During a chaotic and incredible year, college star Rachel Heck didn’t want to make ‘rash decisions’ about NIL

“I was just happy to be playing golf.”

Perhaps the best way to sum up the historic year Rachel Heck had is to listen as she discusses what went through her mind standing on the 18th green holding up the NCAA championship trophy in Scottsdale, Arizona, in May.

This had been one of her goals for so long, and an unlikely one even after years of being hailed as maybe the best women’s golf prospect to ever emerge from the Memphis area. Here she was representing Stanford, the dream school she committed to as a freshman at St. Agnes, a dream that had to be deferred even longer because COVID-19 shut down the campus in the fall of 2020.

She wondered if this would even be possible, and it had nothing to do with her driver or her putter or the rest of the prodigious skills she so carefully cultivated, starting out at Chickasaw Country Club, then Windyke Country Club and, more recently, Spring Creek Golf Course and TPC Southwind.

So this moment, a moment that further cemented her as one of the world’s best amateur golfers, became a moment of clarity as well.

Stanford University golfer Rachel Heck celebrates with her father Robert Heck after being crowned individual medalist during the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club. Joe Camporeale / USA TODAY Sports.

“I think my mindset kind of changed after COVID,” Heck said. “There was a long period where I wasn’t able to play and I missed it so much. I didn’t know when I was going to be able to play again. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to go to Stanford. So I was just happy to be playing golf.”

Heck embodied what it meant to persevere and thrive as an athlete through a pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on sports, and became one of the symbols for the new name, image, likeness era that has completely changed the notion of what a college athlete can do.

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Put simply: There was no Memphis-based sports figure who accomplished more over the past 12 months.

Heck, 20, became just the third freshman to sweep the NCAA golf postseason, winning her conference championship, her NCAA regional title, and the national championship. She was only the second freshman to win the ANNIKA Award, given annually to the best women’s Division I golfer. Her scoring average over 25 rounds of college golf (69.76) is also the lowest in NCAA history.

Heck also made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur and made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open for the second time in four years. She finished the year at No. 3 in the women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings and No. 2 in the Golfweek/Amateur.Golf.com rankings.

“All the golf accomplishments just added on to what was already an insanely special year,” Heck said. “In my day-to-day life, I don’t find happiness from knowing that I won the national championship. I find happiness from my friends and everyone at Stanford and my coach. They’re what really matters.”

Stanford University golfer Rachel Heck tees off on the 11th hole during the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club. Joe Camporeale / USA TODAY Sports.

This perspective is a boon in light of all the other opportunities afforded Heck because of her achievements.

She is an example of how a college athlete’s ability to make money off name, image, and likeness can’t simply be viewed through the prism of professionalizing college sports. It’s not just about football and men’s basketball, either. It’s also a tool to keep athletes in school.

Heck is now represented by Excel Sports Management, the same New York-based agency that works with Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas, among others. She has only signed one marketing deal at the moment with Six Star Pro Nutrition, she said, although there have been numerous other offers to sort through.

“I just wanted to do this process right, not make any rash decisions, not sign any contracts the day after NIL was finalized by the NCAA,” Heck explained.

More importantly, though, it helps offset the pressure to turn pro that a golfer of her acclaim might have previously felt.

“For me, I don’t want to go pro anyways,” Heck said. “But I think the incentive was to monetize how you’re playing. If you’re playing well, some people look at it as a waste to stay in college when you could be making money off of that now.”

“To know that you can make money while playing in college gives you the best of both worlds. I really do think it’s going to keep a lot of people in college, which is so important. If you get your degree, the Tour will always be there.”

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Among the amateurs at LPGA Q-Series: 7 college players, a junior and a talented sister act

There will be a cut to low 70 and ties.

Because an eight-round tournament isn’t difficult enough, Q-Series happens to collide with the last two weeks of the semester for Florida State senior Beatrice Wallin. Thankfully, the humanities major reports that her professors have been supportive.

Wallin is one of eight amateurs in the field of 110 this week, and she’s currently the highest in the World Amateur Golf Ranking at No. 5.

“It’s legit,” said Wallin of the vibe so far at Q-Series. “It’s very different to what I’m used to, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Wallin was able to skip Stage I of qualifying thanks to being awarded a spot in the field at Stage II as a top-5 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings at the time of the entry deadline. Both Linn Grant of Arizona State and Pauline Roussin-Bouchard of South Carolina advanced into Stage II this way but have turned professional. Roussin-Bouchard medaled at second stage.

The first week of Q-Series takes place Dec. 2-5 on the RTJ’s Magnolia Grove (Crossings and Falls Courses) in Mobile, Alabama. There will be a cut to low 70 and ties.

