The Conference Championships are a wrap and college golf begins it’s march to crowning a National Champion at the end of May. The 2016-2017 season has seen the top of the rankings be a state of flux with USC, Florida and Vanderbilt all holding the top spot for periods of time.
Here’s a quick rundown of the players with the best chance at earning end of season awards such as the Ben Hogan, Fred Haskins and Nicklaus Awards.
Wyndham Clark – Oregon – Senior
The transfer from Oklahoma State was forced to sit out the 2015-2016 season and watched as his teammates hoisted the team championship and former star Aaron Wise won the individual title. Clark has filled Wise’s shoes as the Ducks leader and star and is the number one ranked player in both the Golfweek and Golfstat rankings and a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award given to the best amateur. Clark won the Pac-12 Championships, the Arizona Intercollegiate, co-medaled at the Wyoming Desert Collegiate and finished runner-up on three other occasions. Clark has been Oregon’s rock, registering only one finish outside of the top ten, a t13th at the ultra-competitive Goodwin Invitational.
Sam Burns – LSU – Sophomore
The LSU star was scintillating during his Sophomore season never finishing outside of the top ten and winning three times including the prestigious Sun Bowl. Burns ranks second in the Golfweek Sagarin Rankings and third in the Golfstat rankings and picked up Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Burns and the Tigers head into the postseason as one of the biggest National Championship contenders.
Illinois' Dylan Meyer
Dylan Meyer – Illinois – Junior
The reigning Western Amateur champion ended the season on a tear winning his last three starts which included the 3M Augusta Collegiate and the Big Ten Championships. To go along with his three wins, Meyer also notched three runner-up finishes during the season. His spectacular play earned him a spot among the three finalists for the Hogan Award and he was recently named Big 10 Player of the Year. With the NCAA’s in Illinois’ backyard at the tricky Rich Harvest Farms, expect Meyer to play well and contend for the National Championship.
Maverick McNealy – Stanford – Senior
The world’s top ranked amateur put together another strong season, notching top ten finishes in six of his nine starts and winning once. McNealy’s win tied him with Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers for most in school history and he will head to Regionals and the NCAA’s looking for one more to set the record. McNealy is a finalist for the Hogan Award for the third year in a row and ranks third in Golfweek’s Sagarin Rankings and 6th in the Golfstat ranks.
Collin Morikawa – California – Sophomore
Morikawa’s name hit golf’s mainstream this summer after he fell in a playoff to Ollie Schniederjans at the Web Tour’s Air Capital Classic. Morikawa is one of the most talented players in college golf and won the ASU Thunderbird Invitational and also co-medaled at the spring’s preeminent event, the Southern Highlands Collegiate. Morikawa finished outside the top ten just twice this season and given Cal’s struggles might have to make it to Nationals as an individual.
Braden Thornberry – Ole Miss – Sophomore
One of the season’s surprises was Ole Miss’ Braden Thornberry who made the leap to one of the nation’s elite amateur players. Thornberry won three times during the season, co-medaled once and also grabbed the prestigious Jones Cup Invitational title during winter break. Thornberry also notched an impressive t3rd finish at the SEC Conference Championship and a runner-up at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate. Thornberry is in the mix for Player of the Year with his four wins and second best scoring average in the country.
Patrick Martin – Vanderbilt – Sophomore
Often overshadowed by his star teammate Mattias Schwab, Vandy’s Patrick Martin has been fantastic during his Sophomore season never finishing outside the top 21 in a tournament and notching a win at the talent filled Schenkel Invitational. Martin individually ranks fourth on the Golfstat rankings and sixth in the Golfweek rankings and has been the best player on the top ranked Commodores.
Ale Tosti – Florida – Sophomore
Much like Martin, Tosti is often overshadowed by his star teammate Sam Horsfield, but this season he has been the fifth ranked Gators player. Tosti notched big wins at the SEC Championships and the Tavistock Collegiates against two of the best fields in golf. To go along with the big time wins, Tosti also has a runner up, third place and two other top ten finishes on the season. Tosti will also head to Rich Harvest Farms with a lot of familiarity having finished t17th at the 2015 Western Amateur.
