No, They Didn’t Show Holly Naked
What they did do is give us the best Memorial Day present anyone could ask for by showing us the final round of stroke play competition from the NCAA Division 1 Championship. When this was announced in January I was thrilled about it by I wondered if TGC would fuck it up in some capacity. With the Memorial on the horizon and all sorts of other golf news going on, I figured they’d send the B crew out to Kansas and we’d get a bunch of tape delayed highlights. Nope, they sent their A squad and even had Notah Begay fresh back from his heart attack. Also on site were Charlie Rymer, Holly Sonders, Billy Ray Brown and Lanny Wadkins….all of which know a little something about college golf. Without a doubt in my mind, the Golf Channel came through with a gold medal performance in their Monday broadcast and the kids on the course didn’t disappoint either.
When the telecast started the focus was on which 8 teams would finish high enough to advance to the match play portion of the championship. Stanford was clearly going to be the top seed and held a large lead, but the 6 or 7 teams jockeying for the last few spots in the quarterfinals were changing places like horses down the back stretch of a Triple Crown Race. Houston was in for a while, then birdies from the Illinois and UCLA kids bounced them out. Heavy favorites like Cal and Georgia never really jumped up to challenge. Southern Methodist secured their spot in the quarters on the play of Bryson Dechambeau who donned a Payne Stewart style hat in homage to the former Mustang legend.
For the team competition, the ‘most impressive’ award has to go to the entire UCLA roster. Every time a Golf Channel camera went live on one of the Bruin players they were holing an eagle or birdie putt which lead to boys from Los Angeles securing the 6th seed. The other side of that coin was watching the misfortunes of a few South Carolina kids that made untimely bogies. They felt the pressure, they knew the situation, and they sent their team home with costly mistakes.
Mano Y Mano
As the final stroke play rounds came to a close TGC turned our attention to the game within the game, the individual championship. The match play quarterfinals are team v. team and therefore the individual NCAA champ is crowned after the stroke play concludes. For 2014 the battle for medalist came down to Ollie Schniederjans of Georgia Tech and Cameron Wilson of Stanford. Wilson’s Cardinal teammate and number 1 ranked amateur in the world, Patrick Rodgers, eventually felt the pressure to break Tiger’s school win record and fell several shots off the lead in his final 18.
After 72 holes Wilson and Schniederjans were tied at 6 under par. The twosome played a high level 3 hole playoff in which Wilson eventually won with a birdie. For the acceptance of the trophy and post round interviews Wilson donned what are known as ‘nerd power glasses’ that several other Stanford athletes have been seen in over the last 12 to 18 month. Palo Alto kids are so clever (sarcasm).
No Rest For The Weary
After 4 grueling rounds at Prairie Dunes any tournament golfer would be running on fumes. Thank god these athletes are 18 to 22 year olds that can get back on the horse and play another 36 holes on Tuesday. The team quarterfinals started early and have already been completed. Bama beat SMU, LSU beat UCLA, Okie State beat Georgia Tech, and Stanford scraped by a gutsy Illinois team.
The Golf Channel stepped up their coverage by adding retiring Hall of Fame golf coach Buddy Alexander from the University of Florida to their telecast as an analyst. Buddy is a nice addition because the strategy changes a bit in match play with how the coaches can stage their lineups. Will they front or back load? Will they walk with their players to provide advice or leave them be? These different aspects of golf from what we see on our courses or on TV for a PGA Tour event made the action very unique.
We also got to see kids using lasers to measure distances and push carts so they don’t have to carry their bags. Different but beautiful. The only hiccup in the whole deal is that TGC didn’t come back early and show the quarterfinals to us. We only saw highlight packages after play was complete. Perhaps this was simply part of the contract and the NCAA wanted to stream coverage on their site. I don’t know. Otherwise, this has all been very well done by Prairie Dunes, the NCAA and the Golf Channel. I can be pretty harsh on TGC and the NCAA more often than not, but giving us the level of coverage they’ve provided…..well, they hit it out of the park.