Scores will carry over from the first week to the second. The top 45 players and ties will receive LPGA status for the 2022 season. Those who do not receive LPGA status will have Symetra Tour status for next year.

College players who enter the field as amateurs can defer LPGA membership and accept at any point until July 1, 2022.

Both Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi chose to defer after earning their LPGA cards. Kupcho won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur the next spring and Fassi won the NCAA Championship.

Wallin said she isn’t yet sure what she’ll do.

“I’ve been telling everyone that I’ve been in college for 3 ½ years, I might as well just finish it off,” she said. “You know, it can be tempting to turn professional because that’s what you’ve been practicing for your whole life.

“Honestly, I don’t know.”

Among the seven college players in the field are sisters Yu Chiang Hou (who goes by Vivian) and Yu-Sang Hou. The Taiwanese pair play for Arizona and are both ranked in the top 30 in the world.

Yu-Chiang Hou, from Chinese Taipei, smiles after defeating Cara Heisterkamp 4 & 3 in the quarterfinal match at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Westchester Country Club in Harrison on Friday, August 6, 2021.

Rounding out the college players in the field are U.S. Curtis Cup players Gina Kim (Duke) and Brooke Matthews (Arkansas) as well as Polly Mack (Alabama) and Karen Fredgaard (Houston).

In addition, Hyo Joo Jang, 18, of South Korea, is a 2022 high school graduate who attends a golf academy in Florida.

A three-time winner at Florida State, Wallin ranks second in career scoring for the Seminoles at 71.94. It was her brother Richard who got Wallin and her parents into the game after a neighbor first invited him to play. Richard, who works back home in Sweden, is on the bag this week.

“There’s a lot of Swedes playing,” said Wallin, who went to dinner at Bonefish with four of her compatriots on Tuesday night.

“Just talking about normal stuff, trying to have some fun off the golf course.”

Given the grind that’s ahead, she’ll need it.

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Ringler: New six-regional format in women’s college golf comes with tournament ops benefits but also forces ‘great’ play

The old adage “just play better” more than applies to the new six-regional format in the women’s college golf postseason.

There is a saying in the world of competitive golf that when the going gets tough, the solution is simple: Just play better.

With the addition of two more regionals for the postseason in NCAA Division I women’s golf the saying might as well be: Just play great. That might be what it takes now to advance to the national championship each spring.

This past week the NCAA announced it would add two more regionals this coming spring. Instead of a four-regional format with 18 teams playing for six spots, we will now see 12 teams at each of six locations playing for four tickets to the national finals.

“I think it’s great,” Washington head women’s coach Mary Lou Mulflur said. “You still have to play well and beat good teams. It just makes more sense from a logistical standpoint.”

Mulflur also added that two more regionals should translate to less travel for many teams.

There is no question a six-regional format will make tournament operations more manageable. Smaller fields with fewer players on the course are ideal for so many reasons. The old format featured 18-team fields, which is about the limit when it comes to running an event with just one wave. Any sort of lengthy delay can put the event in jeopardy of not finishing or being reduced from 54 holes.

“The pace of play at NCAA regionals has been a big issue for years with having 18 teams at each site,” Arizona head women’s coach Laura Ianello said. “This will allow for a normal tournament experience compared to the past few years where you would have an hour wait at the turn.”

This move also allows an opportunity for more schools to host a regional, as long as the NCAA can continue to get enough bids. One worry, however, is that the same schools and venues will emerge as hosts. Will we see many new venues?

With just four teams getting to advance from each site for a total of 24 teams at the NCAA Championship, is it now harder to advance?

“It will make it even more difficult and competitive as a team to make it to the national championship,” Kansas head women’s coach Lindsay Kuhle said. “You have to bring your best game over three days to qualify.”

Doing the math, the percentages are the same – 33.3% of the field will advance. However, it certainly will feel different. With fewer qualifying spots, it will feel different, likely resulting in even more pressure to perform well.

“You’ll see the top-ranked teams feel more pressure now,” Kuhle said.

For those teams with a better seed, it will be harder to recover from a bad day. And when you have a host school in the field, that alone will hurt the chances of advancing for the visiting teams. The men have had a six-regional format for the past 11 years after a switch from three regionals. Their six regionals have five qualifying spots with field sizes of 13 or 14.

On the men’s side:

  • Teams that have hosted a regional are 38/49 (77.6%) in advancing to the NCAA finals.
  • Teams that have hosting a regional and been seeded within the top five are 32/36 (88.9%%) in advancing to the NCAA finals.
  • Teams that have hosted a regional and been seeded outside the top five are 7/14 (50.0%) in advancing to the NCAA finals.

