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QUICK TAKE: If the Sweet 16 Faced Off in Golf Instead of Basketball, Here is Who Would Win

With March Madness down to the Sweet 16 and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play now in action, we are definitely feeling the bracket spirit.

This got us to thinking: Out of the remaining schools battling it out for the championship, which one has the best golf program? First, we established our criteria. This isn’t a contest to determine which golf program is best at the moment in 2017 but rather a culmination of the players it has produced, championships it has won and its relative strength in men’s golf. Picture it as a competition of merit, no matter whether it is a player from long ago or one that is still there now.


We didn’t choose the championship game just yet, because we wanted to hear what our readers think first.

Here’s how they would be seeded:

1. Florida

Notable Golfers: Doug Sanders, Mark Calcavecchia, Tommy Aaron, Andy Bean, Billy Horschel, Frank Beard, Gary Koch, Bob Murphy, Camilo Villegas, Brian Gay, Chris DiMarco, Sam Horsfield

Conference Championships: 15

Team National Championships: 4 (1968, 1973, 1993, 2001)

With an illustrious history of winning at every level, the Gators have a strong 92-year tradition that boasts major champions like Andy North and Mark Calcavecchia. Current UF standout Sam Horsfield is currently ranked No. 5 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and has the potential to add to this list.

2. UCLA

Notable Golfers: Kevin Chappell, Patrick Cantlay, John Merrick, Corey Pavin, Steve Pate, Scott McCarron, Tom Pernice Jr., Duffy Waldorf

Conference Championships: 5

Team National Championships: 2 (1988, 2008)

Other than Oregon, the Bruins are the most recent national champions on this list. Pavin, a 15-time PGA Tour winner and the 1995 U.S. Open winner, is the headliner to go along with the current No. 42 player in the world, Kevin Chappell. Like in most sports, UCLA can hold its program history up against most.

3. Arizona

Notable Golfers: Jim Furyk, Rickey Barnes, Robert Gamez, Rory Sabbatini, Ted Purdy, Chris Nallen, Dan Pohl, Mike Springer

Conference Championships: 3

Team National Championships: 1 (1992)

While a clear little brother to its heated rival Arizona State, the U of A men’s golf program isn’t anything to sneeze at. Future Hall of Famer Jim Furyk boosts the case for the Wildcats, and 6-time PGA Tour winner Rory Sabbatini is a nice complement. Don’t forget Dan Pohl, who came agonizingly close to winning a major on several occasions.

4. North Carolina

Notable Golfers: Davis Love III, Mark Wilson, Havie Ward, John Inman

Conference Championships: 14

Team National Championships: 0

Men’s golf isn’t UNC’s best sport, but the Tar Heels have still collected 11 ACC titles, helped by a strong stretch in the 1980’s. Hall of Famer and major champion Davis Love III is far and away the face of their golf history, but don’t sleep on 5-time PGA Tour winner Mark Wilson.

5. Oregon

Notable Golfers: Aaron Wise, Ben Crane, Peter Jacobsen, Eugene Wong, Daniel Miernecki

Conference Championships: 2

National Championships: 1 (2016)

Last year’s NCAA winners came through in dramatic fashion on their home turf at Eugene Country Club thanks to stud Aaron Wise. The program lacks the depth of history that others on this list have, but 7-time PGA Tour winner and U.S. Senior Open champion Peter Jacobsen helps.

6. Kentucky

Notable Golfers: Gay Brewer, J.B. Holmes, Steve Flesch, Johnny Owens

Conference Championships: 1

Team National Championships: 0

Perhaps it is a short list of notable golfers the Wildcats have produced, but the list does include Masters champion Gay Brewer and PGA Tour winners J.B. Holmes and Steve Flesch. All three are in the UK Hall of Fame.

7. Baylor

Notable Alums: Jimmy Walker, Kyle Jones

Conference Championships: 2

National Championships: 0

Baylor can hang its hat on a major winner, the 2016 PGA Champion Jimmy Walker. But despite a lot of recent success, Baylor alumni have not made their presence known on the PGA Tour. Look for recent alum Kyle Jones to make some noise down the road.

8. Kansas

Notable Golfers: Gary Woodland, Matt Gogel

Conference Championships: 1

National Championships: 0

With 18 NCAA appearances and players like Gary Woodland and Matt Gogel as alums, Kansas can confidently say its golf program is better than its woeful football team.

9. Michigan

Notable Golfers: John Fischer, Chuck Kocsis, Dave Barclay, Michael Harris

Conference Championships: 12

National Championships: 2 (1934, 1935)*

The Wolverines have won a pair of national titles and a dozen Big 10 championships, but they haven’t captured anything else since 1952. Looking to the future, watch out for Kyle Mueller, a talented kid who was First-Team Big 10 last year and qualified for the U.S. Open at Oakmont.

10. South Carolina

Notable Golfers: Mark Anderson, George Bryan IV, Wesley Bryan, Steve Liebler, David Seawell, Kyle Thompson

Conference Championships: 1

National Championships: 0

Although South Carolina won an ACC title back in 1964 prior to switching to the SEC, the Gamecocks have played second fiddle to most SEC schools. However, watch out for Wes Bryan, who has been on fire during his rookie season on the PGA Tour.

11. Purdue

Notable Golfers: Shiv Kapur, Rick Dalpos, John Konsek

Conference Championships: 12

National Championships: 1 (1961)

The Boilermakers were dominant during the 1950’s and 1960’s, even winning a national title in 1961. It’s been fairly quiet since then, but Purdue has made the NCAA Championship two of the last three years as they try to revive the program.

12. Xavier

Notable Golfers: Jason Kokrak, Sebastian MacLean, Herbert Day, Andy Pope

Conference Championships: 8

National Championships: 0

This program has been led by coach Doug Steiner for the past three decades, and he will be retiring at the end of this season. He led the Musketeers to eight conference titles in that time, constructing what is an underrated program.

13. Wisconsin

Notable Golfers: Dan Woltman

Conference Championships: 3

National Championships: 0

Since 1922, Wisconsin has fielded a varsity golf team but has not been impactful at the NCAA Championship, nor have Badger alumni made a splash at the PGA Tour.

14. West Virginia

Notable Golfers: Dan Ackerman, Dave Lester, John Eldwood

Conference Championships: 0

National Championships: 0

This unfortunately isn’t a fair fight. West Virginia dropped men’s golf in 1982 and they only just reinstated the sport for the 2015-2016 school year. Looking to the future, Mountaineer Alan Cooke won the 97th West Virginia Amateur by eight strokes and earned a spot in the Greenbrier Classic, which ended up being cancelled due to flooding.

15. Gonzaga

Notable Golfers: James Fahy, Sean Walsh

Conference Championships: 0

National Championships: 0

The Bulldogs from Spokane have been playing golf since 1952, but it has been a quiet existence. Coach Robert Gray is in his 18th season at Gonzaga and actually served as both then men’s and women’s coaches for eight years. The Bulldogs have sent two players — Sean Walsh and James Fahy — to NCAA Regional play in recent years.

16. Butler

Notable Golfers: Colin Christie

Conference Championships: 0

National Championships: 0

Although they have been playing since the late 1940’s, the Butler Bulldogs are more about hoops than hitting the links. A recent move from the Horizon League to the Big East should help recruiting.

 

*Unofficial titles

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