1. Oklahoma State
Perhaps no major college sports program combines success on the field and in the classroom as well as the Cowboys. Over the last 35 years, they have nine wins and nine seconds at the NCAA Championship; they've had eight NCAA medalists; and they've spawned dozens of tour pros. Also, the Cowboys have had nine of the 14 golfers who've been first-team athletic All-America and academic All-America in the same season.
The success is largely due to Mike Holder, who coached the Cowboys from 1973 to '05, when he became the school's athletic director. A brilliant and visionary motivator and teacher (he was emphasizing physical fitness long before it became popular in golf), Holder was also a strict disciplinarian. Players who bought into Holder's system thrived; others transferred out of Stillwater. Holder's replacement, Mike McGraw, who worked as an assistant to Holder for seven years, hasn't missed a beat. He led the Cowboys to the 2006 NCAA title, and this season's team is ranked sixth in the nation, led by freshman Rickie Fowler, above, the top-ranked collegian in the country.
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About the only thing the perennial powerhouse Bulldogs haven't done is produce a player who's won at Augusta National, which is just 100 miles east of Athens. But the way things are going at Georgia, that'll probably happen sooner than later. Georgia has won two of the last nine NCAA titles (2005, 1999) and four of the last eight SEC championships (2006 was the most recent).
This season's team could be the best yet; the Bulldogs are ranked first in the country and are led by a dynamic duo of homegrown freshman. Harris English, from Thomasville, Ga., is ranked third in the nation; Russell Henley, above, from Macon, is ninth. Coach Chris Haack lures recruits with his team's $1.2 million indoor practice facility; a $600,000 private team clubhouse replete with a lounge, kitchen computer work stations and leather sofas; and the stout 7,240-yard, par-71 Robert Trent Jones-designed Georgia Golf Course.
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How good have the Cardinal been in recent history? Well, Tiger Woods went to Stanford and the team got ... worse. Really. The Cardinal won the NCAAs in the spring of 1994, but then Woods arrived that fall and the team finished second in the '95 NCAAs and fourth the following year. (Tiger did win an individual NCAA crown, in '96, and then quit school.) Stanford has a long history of success, having won six NCAA titles between 1938 and '53. Also, Tom Watson played at Stanford, graduating in 1971.
The Cardinal got back into the NCAA winner's circle last June with a wire-to-wire 12-shot victory. The defending national champions are currently ranked ninth in the nation, and they're led by senior Rob Grube, who finished third at the '07 NCAAs, and Sihwan Kim, a freshman who has a team-best 71.6 scoring average.
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4. Arizona State
The Sun Devils are like Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company owned by Warren Buffett whose share price seems to go up no matter what the stock market does. While the college golf scene has fluctuated over time, the Sun Devils have always been stocked and NCAA contenders. In the last 20 years, they've finished worse than 11th at the NCAAs just four times and they've won twice, in 1990 and '96. Also, they've had five NCAA medalists in that time, including the three titles won by Phil Mickelson (1989, '90 and '92).
ASU's continuity is rooted in leadership: the team has had just four coaches over the last 45 years, and the current skipper, Randy Lein, has been in charge since 1993. Not surprisingly, the Sun Devils have generated a slew of tour pros, including Mickelson, Paul Casey and Billy Mayfair.
Recently, five more ASU alumni got 2008 Tour cards. Alejandro Canizares, Todd Demsey, above, and Jin Park got them at Q-school, while Matt Jones and Chez Reavie earned them by finishing in the top 25 on the Nationwide tour money list.
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For smaller schools, breaking into the upper echelon of college golf is nearly impossible. Second-tier programs rarely get invited to tournaments with top teams, and they can't get ranking points without beating top teams. But with a little luck, a gung-ho new coach and some overachieving young talent, Charlotte has managed to break the iron curtain that keeps the rich teams rich and everybody else poor.
Five years ago, Charlotte hired Jamie Green, who had been an assistant at North Carolina. Guided by Green's relentless passion for winning, fun and discipline, the 49ers morphed from doormat to contender. In his second season, the 49ers made their first-ever trip to the NCAAs. Last season, they finished third at the NCAAs. And this season, the 49ers have won all four of their stroke-play events and were the top-ranked team for most of the fall.