Looking at the men’s regional play, history suggests that with a decent host school playing in the event, the number to advance will likely be one lower.

“The host schools now even have more of an advantage because of the experience they have on their home course,” added Kuhle.

A certain positive with the addition is what it does for individuals. There will be six individuals at each site, and the top two players not on an advancing team will earn a spot in the national finals. This means the number of individuals participating in the postseason increases from 24 to 36.

“Increasing the number of individuals is a smart idea too. We should give more attention to the individual achievements in college golf and this will help,” Old Dominion head women’s coach Mallory Hetzel said. “There are quality players competing on teams ranked well outside the bubble. It will be good for those individuals, their school and the game as a whole to be able to include them in the NCAA tournament.”

“Congratulations to those committee members for taking such a positive step,” Campbell head women’s coach John Crooks said. “The new six-site format will give the NCAA tournament committee at each site the maximum flexibility to conduct the best possible championship.”

Crooks was quick to mention something else that the majority of women’s coaches believe will also improve the women’s game.

“Now if the committee will adopt the .500 rule,” he said, “we would have the best 12 teams at each of the six sites.”

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With Women Fore Hire initiative, Courtney Trimble and Anne Moon look to open a female pipeline into the golf industry

Women Fore Hire launches at the end of the month with education sessions with an online job fair opening mid-January.

Courtney Trimble doesn’t dance around the hard questions. In professional golf, the idea of a career transition can present plenty of them.

“It could be borderline, somewhat uncomfortable if you’re asking a professional golfer if they’re done playing,” said Dori Carter, who spent 10 years on the LPGA from 2010 to 2019.

In Carter’s case, Trimble, the former head women’s golf coach at Louisville, picked up the phone anyway. While looking to fill an assistant coaching position for the University of Louisville, she had started with a list of LPGA players and zeroed in on Carter’s name. She cut right through the awkwardness as Carter, standing on the practice putting green at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas, during the 2019 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship – where she was on the cut line – listened intently.

“I was contemplating something else but I just had no clue what to do and she said, ‘I really think you’d be great in college coaching, would you have any interest in that?’” Carter, now 34, remembers. “I said I’d totally love to hear about it.”

After Carter fulfilled a commitment to her sponsor to play the remainder of that season’s full-field LPGA events, she packed her bags for Louisville and spent two years as the assistant women’s golf coach under Whitney Young, who replaced Trimble when she stepped down at the end of the 2018-19 season to spend more time with family. Carter has since transitioned out of college coaching into a position as a junior player development representative at Callaway Golf – another career change facilitated in part by Trimble.

Carter’s state of mind in 2019 is a common one on the LPGA and Symetra tours. When the path from professional golf wasn’t clear, Carter would simply return to Q-School. Uncertainty, she thinks, prolonged her career by at least a year or two.

“The tour is a blast but it’s a grind,” she said. “I would kind of be shocked if other players don’t at least have this thought cross their mind.”

Dori Carter, LPGA
Dori Carter is congratulated by her caddie at the ninth hole after carding a course-record 63 in the second round of the 2017 Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)

Cindy LaCrosse, who also played professionally for a decade, wouldn’t be surprised if that number is as high as 80 percent. The 34-year-old also struggled with knowing when it was time to stop playing professional golf for a living – and how to transition out of it.

LaCrosse ultimately stepped away at the end of 2019 but still played three events in the 2021 season. After a year-long stint as the brand partnerships manager for 5 Iron Golf in New York City, LaCrosse now works as a teaching professional at Baiting Hollow Golf Course on East Long Island.

Trimble helped LaCrosse narrow down opportunities and land on the right one – and figure out how to market all the work she’d done as a student-athlete.

“What Courtney helped me do was take what I had done for 10 years out of habit or out of routine and made me realize that it does translate into the workforce,” LaCrosse said.

After guiding players like Carter and LaCrosse to the next step, Trimble is ready to spin her Rolodex for the benefit of the next generation of female players – both at the college and professional levels. Two years after leaving the coaching world, she’s partnering with former Auburn teammate Anne Moon, owner of the Moon Golf chain of golf retail stores in Central and South Florida, to launch Women Fore Hire, an initiative designed to create a pipeline for females into the golf industry, whether that be in retail, instruction, coaching or any other specialty.

Women For Hire will launch at the end of November with a virtual career panel – essentially education sessions that focus on everything from getting a foot in the door to leveraging on-course skill within a career.

“Sharing with them real-life stories of how people got to where they are but then directly teaching them OK, this is where you are,” Trimble said. “I’ve got no job experience on my resume, how do I make that presentable to somebody who is looking to hire?”

Courtney Trimble, left, during her seven-year coaching stint at the University of Louisville.

