Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine the biggest storylines in college golf.
Biggest takeaway: Parity reigns this season
OK, I'll admit it: The last few years have been pretty easy. You could always count on Alabama to produce a championship-caliber team. Same with Cal and Texas. Same with Illinois and Oklahoma State. This season is a little bit more of a guessing game, with 12 teams in Golfstat’s top 25 already earning at least two victories. The parity party was predicted on these pages in early September, but it’s still fun to watch new teams and players emerge as the fall season comes to an end. It makes the NCAA Championship – one of the great events in our entire sport – even more unpredictable.
Team of the week: Washington (women)
In a top-notch field that included USC, UCLA, Stanford and Arizona, it was the Huskies who staked their claim as the top team in women’s college golf with an 11-shot victory at the Pac-12 Preview. Four Washington players finished inside the top 10 as they earned their third title in four fall starts. The question now: Will the good times continue? Although the Huskies have enjoyed a superb fall campaign, the team could be in store for some major shakeups come springtime, with top player SooBin Kim and freshman Jing Yan both scheduled it to tee it up in next month’s LPGA Q-School finals. Top-20 finishes there likely would compel them to turn pro and thus miss the spring season.
Player of the week: Fred Wedel, Pepperdine
The Waves junior won his first career tournament in record fashion this week at the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Hawaii. His 20-under 196 – good for a three-shot win over world No. 1 amateur Ollie Schniederjans and San Diego’s Grant Forrest – set a new 54-hole school record, shattering the mark set by Andrew Putnam (now on the PGA Tour). You can’t help but cheer for this kid. I wrote his story when he made a surprising run at the U.S. Amateur, advancing all the way to the semifinals. Great to see him notch his first W.
Biggest disappointment: USC (women)
Even the best teams have off-weeks, and that appears to have been what happened this week at the Pac-12 Preview. The Trojans, coming off back-to-back wins and playing with their regular starting lineup, could do no better than a tie for fifth in the loaded event in Hawaii. Juniors Kyung Kim and Annie Park were the only players to finish inside the top 20 for USC, which is ranked No. 2 in Golfstat’s rankings.
Keep an eye on: UCLA
Seems our preseason rank (No. 9) was a bit too low for the Bruins, who earned their third title of the season with a come-from-behind victory over crosstown rival USC at the Gifford Collegiate at CordeValle. The team champion was decided by the best five of six scores – not the usual 5-for-4 – and all of the Bruins finished 34th or better, including top-3 showings from Jake Knapp and Lorens Chan. The deepest teams are the ones that win in the postseason, and this was an encouraging sign for UCLA in a field that also included Texas and Stanford.
What you may have missed: Georgia Tech senior Ollie Schniederjans tied for second in Hawaii. His last 10 college tournaments: four wins, four runners-up, a third and sixth. He finishes the fall with a 68.07 scoring average. … Speaking of the Yellow Jackets, they cruised to a 15-shot win over Arizona State to capture their second title of the season. Tech’s 55-under 809 (!) was one shot off its record-setting performance here in 2005. … UCLA’s Alison Lee, the reigning Player of the Year on the women’s side, earned her first victory of the season at the Pac-12 Preview. It may prove to be her last event in a Bruins polo – she’s among the favorites to earn her LPGA card next month at Q-School. ... Stanford sophomore Maverick McNealy, one of the early favorites for college player of the year, posted his worst result of the fall season at the Gifford – 21st. He went 1-1-3 in his first three starts. … No. 3 Oregon and 12th-ranked Georgia headline the field at the Ka’anapali Classic, which begins Friday in Hawaii. The Ducks have won all three of their fall starts, but haven’t played since beating a top field at Colonial on Oct. 7.
In this week’s College Central video … Golfweek.com’s Lance Ringler and I discuss the top headlines in the women’s game: