Aug 22, 2013; Southampton, NY, USA; Golf clubs sit in a bag during a USA Walker Cup Team practice at The National Golf Links of America. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The men take the field now as the NCAA Division I Golf Championships continue into the 2nd week at Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida. They’re going to be hard-pressed to match the excitement of the women’s Championship contest last week, which involved some standout golf and wasn’t settled until Stanford’s Mariah Stackhouse dropped her final putt into the cup and took The Cardinal to it’s first-ever NCAA national title.
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The NCAA Division I Golf Championship is a grueling test of endurance. The Championship begins with a conventional stroke play competition that determines the individual champion and also selects the teams that advance to four rounds of match play.
The women’s championship was punctuated by impossible shots and high drama from start to finish. Alabama’s Emma Talley edged out the Razorback’s Gabby Lopez and Blue Devil freshman star Leona Maguire to claim the individual championship.
I thought it couldn’t get any better than Talley’s amazing final hole, her shot out of a fairway bunker to the green followed by a long birdie putt for the individual championship. That was Monday, but Tuesday and Wednesday brought more golf drama.
With Baylor and Stanford vying for their first national title and tied 2-2 early Wednesday evening after the first four championship matches had ended, the tension at Concession was palpable. It all came down to the lynchpin No. 5 pairing of Baylor senior Hayley Davis and Stanford junior Mariah Stackhouse.
Trailing by two points entering their final two holes, Stackhouse poured her heart into her game and roared back to trim Davis’ lead to one point on No. 17 then tie her on No. 18, forcing extra holes.
Garnet and Cocky
The playoff didn’t last long, with Davis missing her par putt on the par-four No. 10 and Stackhouse sticking hers to seal The Cardinal victory, but the new match-play format instituted for the 2015 Division 1 men’s and women’s tournaments has some new fans among players, coaches, and fans like me.
Now the men take the field, thirty of the nation’s best Division I teams and six standout individuals. and we begin the process again with just about every team and every individual looking hot.
South Florida is making the trip down the road to Bradenton as the host school in prime mental condition. Rookie head coach Steven Bradley helped the Bulls capture the New Haven Regional and advance to their first NCAA Division I Golf Championship.
The Bulls — who sat at No. 15 in the GCAA Coaches Poll heading into New Haven — had no easy task in winning their first Regional. South Florida took on national Top 20 powerhouses like Vanderbilt (No. 5), LSU (No. 7) and Oklahoma State (No. 19). The Bulls came out of the gates poised for victory and never looked back. Now we’ll see if they can maintain the momentum of the regionals.
UNC-Charlotte and USF bring some fresh blood to this year’s championship, and they’re facing some seasoned veterans. Stanford is a perennial threat, and this year they are led into the championships behind the amazing play of the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Maverick McNealy.
Championship stalwart Illinois will be making its eighth consecutive appearance at the DI Championships, but this year, they will be heading in ranked higher than they’ve ever been. The Illini are led by Brian Campbell, who won his second NCAA Regional title this year. The team is full of big names in college golf, as Nick Hardy and Charlie Danielson are also former Big Ten medalists.
Stroke play competition starts Friday and continues through the weekend, with the match play quarterfinals to follow. Golf Channel will provide coverage of the final stroke play round on Monday, June 1 and the match play on Tuesday, June 2 and Wednesday, June 3.
You can follow the individual and team action live on the NCAA electronic leaderboards and ProGolfNow will provide ongoing commentary throughout the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship. Follow us on Twitter @ProGolfNow and we’ll keep you updated.