individual spots at the Tavistock, where Stewart’s closing 66 was enough to steal the title from his teammate. Stewart now has two wins this season, while Jacobs has finished inside the top 12 in all four starts. (Vanderbilt is the only team with two players ranked in Golfstat’s top 10.) With Matthias Schwab on the mend, Vandy will be a top-5 program come March. … Two-time defending NCAA champion Alabama took a huge hit when sophomore Gavin Moynihan, a 2013 GB&I Walker Cupper, left the team because of homesickness. I wrote about the impact of that decision here. … Arizona State’s Jon Rahm won for the fourth time in his career Tuesday at the Bill Cullum Invite. Whenever he decides to turn pro – he’s only a junior – he won’t need to wait long for his first pro title. This kid is immensely talented. … Stanford, USC and UCLA, three of the top women’s programs, were separated by only one shot at this week’s Stanford Intercollegiate. Cardinal sophomore Mariah Stackhouse sank a 33-footer on the last to secure a share of the team title with USC, while UCLA finished one behind.