The orange army at the NCAA finals (OSU Athletics photo)
With another year of college golf in the books, we took a look back at the major storylines from 2018:
USC comes back from beyond
Comeback of the year easily belongs to USC after a stunning win to end the season at the St. Mary’s Invitational. The Trojans were 17 shots back to start the final round, closed with a 9-under 265 at Poppy Hills Golf Club (which was 14 shots better than any other team) and ended up with an eight-shot win.
Those are unheard-of numbers within the USC program.
“Making a 17-shot comeback takes great play by everyone on the team so I think it shows the confidence that we have in ourselves and each other that we were able to accomplish that,” USC junior Kyle Suppa said.
Peter Kuest shoots 61, but it’s no 59
Peter Kuest spent more time in the 60s than in the 70s this fall season. He won three times, including at the Poppy Hills Golf Club in Pebble Beach, Calif., for the season-finale St. Mary’s Invitational. Kuest opened with a 10-under 61 that included eight birdies and an eagle. We continue to wait for a 59 in college golf competition. We should note that this round went on record during practice:
Matthew Wolff goes undefeated in the fall season
Wolff garnered attention during his freshman season at Oklahoma State with his unorthodox – yet powerful – golf swing as the Cowboys cruised to a national title at home in Stillwater, Okla. (see more below). When Wolff came back as a sophomore, he did something that’s believed to be a first in Oklahoma State’s deep history books: go undefeated in stroke play in the fall season. Wolff won the Carmel Cup and Fighting Illini titles, then tied teammate Viktor Hovland for the Royal Oaks Collegiate title. Oklahoma State’s other two fall start were in match-play events.
OSU domination in front of an orange army
It was Wolff’s 15-foot birdie putt that clinched the national title for Oklahoma State
as they totally overwhelmed Alabama on their home course, Karsten Creek, and won 5-0. This was the first time the No. 1 seed won the NCAA Championship, and the first time Oklahoma State had won at its home course and under the match-play format that was instituted in 2009. Fittingly, the fairways were filled
with home-team fans, all decked out in orange.
College golf gets a reality TV show
The sport certainly hit a milestone during the spring season when the Golf Channel produced a four-part reality series documenting the history behind Oklahoma State’s storied golf program and also highlighting the Cowboys’ rivalry with Oklahoma, the 2017 national champs. The show shined a light on the players from each team and opened the doors to their facilities. It was a fascinating inside look at college golf, produced by former Cowboy Rickie Fowler, who now plays on the PGA Tour.
The show will return this year, by the way, and highlight the Alabama-Auburn rivalry.
Top teams meet in match play, and early
If there was something disappointing about the national championship, then it was the way the match-play bracket set up in the first round. Oklahoma State took the No. 1 spot on the match-play bracket but drew as the No. 8 seed the No. 2-ranked team in the country. It was an unfortunate match-up in the first round – more like something you want to see in the championship match – and the Cowboys obviously prevailed. It brought up much debate among coaches, media and fans as to whether another format change might be needed to put more stock in a team’s year-long body of work rather than its 72-hole score in national-championship stroke play.
Broc Everett gets his NCAA title
A national title was a sweet way for Augusta fifth-year senior Broc Everett
to close his college career. Everett played the tournament slow and steady, with three consecutive rounds of 2-under 70 to open. A final-round 71 left him tied with Auburn freshman Brandon Mancheno and forced a sudden-death playoff between two left-handers for the title. Everett won with birdie.
The best part about the whole thing? For Everett, an Iowa native, the NCAA title was his first college victory.
How ‘bout those Blue Devils
The Blue Devils kept popping up in all the right places in 2018, including match play at the NCAA Championship. Duke advanced to match play at the No. 2 seed, beat Texas in the first round then fell to eventual runner-up Alabama. Duke, which finished the fall ranked No. 2 by Golfweek
, won twice in the first half of the season, including in a deep Nike Collegiate field. Keep an eye out for Duke as the calendar turns.
Lynn gets its first D-II national title
One of the indicators of growth in college golf is when new teams break through for national titles. In 2018, that was Lynn University, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based Division II school that won its first national title after finishing as runner-up four times. (The Division II national champion is decided using a medal match-play format.) Lynn's seven match play appearances and five national title matches is an NCAA record.
What will Thornberry do?
Only three amateurs advanced to the final stage of Web.com Tour Qualifying School, and only one of those amateurs was a current college player. Ole Miss senior Braden Thornberry
, who won the Haskins Award and the NCAA individual title in 2017, will tee it up next month in an effort to gain his card. Whether he leaves or not depends on whether he has a place to play.
“It could be worth it, it might not; that’s kind of the gray area right now,” Thornberry told Golfweek.
“Basically, (top 40), I’m gone. If I finish low to the pack, I’m staying in school. And in the middle, I’ll figure it out.”