Vanderbilt, Alabama among midseason award winners
Ryan Herrington takes a look at the top players, coaches and programs at the midway point of the college golf season.
Except for the handful of schools spending Thanksgiving in Hawaii at the Aloha Purdue Collegiate -- rough life, playing college golf, huh? -- the first half of the 2006-07 campaign has come and gone. With roughly 10 weeks to catch their breath before beginning the spring march to the NCAA championship, players and programs must assess where they stand overall and consider how to repeat any success from the fall or recover from a disappointing start to the season.
And just who, exactly, will be doing the repeating and who is looking at recovering? Gaze no further than Campus Insider's second annual Midseason Awards package, a compendium that serves as both a review of the season to date and a primer for what's to come when players tee it up again in late January.
Midseason Players of the Year
Dustin Johnson, Coastal Carolina
Since first grabbing people's attention with a victory at the NCAA East Regional in 2005, the 6-foot-4 native of Myrtle Beach, S.C., has proved you don't have to play for a traditional power to succeed. This fall, however, Johnson has risen to the head of the class, winning the Coca-Cola Duke Classic and winding up as the top American at the International Collegiate and finishing no worse than T-8 in his four stroke-play events. In the process of posting a 70.33 stroke average, the senior has shot nine subpar rounds and just one higher than a 73.
Honorable mention: Colt Knost, SMU
Caroline Westrup, Florida State
The only thing that derailed the sophomore from Ahus, Sweden, this fall was an illness that forced her to withdraw midway through the Derby Invitational. Otherwise, Westrup's second-place finish at the Cougar Classic and a share of medalist honors at the Lady Tar Heel Invitational helped her record a nation's best 71.71 adjusted scoring average. To complement her collegiate success, she also was the unofficial individual champion at the Women's World Team Amateur Championship last month in South Africa, while leading her country to a second-place showing.
Honorable mention: Taylor Leon, Georgia
Midseason Coaches of the Year
Jay Seawell, Alabama
By his own admission, the 40-year-old doesn't have a superstar in his lineup, but with five of the six players who've teed it up for his team this fall sporting scoring averages of 72.17 or lower, he does have the deepest team in college golf. Thus explains the Crimson Tide's three victories in their first four starts and their first appearance at the top of the Golf World Coaches' Poll. After spending five years convincing anyone who would listen that Alabama could be a contender both in the SEC and nationally, he has developed a program that is a legitimate threat to win the NCAA title.
Honorable mention: Conrad Ray, Stanford
Martha Richards Freitag, Vanderbilt
Having established the Lady Commodores program in her first four years in Nashville, claiming the school's first SEC title in 2004 and best finish at nationals (fifth), only to see the momentum stop with a disappointing 2005 season, Freitag has Vanderbilt back among the elite. Back-to-back wins at the Lady Tar Heel and Stanford before finishing runner-up to Duke at the Hooters Match Play Championship demonstrated her 2006-07 squad is more than just the combined strength of All-Americans Jacqui Concolino and Chris Brady.
Honorable mention: Todd McCorkle, Georgia
Most Surprising Player
Matt Cook, Western Carolina
True, he had already rewritten the record book at the tiny school in Cullowhee, N.C., posting the Catamounts' first and second best single-season scoring averages in his first two years on campus. Still few would have guessed the junior from Murphy, N.C., would have the best scoring average among all Division I players -- 69.33 -- after the fall season. Thus far in five events, Cook has three victories, bringing his career total to eight wins.
Honorable mention: Zack Miller, Stanford
Brianna Broderick, Michigan
A year after posting a 78.42 average and finishing no better than 12th in any tournament, the 22-year-old senior has a 73.42 average and four top-four finishes in four starts. Capping the turnaround was a playoff victory over Ohio State's Dana Je at the Wolverine Invitational.