The Women Fore Hire online job fair opens mid-January, allowing interested companies to set up a booth just as they would at an in-person job fair. Job candidates can create a profile on the platform and upload their resume so that companies can schedule interviews.

Candidates could come from any division of college golf (and anyone who’s been a college golfer), the Symetra Tour or the LPGA, Trimble says. The whole thing hinges on word of mouth within the communities Trimble and Moon occupy.

“Going and knocking down doors,” Trimble explained, “saying here’s what we’re doing, are you looking to hire these types of people? We can connect you to them.”

“We want to be part of the solution”

Trimble and Moon, both 41, have been partners in crime since they starred for Auburn from 1999 to 2003, during which time the Tigers finished sixth, fourth, second and ninth, respectively, at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Both followed college with professional golf careers.

After two years and four top-5 finishes on the then-Futures Tour, Trimble began her coaching career as an assistant at Auburn in 2005, moved on to the head women’s position at Central Florida in 2009 and spent her final seven seasons coaching at Louisville.

Anne Moon, Courtney Trimble
Anne Moon (second from left) and Courtney Trimble (far right) during their competition days. (Photo submitted)

Moon remembers her own brief foray on the Futures Tour and remembers just as well how it all ended one day June 2005 in small-town Illinois. She and Trimble, both newlyweds, were traveling the circuit together and after a tournament in Chicago, spent a day relaxing in the city with their husbands. Then it was on to the next stop.

Moon pulled up to the golf course, took one look at the crowd of players with their training aids set up on the putting green and knew that lifestyle of grinding wasn’t for her.

“In that moment I was just like, this isn’t it,” she said. “And I got back in my car and I told Courtney, I’m driving home. No more, I’m done. . . . I’m never going to be one who commits to standing over 3-footers for six hours in the sun.”

Upon returning home to Birmingham, Alabama, Moon began work at Edwin Watts, a golf retail story where her husband Dan was the assistant manager. The Moons eventually relocated to an Edwin Watts store in Jacksonville, Florida, where a Callaway rep asked Dan if he had anyone who would like to do demo days. He didn’t hesitate in volunteering his wife, which began her seven-year relationship with Callaway. When she was hired, there were three other female outside sales reps in the company – more than most hard goods companies in the golf space had on staff.

“There were definitely customers that when they heard they were getting a woman rep, some of them didn’t think they knew what you were talking about,” Moon said. “It kind of goes back to being able to say I played Division I women’s golf, gave me a little bit more credibility and then obviously when they heard me speak, because I worked my butt off to know my stuff so my knowledge was good, it kind of made things a little easier. It was always an uphill battle, uphill climb.”

Anne Moon, Moon Golf shop
Anne Moon, Moon Golf shop

Since opening the first Moon Golf store in 2015, contacts within the industry have asked Moon for leads on female candidates – a question that wasn’t being asked 10 years ago.

She has looked hard at the makeup of her staff across her three stores and wants more women in her own company, too – women like Brooke Raney.

Raney, 26, spent two years playing golf and studying golf management at College of the Desert in Palm Springs, California, before going to work in the golf department at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Moon found her through a series of golf Tik Tok videos Raney was posting. Raney started at Moon Golf in Palm Beach, Florida, full-time in July 2020, but six months later was struggling with being the only female in a male-dominated industry.

“I just knew that sometimes some of the guys walked in (for a club fitting) and they didn’t really expect to be with a girl,” she said. “And that was totally fine, but I struggled with that. So I kind of took a break and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew it was going to involve golf.”

Moon put Raney in touch with Trimble to talk through her career in golf. Now that’s she’s back to full-time, Raney is thriving as a club fitter and also dabbling in things like club building.

Trimble and Moon’s influence likely kept her in the industry.

Tapping a network

Since leaving Louisville, Trimble has stepped into a role as a consultant to the Women’s Golf Coaches Association, running a mentorship program for current coaches. It’s a unique seat that allows her to work with coaches and put her in a position to understand just how few people were entering the coaching profession.

With Trimble by her side, Moon has also infused some goodwill into college golf. Since 2019, she has sponsored the Louisville-hosted Moon Golf Invitational, a women’s college golf tournament based near her flagship store in Melbourne, Florida. In 2022, she’ll expand that to two events.

South Carolina, Moon Golf Invitational
Dan Moon, far left, and Anne Moon, far right, flank South Carolina’s women’s golf team, winners of the 2021 Moon Golf Invitational. (Golfweek photo)

Re-entering the college-golf world as a tournament host opened Moon’s eyes to the wealth of resources available to college players, from mental coaches to strength coaches to equipment. There’s no denying that the bubble pops after graduation, but it doesn’t mean the career opportunities go away.

