Colleges With Great Golf Programs
These 10 Schools Can Justifiably Be Called A Golf College
If you’re a fan of the University of Alabama football team, you might still be depressed about their humiliating defeat at the hands of Clemson University in the 2018 season championship. You might be busy saying “we’ll get them next year” because, frankly, the Crimson Tide gridiron squad isn’t generally down for long.
On the other hand, one year is an awful long time to wait for redemption. What should you do before the football season starts on Aug. 31? Well, there is a great alternative for Alabama fans -- the college’s golf program. The men’s and women’s season began in January and concludes with the NCAA championships in late May.
Alabama is one of the top golf colleges in the country. Like the school’s football team, the men’s and women’s golf teams were the runner-ups in the 2018 season NCAA championships. The women’s team, like the football team seemingly always is, is the favorite to win the 2019 title, according to Golfweek’s preseason rankings. The women won the 2012 NCAA title, the school’s first in a sport other than football and gymnastics. Emma Talley won the NCAA individual title in 2015.
Alabama’s men’s college golf team isn’t as highly touted as the women’s team in 2019, ranking 11th in Golfweek’s preseason rankings, but it might be a better program historically. It won the 2013 AND 2014 NCAA titles and was second in 2012. Yes, Alabama almost won the football title and both golf titles in 2012. The 2012 and 2013 teams were led by Justin Thomas, the No. 1 ranked professional golfer in the world for part of 2018.
Alabama is one of many colleges with golf programs that are outstanding. This article details the greatness of 10 programs. They are listed in alphabetical order.
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA:
Besides what has already been mentioned, the Crimson Tide's teams have been outstanding since Jay Seawell became the men's coach in 2002 and Mic Potter became the women's coach in 2006. Jerry Pate, the 1976 U.S. Open champion, won the U.S. Amateur title while playing for Bama.
THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA:
The men’s golf program has been very successful. Future U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk led Arizona to the 1992 NCAA title and the Wildcats’ other alumni include majors runner-ups Ricky Barnes and Rory Sabbatini. The women’s program, though, has been better. Arizona won the 2018 title and is third all-time with three national titles. Its alumni include two of the best golfers ever -- Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa. Sorenstam won the 1991 NCAA title and was the 1992 runner-up before winning 10 majors and 72 LPGA titles. Ochoa was the NCAA runner-up twice before becoming the world’s No. 1 player for a record 158 straight weeks from 2007 to 2010.
The Sun Devils have won an NCAA record eight women’s golf titles. They were dominant in the 1990s with six titles in nine years and also won titles in 2009 and 2017. Their 10 individual champions include World Golf Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner, who won in 1960, and 2017 champion Monica Vaughn. As for the men, we have two words -- Phil Mickelson. Lefty might be the best ever in college golf along with Ben Crenshaw. They are the only winners of three NCAA titles. Mickelson also led Arizona State to the team title in 1990 and a second-place finish in 1992. Arizona State also won the team title in 1996 and individual titles in 1983, 1993, and 2003.
Duke and Alabama were the only colleges with golf programs that finished in the top eight in the men’s and women’s 2018 championships. The Blue Devils made the men’s semis in 2018 and the women are ranked No. 4 in 2019. Can Duke be more of a golf college than a basketball college? The men’s basketball team has won five NCAA titles; the women’s golf team has won six, second to Arizona State. Duke won the college golf title in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2014. Coach Dan Brooks has more titles than basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. Yes, we spelled that name right without research.
UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON:
The Cougars haven’t been a national contender in recent years, but not calling Houston a top golf college is like not calling UCLA a top basketball college because it has struggled so much this season that it fired coach Steve Alford. Houston has won 16 NCAA men’s golf titles. That is the most of any school. All of those titles were between 1956 and 1985. The school has also won eight individual titles. NCAA champ John Mahaffey and Cougars’ alums Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Bill Rogers, and Fuzzy Zoeller all won PGA major titles. Houston golfer Jim Nantz was the broadcaster who called some of their wins.
The Tigers have won five NCAA men’s golf titles, the fourth most ever. Their most recent national crown was in 2015, but the school might have had a better year in 2011 when the men’s and women’s individual titles were both won by LSU students -- John Peterson and Austin Ernst, who was second in the 2018 Evian Championship. Fred Haas and Earl Stewart also won individual college golf titles for the Tigers. LSU is ranked No. 6 in men’s golf for the 2019 season.
The Cowboys have qualified for the NCAA men’s tournament 71 times in 72 years. That alone makes Oklahoma State one of the USA’s top golf colleges, but there’s more, much more. The Cowboys have won 11 team titles, second to Houston, and nine of its golfers, including Charles Howell III and Scott Verplank, have won individual titles. The school’s other top PGA players include brothers Danny and David Edwards, Rickie Fowler, Mark Hayes, Hunter Mahan, and Bob Tway. Oklahoma State won the 2018 men’s title and is ranked No. 1 in 2019. The women’s team finished second in 2004 and won the 2010 individual title.
UNIVERSITY OF OREGON:
Not traditionally one of the nation’s top golf colleges, the Ducks have been on the rise since Casey Martin, who became famous for playing on the PGA Tour with a birth defect and later successfully sued for the right to use a golf cart while playing in PGA events, became the school’s coach in 2006. Oregon won the 2016 NCAA men’s title and was the runner-up in 2017. Aaron Wise won the 2016 individual title and was the PGA Tour’s 2018 Rookie of the Year.
Stanford might have one of the nation’s top golf programs even if Tiger Woods had never played for the Cardinal (yes, it’s not the Cardinals). The men’s golf team has won seven NCAA titles, third behind Houston and Oklahoma State. Five of those titles were between 1939 and 1953, but the school is top-notch today. Only Alabama and Stanford are ranked in the top five in women’s golf and the top 13 in men’s golf in 2019. The women’s team won the 2015 title, finished second in 2016, and made the 2018 semis. Woods won the 1996 NCAA title, enrolling after Stanford won the 1994 team title and leading them to a runner-up finish in 1995.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS:
The Longhorns’ glory days were in the 1970s, but the men’s team made the 2018 quarterfinals and both teams are ranked in the top 15 in 2019. In the 1970s, Longhorn Ben Crenshaw won three consecutive NCAA titles, sharing one title with teammate Tom Kite, and led Texas to NCAA titles in 1971 and 1972. Justin Leonard led Texas to a second-place finish in 1994 while winning the individual title. Jordan Spieth led Texas to the 2012 title. Legendary instructor Harvey Penick was the Longhorns’ men’s coach from 1931 to 1963. One of his pupils was Longhorn player Betsy Rawls, a World Golf Hall of Famer who won eight majors.
Colleges with golf programs that are outstanding are not that hard to find. Most of them are in the South and West, but there are also quality programs in the Midwest, including Kent State and Northwestern, both of which finished in the top eight in the 2018 women’s quarterfinals, and Illinois, which produced the 2010 and 2012 men’s individual champions and finished second in the 2013 team competition.
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