Will Zalatoris – Wake Forest – Junior
One of the nation’s most consistent players has been the Demon Deacons standout Will Zalatoris who has notched top five finishes in half of his starts. Zalatoris won the spring season’s General Hackler Championship and has three other runner-up finishes during the season and a strong t5th at the ACC Championships. The Texas native sits fourth and sixth in Golfweek and Golfstat rankings heading into Regionals.
More standouts to know: Rico Hoey (USC), Nick Hardy (Illinois), Jimmy Stanger (Virginia), Sean Crocker (USC), Doug Ghim (Texas), Jared DuToit (ASU), Matthias Schwab (Vanderbilt), Scottie Scheffler (Texas), Greyson Sigg (Georgia), Chandler Phillips (Texas A&M), Zac Olsen (Oklahoma State), Dylan Wu (Northwestern), Cameron Champ (Texas A&M), Cristobal Del Solar (Florida State)
Much like college basketball, the youth invasion is in full force in college golf with younger players making an immediate impact and proving vital to many of the top teams success. Here are a few of the Freshman that have been most impressive during their first years and stand the best chance at earning the Phil Mickelson Award given to the nation’s top Freshman
Norman Xiong – Oregon
Xiong has been one of the best players regardless of class in college golf and is a big reason why Oregon will head into the postseason with an excellent chance to repeat as National Champions. He is long and a remarkably consistent ball-striker and the results show, Xiong finished no worse than 20th all season notching a co-medalist finish at the Arizona Intercollegiate and top ten finishes at big time events such as the Amer Ari, Western Intercollegiate and the Goodwin.
Doc Redman – Clemson
Along with Xiong, Clemson’s Doc Redman was the only other Freshman to make the Nicklaus Award’s semifinalists list. Redman has been prodigious, setting numerous records at the tradition rich Clemson program including most top tens by a Freshman (7), lowest 54 hole score and his 70.36 scoring average is second best in school history! Redman also won twice at the stacked Ka’anapali Classic and the Jackrabbit Invitational and is a big reason why Clemson is a legitimate title contender.
Michael Feagles – Illinois
The Big Ten Freshman of the Year has been a big part of Illinois success providing stability at the bottom of the Illini’s lineup. Feagles notched four top five finishes on the season and never finished worse than 32nd in an event.
USC's Freshman Cheng Jin
Cheng Jin – USC
You may recognize this name from the 2016 Masters, where Jin qualified by winning the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur. Jin had quite the junior career in Asia winning numerous amateur events and even a PGA Tour China event and was one of the more decorated recruits. Jin’s been a strong contributor for the Trojans, notching his best finish at one of the best fields in college golf, a tie for third at the Southern Highlands Intercollegiate.
James Augenstein – Vanderbilt
The SEC Freshman of the Year has been an integral part of the top ranked Commodores success notching four top tens in his Freshman campaign. Augenstein proved that no moment was too big in the match play portion of the SEC Championships where he won in extra holes in both the Semifinals and Finals to clinch wins for Commodores.
Andy Zhang – Florida
The top ranked recruit in the class of 2016 hasn’t disappointed, notching five top 20 finishes in his seven starts. Zhang has been a consistent contributor for the title contending Gators with a scoring average of 72.05 and earned SEC All-Freshman honors.
Chen An-Yu – Arizona State
Chen An-Yu who goes by Kevin, joined the Arizona State program in the spring and has made an immediate impact, and he has been a big reason the Sun Devils have a good shot at earning a place in the National Championships. Yu joined the program after a decorated junior career which included the 2015 Western Junior and Junior Players, and he continued his winning ways at the collegiate level medaling in just his third start, the National Invitational Tournament. Besides the win, Kevin also finished runner-up at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational and notched two other top 20 finishes in just seven starts.
Philip Barbaree – LSU
One of the youngest Freshman is Barbaree who graduated early to join the Tigers for their spring season and title run. At one point, Barbaree was the top ranked junior in the country and has bolstered the back half of the Tigers lineup, playing in seven events and notching four top 25s.
We will be ramping up our college coverage with the NCAA’s right around the corner. Look for our preview of the teams to watch soon.