“At the end of the day,” Moon said, “I think I want to be able to show them that it’s totally possible and even more possible today than it was when I got out of school.”

On her own teams, Trimble noticed that her seniors went one way or another – if they were committed to a pro career or had another post-graduate plan lined up, they played great. Uncertainty about the future often led to on-course struggle.

“The reality is just that we want to be part of the solution, we want to take action and that’s really how we’ve gotten to where we are because of that mentality,” Trimble said. “Let’s just help. Both of us are in a position with our backgrounds to be able to do that.”

Trimble is perhaps most excited about the education piece of Women Fore Hire, which solves the common problem of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” She sees the benefit for the golf industry, too, and hopes that in five years, the network she and Moon have created is the premier place for employers looking for educated, driven females ready to enter the workforce.

Still to come? Trimble and Moon are conceptualizing a mentorship and career advancement program as well as an advisory board to guide the initiative forward.

“Everyone needs someone in their life to say, ‘Hey, I think you’d be good at this, try,’” Trimble said. “And that’s sort of what we’re trying to provide.”

It’s a simple phrase that could be monumental for the industry.

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When is the right time to turn pro? Arkansas’ Brooke Matthews, a former No. 1, will soon have to decide

Arkansas has a College Player of the Year contender in Brooke Matthews, but she could be a card-carrying LPGA member by Christmas.

It’s that time of year again, when college coaches hold their breath to see what kind of team they’ll have in the spring. Right now, Arkansas has a College Player of the Year contender in Brooke Matthews on the roster. But she could be a card-carrying LPGA member by Christmas, which would be akin to losing the star quarterback right before the bowl game.

Matthews, 23, made the cut on the number last week to advance to LPGA Q-Series in December, where 45 players will earn LPGA status. She flew straight from Florida to Mississippi to compete in The Ally for the Razorbacks, wrapping up seven consecutive days of competition.

“It’s kind of a win-win for me,” said Matthews, “that’s how I look at it. Either I come back to Arkansas where I’m really happy, or I live out my dream playing professional golf.”

Matthews grew up with the LPGA playing almost quite literally in her backyard. Wendy Ward and Vicki Goetze-Ackerman stayed with her family when the tour first came to Rogers, Arkansas, and set up shop at their home course, Pinnacle Country Club. Matthews was a dedicated gymnast at the time but said that week left a huge impression.

“I really wanted to be out there,” she said. “I couldn’t understand why.”

By age 12, Matthews had given up gymnastics and started playing tournament golf, outdriving most kids from the start. At Stage II of Q-School, Matthews made a pair of eagles in the third round on two par-5s, hitting an 8-iron into one for her second shot.

When she arrived at Arkansas as a freshman, Matthews’ swing speed hovered around 101 mph. Now as a fifth-year senior, she’s comfortably up to 107 but can push it to 110/111 on TrackMan.

Even so, it would take a special wallop to get one past former teammate Maria Fassi.

“I’m fine with admitting that she would outdrive me,” said Matthews with a laugh.

Aug 30, 2020; Rogers, AR, USA; during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship golf tournament at Pinnacle Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Gunnar Rathbun-USA TODAY Sports

In figuring out what to do next, Matthews can look at the blueprint of two former Razorbacks. Gaby Lopez left early her senior year to pursue the 2016 Olympics (where she finished 31st); Maria Fassi chose to defer until after she graduated, becoming a bona fide star at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and winning the NCAA individual title in her final spring at home in Arkansas.

Matthews’ situation is different in that, because the pandemic cut her junior season short, she stayed on for a fifth year. She’ll graduate with a degree in marketing in December and would have to start a new major if she comes back in the spring, taking 12 hours.

Matthews won the first two events of the fall, shooting 63-64-64 at the Cougar Classic in South Carolina. Her 25-under 191 total crushed the NCAA’s previous 54-hole scoring record of 19 under.

She then enjoyed back-to-back events on home tracks, making the cut in Rogers at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and then winning the Blessings Intercollegiate on Arkansas’ home course.

Matthews knows that LPGA road life is hard, to the extent that she can anyway. In college, everything is booked by someone else, paid for by someone else and organized by someone else. All she has to worry about is getting the grades, keeping her game in order and showing up on time.

“You kind of get your hand held throughout (college),” said Matthews, “which is probably something I take for granted more than I realized.”

Arkansas legend Stacy Lewis has given Matthews a bit of advice and finds the amateur’s outlook refreshing. The fact that Matthews has slowly worked her way up – cracking the Curtis Cup team this year – and is just now starting to ask questions about tour life, reminds Lewis of herself.

