Nine for '19, No. 2: Mid-majors, underdogs and D-2 powerhouses
With a new college golf season approaching, we present our “Nine for ‘19” series. In the countdown to the first major weekend of college competition, we take a look at the nine best storylines for the fall. Consider this your primer for one of our favorite parts of the game.
William Holcomb (USGA/Chris Keane)
Perhaps no program shows what’s possible for a mid-major quite like Kent State’s women. There are many angles from which to view Golden Flash success, not the least of which is the streak of 21 consecutive Mid-American Conference titles they’ve collected. They’ve advanced to the NCAA match-play bracket two of the past three years and ended last season ranked No. 11 by Golfweek
Under new leadership this season, Kent State continues to thrive. They lost just one body from the player roster at the end of last season: Augusta National Women’s Amateur invitee Michaela Finn. Despite that, Kent State won the season-opening Dick McGuire Invitational.
“Winning doesn't come easy in college golf,” new head coach Lisa Strom said at the end of the Dick McGuire, but Kent State remains a poster child for mid-major success.
These are some of the most intriguing stories in golf – competing on the national stage without having the recruiting draw of a major school in a power conference. It’s not just Kent State.
Campbell’s women outperformed last year, too, and only barely missed an NCAA berth (they finished eighth at the NCAA East Lansing Regional, two spots out of advancing.
But eighth was Campbell’s worst finish of the season. Before that, the Camels had won three times and never finished any worse than fifth, which included some major fields – T2 at the Florida Gators Invitational and third at Briar’s Creek. Among their victories was the LSU Tiger Classic.
Campbell only lost one senior from last year.
Louisville men, meanwhile, will lean hard on a sophomore. Matthias Schmid returns this season after winning the European Amateur Championship, which scored him a start in the Open Championship.
Schmid led Louisville in seven of 14 starts last season anyway and had the lowest scoring average on the team. The supporting cast was equally strong, however, with two other players averaging under par. The top four players return.
More than any other mid-major, perhaps, Sam Houston State has made headlines at the highest level over the past six months. Bearkat senior Hanna Alberto was invited to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last spring and won the Texas Women’s Amateur over the summer. William Holcomb IV made, perhaps, far more noise last month because of his nature. The affable senior advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur, chattering and telling jokes the whole way.
Already, the Sam Houston State men have opened their season by winning the Sam Hall Intercollegiate title.
Division II golf doesn’t get nearly the headlines that it should, considering the caliber of golf happening there, but here’s at least one reason to pay attention. Lynn didn’t lose a single man from its two-time defending national title squad. Lincoln Memorial, the gutsy team that went up against Lynn in the medal-match play final, only lost one.
On the women’s side, Indianapolis has been a powerhouse for the past few years, winning two national titles since 2015. Despite losing two players from last year’s squad – which won six times and made NCAA match play – Indy’s women won their own UIndy Invitational to start the season. The Greyhounds will make two appearances in Division I-dominant events this fall, starting with the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational later this month.
If there’s one thing to know for this season, it’s that there’s high-caliber golf taking place in more places than just the Pac 12 and the SEC.