A sure sign that Charlotte is now a bona fide national contender is that they're getting premier recruits. Last year, Cory Nagy, above, a Charlotte native, turned down offers from traditional golfing powers to become a 49er.
6 of 10Methodist University
Nobody in golf wins more than the Methodist women's golf team. No individual, professional, amateur or team. Nobody. The Lady Monarchs have fielded a Division III team for 22 years, and they've won 20 national championships, including the last 10. Last May, they won the NCAAs by 88 strokes. Yes, 88. They also had five of the top nine finishers, including the winner, Katie Dick, who's now a senior.
The players are part of the school's renowned Professional Golf Management degree program, which grooms students to become club professionals and instructors. A key ingredient of Methodist's success is that they spend most of the fall and spring competing in tournaments against Division 1 teams, which toughens them up for the NCAA championship. The players groove their games on the university's 6,200-yard course and 17-acre driving range.
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The Lady Blue Devils are Division I's only true juggernaut. Since the first women's NCAA Championship, in 1982, Duke has finished no worse than 16th, and they've won five titles. (Only Arizona State, with six, has won more.) Recently, the team has been almost flawless: they've won the last three NCAA crowns, and four of the last six. Similarly impressive, the team has won the last 12 ACC conference championships.
Spurring Duke's nonpareil success is Dan Brooks, who's coached the team for 23 years. As usual, this year's team is overflowing with talent, led by Amanda Blumenherst, above, a junior who was the college player of the year the last two seasons. The oddity of Duke's success is that it hasn't carried over to the LPGA. Only 11 alumnae have gained status on tour over the years, and none have had great success.
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3. Arizona State
Women's college golf essentially started at ASU. Joanne Carner, a Hall of Famer and winner of 43 LPGA titles, played at ASU from 1957-61 and was the first woman to get a golf scholarship. Those who've followed in Carner's footsteps (she was the 1960 national champion) have maintained her standard of excellence. ASU has produced six NCAA team titles, four individual NCAA medalists and more than two dozen LPGA players. Linda Vollstedt, the doyen of women's college golf, skippered ASU from 1980- '01, and during her tenure 20 players went on to the LPGA. Vollstedt was among the first coaches to recruit internationally, starting a trend that has exploded.
his season, ASU, which is ranked third in the nation, has eight players but just two Americans; the others are from Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Sweden. Its top player is Anna Nordqvist, above, a sophomore from Sweden and the daughter of a police officer (father) and pharmacist (mother). The 2006-07 national freshman of the year, Nordqvist finished 58th at this past summer's Women's British Open at St. Andrews.
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It doesn't get much better than playing golf at UCLA. The weather is always perfect. The budget is ample. The home course is Bel Air. The tradition includes a slew of All-Americans (led by Kay Cockerill, now a Golf Channel announcer) and two NCAA titles (1991 and '04). With all that to offer, it's no surprise that UCLA never rebuilds. The Lady Bruins just reload and gun for another national championship.
Last season, the team had just lost two All-Americas, but they still finished third at the NCAAs. This season, the lady Bruins are ranked first in the nation with two wins, a second and a third. The team includes six southern Californians (including Tiffany Joh, above, the 2006 U.S. Publinx winner), one Colombian (Maria Jose Uribe, the U.S. Amateur champion) and one Korean (freshman Glory Yang, ranked 16th in the nation).
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If USC is the University of Spoiled Children, the golf team is as pampered as anybody on campus. The team has access to eight swank courses in L.A., including Hillcrest, Lakeside and Riviera. No wonder the Women of Troy continually crank out stellar teams. USC won the 2003 NCAA title and has produced three of the last 10 NCAA medalists (Jennifer Rosales, 1998; Mikaela Parmlid, 2003; Dewi Schreefel, 2006).
Unlike archrival UCLA, however, USC doesn't heavily rely on homegrown talent. This season's juggernaut, ranked fourth in the nation, has just two Californians; the rest come from Hawaii, Texas, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Netherlands and Spain. USC's top two players are Schreffel, a senior from the Netherlands, and Belen Mozo, above, a sophomore from Spain who in 2006 became the first player since 1972 to win the British women's amateur and the British girls junior in the same year.
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