Would you look at the time, it’s officially March o’clock.The flipping of the calendar means we are already over a month into the college golf season. Spring is always an interesting time for collegiate golfers because the northern teams have not had much time to play outside and the southern teams tend to dominate. Anywho, let’s get right to it.
Cliff Notes (like real college students)
Texas A&M = Very Good.
Oklahoma State = Very Good
Pepperdine = Good (Maybe crooked?)
Hayden Buckley = Very Good
SEC = I declared a winner in March (It’s Vanderbilt)
Purdue = Potentially Good
Kent State = Keep an eye on them
PAC 12 = Posturing for Position
March = There will be madness
Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are still good at golf
Yeah, believe it or not, 2 of the top 3 teams in the nation have started strong.
Oklahoma St. started with a dominant performance in Hawaii at the Amer Ari Invitational. The Cowboys stepped off the plane and shot a cool 47 under par, winning by 17 shots. They blew away one of the strongest fields we’ll see this spring in an extremely impressive manner. A couple weeks later they traveled to California and won at PGA West. Unlike their first win, OSU played their final stretch of holes -5 as a team and squeaked out a win over Pepperdine by 1 shot. They can win going away or scratch and claw their way to victory, a scary realization for the rest of the teams in the nation. They are so deep that even their individuals win tournaments. While the team had an off week Austin Eckroat tied for first at the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate. Needless to say, they have big plans this spring.
The Aggies also started out the spring with two victories in their first three starts. Their first win was by 17 shots in Hawaii and they won by 8 shots in Louisiana. In Hawaii they were 6 shots back going into the final round before shooting -14 under and running away from the field. Chandler Phillips shot 3 rounds in the 60s as the Aggies rolled out in the Pacific. Their second win was more of a dogfight with Illinois but they pulled away in the end. Phillips finished in 5th place while his teammate Dan Erickson won at -10. They also tallied a runner-up finish to Arizona in their first tournament. Some would say two wins and a runner-up is pretty good.
Riding the Wave
Pepperdine struggled last fall but has started the spring with a win and two runner-up finishes. HOWEVER...I am stamping a huge asterisk on their win. The Waves won their home tournament by 37 shots over second place and only 4 teams came within 50 shots. This feels like a tournament meant to pump up their resume. This isn’t to say that they are overrated...potentially crooked...but not overrated. Pepperdine came within a shot of knocking off Oklahoma St. at PGA West and finished runner-up the following week at the Southwestern Invitational. Sahith Theegala has a win and two other top 16 finishes while Clay Feagler has come on strong this spring. Feagler, a sophomore from California, already has a win and two other top 6 finishes in their first three tournaments. At PGA West, Feagler outlasted All-American Norman Xiong for a one-shot victory. If Theegala and Feagler stay hot, the Waves might just find their way to Stillwater for the NCAAs.
Hayden is bucking his head
1st,T28,1st,2nd,1st. Those are Hayden Buckley’s finishes this year. The Missouri senior has burst onto the national scene after having a fairly average first three seasons. His three wins have propelled him to 4th place in the Sagarin rankings and put him in the running for many collegiate awards. In his 15 rounds this year he has only had one round over par. That is mind-numbingly good. The SEC is full of great players on great teams and I cannot wait to watch them all collide at the SEC Championship in April.
Speaking of which
Vanderbilt is going to win the SEC. Yes, I spent a lot of time up there (↑) telling you that Texas A&M is amazing. Yes, Alabama is crazy deep and has two players, Davis Riley and Lee Hodges, who can win every tournament. Yes, Auburn, Florida, and LSU are all in the top 10. I don’t care. The Commodores have impressed me every time they’ve played a tournament and I think they are hungry to prove they are the best team in the country. Check back for the March Report Card when I completely backtrack because Texas A&M has boat-raced everyone they've played in March.
The Other Coast
Similar to the SEC, the PAC 12 has a lot of talent. Stanford, USC, Cal, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Arizona St, and UCLA are all very good teams. They have all come out firing in the spring. UCLA and Cal both won by 20 shots in their last starts. USC is always dangerous with Justin Suh leading the way, same with Oregon and Norman Xiong. You know how all the speed skaters at the Olympics just kinda chill until the last two laps? That’s what the PAC 12 is doing. They are in one giant pack but no one team is separating itself just yet. They play a lot of tournaments with each other in March so we’ll see if that changes. If I had to make a pick right now I would say Cal. Collin Morikawa and Sebastian Crampton have lead the Bears to a great season thus far and have the ability to make a run in the postseason.
1. Clemson came out strong with a win at the Puerto Rico Classic. I’m not here to say I told you so but I told you so. My college roundup last month called for Clemson to pick it up and so far they have. Go me...and Clemson I guess.
2. Purdue might be good. The jury is still out but I think they can give Illinois a run for their money in the Big 10 this year. They started the spring with a T1 at the Big 10 Match Play tournament and finished 3rd in Puerto Rico. The Boilermakers fell in the final round to Clemson but put up an impressive showing against some of the country’s best teams.
3. It’s time for some MACtion. Kent State has not tallied a win yet this season but the Golden Flashes (yes that is their mascot) have shown potential. They shouldn’t have any trouble winning the MAC and their regional tournament brings a good litmus test. Senior Ian Holt is leading the team in scoring average and already has an individual win this season. They will be the mid-major to keep an eye on this spring.
4. Baylor has quietly secured their position as one of the top teams in the country. They have finished in the top 4 of every tournament this year and are always in contention. Braden Bailey has already tallied a win this spring and the Bears look ready to make a run at Oklahoma St. in the Big 12 Championship.
5. TCU is yet another Big 12 team ready to make a run. They won the Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate by one shot over Georgia in February on an extremely tough day. Stefano Mazzoli beat the field average by 13 shots as he shot 65 in the final round to claim individual honors.
Querencia Cabo Collegiate - March 4-6
(Oklahoma St., Vanderbilt, Baylor, Texas, Cal)
Querencia Golf Club; Los Cabo, MX
Southern Highlands Collegiate - March 5-7
(Alabama, Illinois, Oklahoma, Pepperdine, Texas Tech, USC)
Southern Highlands Golf Club; Las Vegas, NV
General Hackler Championship - March 10-11
(Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Kent State)
The Dunes Golf Club; Myrtle Beach, SC
Bandon Dunes Championship - March 11-13
(Arizona St., Clemson, Oregon)
Pacific Dunes; Bandon, OR
Lamkin San Diego Classic - March 12-13
(Arizona, Oklahoma St, Ole Miss, Texas, Texas Tech, North Carolina)
San Diego Country Club; San Diego, CA
Valspar Collegiate - March 18-20
(Oklahoma St., Baylor, Georgia Tech, Pepperdine, Texas, LSU, Duke, Arkansas)
Floridian; Palm City, FL
Hootie at Bulls Bay - March 25-27
(Auburn, Kent State, Missouri, Ole Miss)
Bulls Bay Golf Club; Awendaw, SC
The Goodwin - March 29-31
(California, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford, UNLV, USC, Arizona St.)
TPC Harding Park; San Francisco, CA
3M Augusta Collegiate - March 31-April 1
(Illinois, UCLA, Wake Forest, Tennessee, UCF)
Forest Hills; Augusta, GA