Since Matthews will have her degree by year’s end, Lewis said her decision on whether or not to turn pro should come down to how many events she’ll have to compete in early next year. If she finishes in the top 20 at Q-Series and earns her full card, “then yes, it’s worth it,” Lewis said.

If she’s 45th on the list and won’t get in many events until the summer, then staying in school and deferring might be the best route.

“Can you build a schedule with the status that you get to continue to improve?” asked Lewis.

That’s the question Matthews will need to answer. And that can be difficult to project because it largely depends on the decisions of those higher on the priority list. Player who finished in the top 45 at Q-Series in 2019 were seeded Nos. 129 to 174 on the initial LPGA Priority List. Most full-field events range from 120 to 140 players.

Should Matthews decide to defer, she can accept LPGA membership at any point until July 1, 2022. Her position on the priority list would be held until that point.

If she finishes outside the top 45, she’ll have full Symetra Tour status.

Head coach Shauna Taylor knows that what’s best for Matthews might not always be what’s best for the Arkansas program. If she earns a fully-exempt card, Taylor agrees with Lewis that Matthews should turn professional.

“You’ve got to capture the moment,” Taylor said.

It gets murky, however, when conditional status is involved.

Both player and coach agree that course management has been the area in which Matthews has improved the most in her time at Arkansas. Some of the decisions she made at the Blessings to play away from certain hole locations made Taylor beam with satisfaction.

Has Matthews played her last event as a Razorback? That’s the strange thing about this time of year.

No one really knows.

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Oklahoma State Cowgirls, Oklahoma Sooner men take home respective East Lake Cup titles

They came in and played well over the summer and this fall, and us coaches pretty much just got out of their way.”

Many know East Lake Golf Club as the host venue for the Tour Championship, the final stage of the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour. However, the East Lake Cup, since its inception in 2015, puts the best teams in college golf on full display over the three-day event.

Tuesday, both teams from Oklahoma State made their respected championship matches. On the ladies’ side, Duke defeated Ole Miss to advance to the finals against OSU. As for the men, Oklahoma, ranked No. 1 in Golfweek’s Collegiate rankings, took down Pepperdine to move on.

“We handled the wind very well,” Duke head coach Dan Brooks said after the Blue Devils’ win. “You know, I think I learned that they’re as good as I thought they were.”

Oklahoma State men’s head coach Alan Bratton was proud of how his team fought back after a tough start to their day.

“I think our guys showed a lot of toughness. We had guys fall behind in their matches. I think our first three matches our guys were behind early and they just kept plugging along,” Bratton said. “Eugenio Chacarra did a wonderful job of leading us out there. He lost the first hole and then after that, his opponent didn’t have another putt to win a hole the rest of the match.”

After much-needed rest, teams returned to East Lake Wednesday for the finals.

Battle of Bedlam

If you’re a college football fan, you’re aware of the incredible rivalry between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Lucky for golf fans, we got our own version this week down in Atlanta.

The Sooners defended their No. 1 ranking by defeating the Cowboys 3-2. Chris Gotterup dunked this eagle chip to take control of his match late Wednesday afternoon.

“Golf is 18 holes, right? And our guys did a great job. Jaxon Dowell coming down the stretch, pulling it out, huge point.” Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl said after their victory. “Chris Gotterup did a fantastic job here on the back nine. Logan McAllister was nails all day long.”

Cowgirls get the W

Despite the Oklahoma State men’s loss, the ladies came in and took care of business against Duke, just like they’ve been doing all fall long. The Cowgirls beat the Blue Devils 3-2.

Hailey Jones buried a par putt on the 17th green to not only win her match but seal the deal for the Oklahoma State ladies’ first East Lake Cup win.

“These girls are competitive,” Cowgirl head coach Greg Robertson said just after their win. “They came in and played well over the summer and this fall, and us coaches pretty much just got out of their way.”

This strategy has paid off for the coaching staff, as their girls have yet to lose this fall season.

Rina Tatematsu (Oklahoma State) won the ladies’ individual title, while Preston Summerhays (Arizona State) and Chris Gotterup (Oklahoma) were co-medalists on the men’s side.

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Notre Dame steals the show at inaugural Jackson T. Stephens Cup; LSU women take down South Carolina for title

College golf landed at the ultra-exclusive Alotian Club in Roland, Arkansas, this week and Notre Dame stole the show.

College golf landed at the exclusive Alotian Club in Roland, Arkansas, this week and Notre Dame stole the show. In a limited but stacked six-team field, Notre Dame opened a 20-shot margin after 54 holes of stroke play at the inaugural Jackson T. Stephens Cup then took down Arkansas in Wednesday’s title match.

Head coach John Handrigan called it a week that was four years in the making.

