On The Tee: Looking Back on a Year Gone By
With the final curtain about to come down on 2011, I wanted to take a few minutes to look back on another amazing year in college athletics and our favorite sport, college golf.
Yes, 2011 will be remembered for many amazing things, not the least of which saw a freshman from California take the amateur golf world by storm, a small school in Georgia making it two in a row and the landscape in college athletics changed forever.
It has now been 37 years since this old coach first walked on the campus of McClennan Community College in Waco, Texas as a fuzzy cheeked freshman recruit. With the exception of 18 months following the sun and chasing my dream of playing for a living, I have been working in college golf in some position ever since. First, as a student-athlete, then as a 23 year old head coach at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas followed by 15 great years at the University of Oklahoma., and finally as an administrator for our coaches association (yes, the GCAA) here in my adopted hometown of Norman, America.
As I reflect back it is amazing to think how different the world of college athletics is today. Let’s see, the Big 12 has 10 schools, the Big 10 has 12 schools, the Big East is trying to figure out how many schools it has and San Diego State football is now in the Big East. Yes, the Aztecs of SDST are east of the University of Hawaii; but you get the point ….trying to keep up with the movement of NCAA Division II, III and NAIA schools is like watching the stock market go up and down.
While college sports headlines have been in all sections of the newspaper these past 12 months, our sport has continued to provide thrills, chills and enough drama to keep us coming back for more. The new breed of college coaches, under the age of 35, continues to ascend the coaching ladder in record numbers. Energetic assistant coaches are taking over at mid-majors and seasoned, while successful mid-major head coaches are taking over at flagship schools. The college golf junkie needs a racing form to keep up with all the jockey changes.
The accomplishments of our student-athletes have never been higher both in the classroom and on the course. We continue to see our scholar athletes increase in numbers while the scoring averages at all levels of college golf continues to go down. The newest generation of collegians is already leaving its mark with two members of the freshman class of 2011 having represented the USA in the Walker Cup before attending their first class.
Now that their professional tours are quiet for a few weeks, congratulations are in order for all of the former collegians who secured their playing privilege on the PGA, Nationwide or European Tours. Let us not forget the great performances of two Georgia Bulldogs who captured Nationwide wins while still playing for the love of the game, not money.
Finally, as the lights grow dim in anticipation of a new year, let us acknowledge just how much enjoyment the great game of golf provides us every time we step on the course, watch it on TV or read about it on our iPad. Thankfully, we still find college golfer’s highlights in the “correct” part of the newspaper, the sport section. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Golf Coach, Lamar University/University of Oklahoma 1981-2000