A few weeks back I published an article detailing just how amazing team golf is via the 2017 Zurich Classic. Perhaps one of the most underrated events in all of golf occurred this past week/weekend in the form of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship. Hosted by Northern Illinois University, the event took place at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. Located roughly 50 miles from Chicago, the event featured the nations best teams and individuals in the quest for glory and a national title.
For those unfamiliar with the format, here it is:
The first four days consist of stroke play, with a cut after the first three rounds. This is how the individual winner is picked. Ones stroke play score also contributes to the team score as the top 8 teams advance to the match play stage to determine the team national champion in a 5-man, match-play, single-elimination, bracket format.
Here are the week’s flops and gimme’s:
Scottie Scheffler: After a strong season for the University of Texas, Scheffler entered the final day of individual competition with a three-stroke lead. You ask any golfer, if you don’t hold that lead on the final day they surely ought to end up in the flop category. The 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur champion was unable to hang on during the last round shooting himself out of the competition with a lack luster 78, ten strokes worse than his previous three days. He finished with a 282 total (68-68-68-78) and ultimately fell five shots short of Braden Thornberry, an individual competitor from Ole Miss. Texas also failed to make the cut for the team match play. Tough week for the Horns.
Maverick McNealy: The Stanford product was large expected to compete for the individual title at this years Championships. Ranked as the number two amateur golfer in the world and with a resume to support it, he failed to execute. McNealy didn’t even manage to make the cut of the individual portion of the event. Tapped as the third overall competitor, McNealy fired rounds of 76-71-74 to fall below the cut line and out of contention. A great career at Stanford comes to an early end as many expect him to leave in favor of the professional game. Golf fans will hear his name again soon, it just wasn’t heard as much as expected this past week.
Illinois: Although the event was hosted by Northern Illinois University. The boys from the University of Illinois will surely be disappointed with their finish. After qualifying as the third seed for the team portion of the event, the Fighting Illini were bounced by the eventual champions, the Sooners from Oklahoma. Led by Nick Hardy and their legendary coach Mike Small, the Big Ten champions came up short again in the match play portion. Having made the match play in six of the last seven years, when will they finally seal the deal and go home with a team trophy?
Boomer Sooner: Pistol Pete? Go ‘Pokes? Nope. This time around the Sooners from the great state of Oklahoma emerged victorious from the team match play. They beat in conference rivals Baylor 3-2 in the quarters, in-state sweethearts Illinois 3-1-1 in the semis and defeated defending national champions Oregon 3-1-1 in the finals. It was the Sooners second ever team victory and first since their triumph in 1989. Oklahoma had been running a campaign stating it was #OUrTIME and it was their time. Boomer Sooner!
Braden Thornberry: Just as Scottie wasn’t able to hang onto the lead, Braden was quick to pounce on it when it mattered. The final day saw Thornberry holding up the Individual Trophy. Thornberry was representing Ole Miss as an individual on the final day as the rest of his teammates had missed the cut. That meant that he had essentially no reservations and could go out and play for his own cause. He entered the final day three shots back and only needed to go about his business to seal the deal. He ultimately won by four strokes at 11-under par, a total of 277 (66-71-69-71). A nice victory for Ole Miss and the SEC.
All in all, it was a good week of golf in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The course was pretty, the play was exciting and the matches were as good as ever. It is nice to see so many young stars representing their respective universities, plus you get to know some of the guys before they go on tour. Hats off the NCAA for another great event.