Honorable mention: Alison Walshe, Arizona
Most Surprising Team
A three-win fall and return to the national spotlight was something many golf cognoscenti figured the Cardinal were poised for in 2007. But with freshman Joseph Bramlett not missing a beat in joining the starting five and Miller winning three times individually, Conrad Ray has his alma mater positioned to contend for their first Pac-10 crown in 15 years.
Honorable mention: Florida
Come on, try to convince us your Magic 8 ball could have predicted the Pioneers would be the only program that would play more than three events in the fall and still have a perfect record. Six different Denver players have posted top-20 finishes, led by freshman sensation Stephanie Sherlock (two wins, four top-fives) and senior All-American candidate Emily Hoeper (one win, three top-fives). Strength of schedule -- or lack there of -- keeps them out of the top-10 nationally for now, but don't take Denver lightly come the spring.
Honorable mention: North Carolina
Most Disappointing Player
Seung-Su Han, UNLV
After winning the prestigious Porter Cup in the summer, the 2006 Mountain West freshman of the year looked ready to join the college elite. Instead, he has hit the proverbial sophomore slump: T-29 at Inverness followed by T-72 at Tucker. The South Korean native then was left off the travel squad at the Ping Preview and Callaway Match Play. His stroke average for the fall (76.83) is more than three shots higher than for the entire 2005-06 season (73.08).
Honorable mention: Webb Simpson, Wake Forest
Dewi-Claire Schreefel, USC
The 2006 NCAA individual champion hasn't given much indication she's ready to defend her title, posting no better than a T-17 showing in three falls starts. Meanwhile, the junior's 75.11 stroke average is only fourth best on the Trojans' squad.
Honorable mention: Da Sol Chung, UNLV
Most Disappointing Team
Granted, the Huskies lost former NCAA champ James Lepp to graduation and never seem to hit their stride in any year until the calendar reads April. Still, UW hasn't posted a top-five since its runner-up showing at its home event in September. There's too much talent on Matt Thurmond's team for no one to have a top-10 finish in the last three events the Huskies have competed in as a team.
Honorable mention: Wake Forest
Last year's Cinderella squad (six wins, 12 top-fives) has lost a bit of its luster as the Boilermakers have a fifth, 14th and T-11 to their credit entering next week's fall finale in Hawaii. Not sure whether it's a hangover from the disappointing ninth-place finish at 2006 NCAAs or the loss of standout Onnarin Sattayabanphot, but with four starters back from a year ago, you would have expected more out of West Lafayette.
Honorable mention: California
Most Improved Player
Daniel Summerhays, BYU
In 2005-06, the 22-year-old from Farmington, Utah, had a respectable 72.15 average in his first season back after serving a two-year Mormon mission. This fall, however, he has found a new gear posting a 69.33 average and matching the NCAA 18-hole stroke record with a 60 at Golden Horseshoe in September. Nine of 12 rounds are under par compared to 18 of 39 a year ago.
Honorable mention: Joseph Sykora, Alabama
Catherine Matranga, TCU
The senior from Fort Worth has shaved more than three strokes off her average from a year ago, posting a 72.42 mark this fall with a win (Dick McGuire), a T-2 and two other top-20 finishes. Recall that in 2005-06, the 21-year-old had just two top-10s in 12 starts overall.
Honorable mention: Lauren Hunt, North Carolina
Best Player You've Never Heard Of
Derek Fathauer, Louisville
The 20-year-old from Jensen Beach, Fla., had been as much curiosity as newsmaker in his first two years with the Cardinals, playing alongside identical twin brother Daryl (the two made a bit of history when both advanced to match play at the U.S. Amateur last August) and capturing the 2006 Big East individual title. This fall, Derek continued to shine in anonymity, winning twice and finishing no worse than T-5 in five starts.
Honorable Mention: Brian Locke, Loyola Marymount
Stephanie Sherlock, Denver
A two-sport high school star in Ontario, Sherlock saw her already stellar golf game (she was Canada's top female junior in 2005) blossom this fall after hanging up her basketball high-tops. With a victory in her first college start, the Oregon State Invitational, the 19-year-old followed it up with a T-5 and third-place showing in her next two events before closing the fall with a share of the title at the Lady Aztec Invitational.
