During the college golf season, GolfChannel.com will check in weekly to update what’s happening in the world of college golf.
After a busy stretch of golf, Linn Grant decided it was time for a break. The Arizona State sophomore didn’t hit a range ball on Monday, and a day later she had breakfast at the Sun Devils’ facility and then headed outside to resume practice, only to quit after a short while.
Many would say Grant deserved the reprieve.
The Swedish star hasn’t lost a college tournament in over a year. While that impressive span is aided by last season’s cancellation, Grant has still rattled off five straight individual wins, her most recent coming Sunday at the Clover Cup in Mesa, Arizona.
“There’s been so many times where you just keep going tournament to tournament, and it only makes you weaker,” Grant said. “Regardless of how you’re playing, if your body is telling you to rest, you need to rest because it will only catch up to you if you don’t.”
Grant doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. She recorded her first college victory last March, just three days before the COVID-19 shutdown, and ended up earning first-team All-America honors as a freshman. She returned home shortly after and sharpened her skills during a summer playing professional events in Sweden, where she won twice and notched three other top-5 finishes. She contended at the U.S. Women’s Open in December, eventually tying for 23rd, and since returning to school this spring, she’s won four times.
Asked how she’s managed to remain undefeated, Grant reckoned it had something to do with “not thinking about it, just doing it.”
“Her emotional management is amazing,” Arizona State head coach Missy Farr-Kaye explained last December. “She has a very short memory.”
Grant needed to as a junior player, going up against a strong crop of Swedish players, including LSU’s Ingrid Lindblad, Florida State’s Beatrice Wallin, Oklahoma State’s Maja Stark and current LPGA player Frida Kinhult. Because of that stiff competition, Grant lost more than she won, but as she maintains, she was actually learning how to win.
“It made us all better,” Grant said. “Growing up I always had a high-level, competitive group around me, and without that I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Grant also took a gap year between high school and college, making sure her game was prepared for the next level. She laughs when talking about her first qualifier with the Sun Devils, where she shot 83-79 at Grayhawk, where this year’s NCAA Championship will take place. But when it came time to compete, Grant hit the ground running. She tied for eighth in her college debut two falls ago at the Annika Intercollegiate and has finished outside the top 10 just twice in 10 career college starts. Her worst finish is only a T-18 at last season’s Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge.
“I didn’t want that first year to be a year where I felt like a freshman,” Grant said. “I didn’t want to waste a year because I was unprepared for what was coming. That was the plan and I think I did pretty all right with it.”
This season, Grant is one of the current favorites to win the Annika Award. She has some familiar challengers, too, as Wallin, Lindblad and Stark were also among the 15 players named to the latest watch list. Ten of those 15 players, including Grant, are European, and most of them are sophomores, including Wake Forest’s Lauren Walsh (Ireland), UCLA’s Emma Spitz (Austria) and South Carolina’s Pauline Roussin-Bouchard (France), the latter of whom recently won her third event of the season and is ranked No. 1 in Golfstat, three spots ahead of Grant.
“Everyone is getting pushed,” Grant said. “I constantly feel like I have to be on top of my game. Pauline won this week, as well, and I see that and I’m happy for her. I texted her immediately to say congrats, and it’s fun, but at the same time it’s like, dang, now I have to go win another one.”
Some, of course, will contend that one of Grant’s four wins this season came in a three-team event. She agrees that “it’s a little silly to count” that title.
“But it’s a win,” she added, “and honestly, I don’t really care if it’s three or four, I’m just focused on trying to win the next one.”
Alex Fitzpatrick is starting to build momentum.
After opening his spring – and season – with a T-20 finish at Camp Creek, the Wake Forest senior has now finished fourth, fourth and first, with his victory coming Tuesday at the Valspar Collegiate.
Fitzpatrick shot 67-66-68 while hitting all 18 greens in regulation Tuesday at The Floridian, which is less than an hour from where the Englishman will likely play the Walker Cup in May, to run his sub-70 streak to five rounds. His three-shot victory over two freshmen, Florida State’s Frederik Kjettrup and Ohio State’s Maxwell Moldovan, also landed him his first PGA Tour start. He’ll be eligible to play the Valspar Championship next spring.
After Fitzpatrick’s win, his older brother, Matthew, who is ranked 16th in the Official World Golf Ranking, took to Twitter to congratulate his brother: “Unreal... so proud of @FitzAlex99! What a final round bogey free and 18 greens in reg! That’s how to close it out!!”
On the team side, Florida State won for the third time this spring as the Seminoles figure to remain No. 1 in Golfstat. Ohio State notched a nice third-place finish while Arizona State placed fourth. SMU led after 36 holes before dropping seven spots on Tuesday and ending up eighth, just behind Pepperdine.
Those around the Texas program know that junior Pierceson Coody is tough to beat at UT Golf Club in Austin. Whether that’s in qualifying or this week’s George Hannon Invitational, where Coody shot 11 under and clipped the field by four shots.
Coody’s performance led the Longhorns to their first victory of the spring. Texas, which was coming off a seventh-place finish at the Cabo Collegiate, shot 17 under to catch and pass Oklahoma, which finished tied for second with Texas Tech, eight shots back.
Junior Cole Hammer and sophomore Mason Nome added top-10s for the Longhorns, Hammer, a two-time Walker Cupper, finishing T-3 and Nome, a former AJGA All-American who has returned to nice form following years of re-tooling his swing, shared eighth. Travis Vick and Will Thomson, playing as individuals, each tied for ninth.
The Sooners were paced by Logan McAllister, who finished runner-up and helped offset a rare off-week by Patrick Welch, a Haskins contender before tying for 50th.
The Red Raiders continue to be without senior Sandy Scott, though sophomore Ludvig Aberg keeps playing elite golf, closing in 65 and tying for third.
Baylor, meanwhile, has now begun the spring with finishes of seventh, 11th and T-9.
Talking college golf
In this week’s episode of College Golf Talk, Burko and Brentley assess the spring season so far, looking at South Carolina women’s win in Augusta and talking current player of the year candidates. They close by talking some college hoops and offer their picks for March Madness.
‘Biggest win we’ve ever had’
In the theme of March Madness, one mid-major pulled off an upset victory on Tuesday at the Briar’s Creek Women’s Invitational.
College of Charleston, the event’s host, beat Miami by a shot, the results of a final-hole birdie make by senior Victoria Huskey, to win the team title in wire-to-wire fashion. The Cougars also boasted the individual winner in freshman Viktoria Hund, who beat Ohio State’s Aneka Seumanutafa, an Annika Award contender, by two shots.
The victory came a year to the day of the COVID-19 shutdown, which canceled the Cougars’ season while they were playing a practice round for this tournament.
“Last year, COVID made us stop here,” said College of Charleston head coach Jamie Futrell, who now is tied for 13th among active D-I coaches with 31 career victories. “To come back, and win this golf tournament a year later, is just unbelievable for us. We beat a lot of great teams. This is the biggest win we've ever had in the history of our program.”