“It’s been four years of building this, to be honest,” he said. “All these guys have been through it and I’m just proud of what they’ve done over the years and how much they’ve improved over time. The program got better every single year since we’ve been a part of this trip together. Everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve done it and that showed this week.”

The inaugural event debuted at the Alotian Club this week before it makes stops at equally exclusive Seminole Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, in 2022 and Trinity Forest in Dallas in 2023. The six-team field played 54 holes of stroke play before the top two teams – Notre Dame and Arkansas – squared off in a televised match for the title on Wednesday.

Stephens Cup: Scores

The other four teams also played head-to-head matches, with Florida State and Arizona, who had tied for third, playing each other and Alabama and San Diego State, the Nos. 5 and 6 teams, squaring off. San Diego State and Arizona won those matches.

In the title match, Notre Dame claimed four of five points, starting with Taichi Kho at the top of the bracket taking on Segundo Oliva Pinto. Kho, who was third in stroke play at 5 under, won, 1 up. Kho’s Irish teammate Davis Chatfield won by the biggest margin of the day, defeating Luke Long, 6 and 4.

Palmer Jackson, who tied for individual medalist honors, also won a point for Notre Dame with Andrew O’Leary claiming the fourth point.

Notre Dame entered the week ranked No. 17 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. The Stephens Cup victory comes on the heels of a runner-up finish at the Fighting Irish Classic to start the month plus a tie for first at the Gopher Invitational and a third-place finish at the Windon Invitational in September.

A women’s competition ran concurrently at the Alotian Club, with LSU coming out on top of South Carolina in the title match. LSU also won four of five points in Wednesday’s match-play round, with only South Carolina’s Mathilde Claisse winning a match for the Gamecocks.

Most notable on the women’s side was the anchor match between Ingrid Lindblad and Hannah Darling, two top players in the women’s game. Lindblad came out with a 1-up victory.

“We have a really good team and today we proved we can play match play as well,” said Lindblad, who defeated teammate Carla Tejedo Mulet on Tuesday in a playoff to win the stroke-play title. “We know we can play stroke play but we don’t have as many match play events. This was a great opportunity for us to play some match play and win the match play as well.”

The Stephens Cup title fills a void for LSU that opened up last spring.

“The last time was in the SEC Championship when it went to match play so we got a little bit of practice there,” head coach Garrett Runion told the Golf Channel. “Unfortunately, in the NCAAs we missed match play by one shot. They weren’t too happy about that. They were motivated over the summer and this was great practice for the SEC Championship and hopefully the national championship.”

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Emory men and women make it a sweep at Golfweek DIII Fall Invitational at Sandestin

While the women mounted a comeback on Centre College, the men won wire to wire.

Emory head coach Katie Futcher keeps an important statistic for her team throughout the season. The bounce-back column is all about what a player does after she makes a bogey.

At the Golfweek Division III Fall Invitational, Emory pulled off the ultimate bounce-back, coming from two shots behind Centre entering the final round to win the tournament, its second in four starts this fall.

“Fighting, always finishing to the end, we always try to preach that with all of our ladies in our program,” Futcher said of the importance of that stat. “To finish today with a win after coming in trailing is good.”

Emory’s round of 8-over 296 was its best round of the week at Baytowne Golf Club in Destin, Florida. At 35 over, Emory was two better than Centre College for 54 holes. Emory freshman Sharun Mun won the individual title at 3 over.

It’s the midway point of the semester for many teams, Emory included. Futcher’s players were coming off midterms and the exhaustion that often comes with that. But Futcher never looks at scoring during a tournament and stays in the moment. She didn’t know her team had a chance for the comeback win until the final putt.

Futcher is an accomplished player herself, having been the leading scorer at Penn State for all four years of her college career before going on to play on the LPGA for nine years. After qualifying for the LPGA in just her second attempt, Futcher competed in more than 25 major championships and 120 events while earning Class A status with the LPGA. In 2012, she made 18 cuts in 23 events and posted a pair of top-10 finishes including ties for eighth at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open and the RICOH Women’s British Open.

She took the helm at Emory in 2018 and has watched the program grow.

“They’ve been working really hard, last tournament of the season, really tried to just keep them focused, keep them calm,” Futcher said of this week’s win. “Really had them rely on all the work they’ve put in this semester. I don’t think anyone has outworked us and that’s part of winning. Winning feels good – the work part doesn’t always feel good – but you have to do the work to win.”

Emory’s men made it a sweep for the Eagles by finishing 13 shots ahead of runner-up Methodist. At 12 under par, Emory was the only team in the red at the end of three rounds at the Raven Golf Club.

The Eagles tied for first at the Wabash Invitational to start the month and last week, won outright at the Tartan Invitational.