Honorable mention: Misun Cho, Pepperdine
Best Player You'll Hear of by Season's End
Niklas Lemke, Arizona State
Rival coaches feared the day when the mental game of the 22-year-old from Sweden would catch up with his physical talents. The senior, considered among the longest hitters in the college game, broke through with his first career victory at the Olympia Fields/Illini Invitational after finishing second at the Topy Cup, then posted a T-3 at the Ping Preview. "All the pieces are starting to come together," said Lemke, a third-team All-American in 2006. "I know what I need to do to play good every tournament."
Honorable mention: Kyle Stanley, Clemson
Jacqui Concolino, Vanderbilt
There's no sophomore slump when talking about the 19-year-old from Orlando, whose worst finish this fall has been a T-11 after posting three top-10s. Concolino, the first freshman to earn All-American honors at Vanderbilt a year ago, can overpower a golf course like few in the women's game, and has nine top-10s in 14 career starts to prove it. A T-4 in the Golf Daytona Beach Fall Preview at LPGA International, site of next May's NCAA Championship, bodes well for Commodore fans.
Honorable mention: Anna Nordqvist, Arizona State
Biggest Question Mark Entering the Spring
Jonathan Moore, Oklahoma State
It would have been difficult for anyone to continue the torrid play that the Cowboy sophomore showed last spring when he swept his final three events, including the NCAA Championship, and put to rest the horrible slump that accompanied him upon his initial arrival to Stillwater, Okla. Still, coach Mike McGraw will look for more than a T-18 and T-24 showing from Moore (who missed two other starts to play for the U.S. at the World Team Amateur Championship) if OSU is to become the first repeat champions in the men's game since Houston in the mid-1980s.
Honorable mention: Charlie Beljan, New Mexico
Belen Mozo, USC
The 2006 Ladies British Open Amateur champion from Spain is expected to enroll in the spring semester. Those who've seen her play believe she could provide a major boost for the Trojans, who slipped from their preseason top-10 spot this fall but now might have the depth to contend for a national championship. Individually, Mozo also could quickly get herself into the hunt for player-of-the-year honors.
Honorable mention: Anna Grzebien, Duke
Midseason All-American Team
Charlie Beljan, New Mexico, Sr.
Matt Cook, Western Carolina, Jr.
Rhys Davies, East Tennessee State, Sr.
Derek Fathauer, Louisville, Jr.
Brian Harman, Georgia, Soph.
Billy Horschel, Florida, Soph.
Dustin Johnson, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
Colt Knost, SMU, Sr.
Niklas Lemke, Arizona State, Sr.
Jamie Lovemark, USC, Fr.
Zack Miller, Stanford, Sr.
Daniel Summerhays, BYU, Jr.
Amanda Blumenherst, Duke, Soph.
Brianna Broderick, Michigan, Sr.
Jacqui Concolino, Vanderbilt, Soph.
Ashley Knoll, Texas A&M, Sr.
Taylor Leon, Georgia, Soph.
Stacy Lewis, Arkansas, Jr.
Catherine Matranga, TCU, Sr.
Anna Nordqvist, Arizona State, Fr.
Stephanie Sherlock, Denver, Fr.
Jenny Suh, Alabama, Sr.
Alison Walshe, Arizona, Jr.
Caroline Westrup, Florida State, Soph.
Midseason All-Freshman Team
Jonathan Bowers, Northwestern
Joseph Bramlett, Stanford
Adam Long, Duke
Jamie Lovemark, USC
Stephan Stallworth, San Jose State
Kyle Stanley, Clemson
Misun Cho, Pepperdine
Jodi Ewart, New Mexico
Anna Nordqvist, Arizona State
Angela Oh, Tennessee
Stephanie Sherlock, Denver
Kate White, Nebraska
For more reporting on college golf from Golf World senior writer Ryan Herrington, visit his Campus Insider blog.