“We’ve been good this fall, I thought we’d be competitive,” said head coach John Sjoberg. “Our start today was just unbelievable, five birdies on the first hole and that kind of separated us a little bit form Methodist and we were able to continue to play well and hold them off.”

Emory men's golf
Emory’s men after winning the Golfweek DIII Fall Invitational.

Last month, Emory finished second to Methodist at the Division III Fall Preview at Mission Inn.

Sjoberg says this team is deeper – Nos. 1 to 9 – than it ever has been.

“Qualifying has been really competitive so that’s really set us up to come to events like this and feel like we’ve got a good chance to be a good team,” he said.

In the individual competition, Averett’s Caleb Kimbrough went 8 under to edge Carnegie Mellon’s William Knauth and Emory’s Jackson Klutznick.

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Stanford claims top spot in latest Mizuno WGCA Division I Coaches Poll

The WGCA has released its third women’s coaches poll of the season, and Stanford has jumped to the top.

The WGCA has released its third women’s coaches poll of the season, and Stanford has jumped to the top. The Cardinal received 17 first-place votes after opening the fall with back-to-back team victories and ranks ahead of Oklahoma State, which earned four first-place votes, and Arkansas with one first-place vote.

Perhaps even more notably, Virginia and Oregon landed at No. 4 and 5, respectively, after climbing 17 spots in the poll. Virginia has finished runner-up in its first two tournament and Oregon started its season winning the Mason Rudolph.

Check out the full poll and list of other teams receiving votes below. A final WGCA fall poll will be released Nov. 19.

Rank University (First Place Votes) Points
1 Stanford University (17) 567
2 Oklahoma State University (4) 546
3 University of Arkansas (1) 535
4 University of Virginia 474
5 University of Oregon 456
6 University of Florida 436
7 University of Texas 428
8 University of South Carolina (1) 403
9 University of Michigan 369
10 Baylor University 357
11 Wake Forest University 345
12 Duke University 338
13 University of Alabama 301
14 Texas A&M University 252
15 University of California, Los Angeles 232
16 Florida State University 226
17 University of Arizona 218
18 University of Georgia 201
19 Auburn University 147
20 Arizona State University 140
21 San Jose State University 108
22 Texas Christian University 101
23 Brigham Young University 51
24 Texas Tech University 50
25 University of Louisville 45

Others Receiving Votes: Louisiana State University (32); Iowa State University (24); University of Mississippi (24); University of Southern California (20); University of Oklahoma (13); Virginia Tech (10); Purdue University (9); University of Central Florida (6); University of Miami (5); Sam Houston State University (3); University of Denver (2); University of Illinois (1)

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Lynn tops Limestone in Mizuno WGCA Division II Coaches Poll

The WGCA has released its third women’s coaches poll of the season, and Lynn is the newest No. 1-ranked team in the Division II poll.

The WGCA has released its third women’s coaches poll of the season, and Lynn is the newest No. 1-ranked team in the Division II poll.

The Knights received 12 first-place votes, while Limestone University received one first-place vote to move up four spots to No. 2. Dallas Baptist, the defending Division II national champions, comes in at No. 3 with two first-place votes, followed by Barry University and University of Findlay at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.

Check out the full poll and list of other teams receiving votes below. A final WGCA fall poll will be released Nov. 19.

Rank University (First Place Votes) Points
1 Lynn University (12) 368
2 Limestone University (1) 349
3 Dallas Baptist University (2) 335
4 Barry University 328
5 University of Findlay 310
6 St. Mary’s University (Texas) 300
7 Anderson University 297
8 University of Indianapolis 267
9 Grand Valley State University 235
10 Rollins College 198
11 Texas A&M University – Commerce 170
12 West Texas A&M University 169
13 Lee University 161
14 University of Tampa 137
15 Henderson State University 134
16 Rogers State University 128
17 Saint Leo University 127
18 Nova Southeastern University 115
19 Florida Southern College 108
20 California State University San Marcos 105
21 Carson-Newman University 99
22 University of Central Missouri 78
23 Arkansas Tech University 64
24 University of Missouri-St. Louis 53
25 University of North Georgia 51

Others Receiving Votes: Lenoir Rhyne University (43); Oklahoma Christian University (26); Flagler College (20); Northeastern State University (17); University of Nebraska at Kearney (12); Texas A&M International University (9); University of West Florida (9); University of West Georgia (9); Cameron University (7); Sonoma State University (7); University of Arkansas Fort Smith (7); Wingate University (7); University of Central Oklahoma (6); Augustana University (South Dakota) (3); Midwestern State University (3); Lander University (2); Tiffin University (2)

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