Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Time to put Jags' run in proper perspective

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Seeing as just about every possible angle of Augusta State's successful national title defense in golf has been dissected at length, that leaves only a little room for some subjective conclusions to more abstract questions.

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Augusta State golfer Mitch Krywulycz hugs a supporter after the team returned to town following its second national title.   Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Augusta State golfer Mitch Krywulycz hugs a supporter after the team returned to town following its second national title.

1. What does it mean in the short term?

Aside from having to edit all those road signs marking the city limits, it means any critics who believed the first national title was a fluke can shut up. Augusta State's "Cinderella" golf program shattered any delusions of jealous rivals that its giant-killing last year was some kind of lucky run.

The big boys at Oklahoma State were left grumbling a year ago about how "the better team" didn't win the crown after Augusta State's stars thumped them in the match-play final. Given the ultimate mulligan Saturday for redemption on its home golf course at Karsten Creek, Oklahoma State failed to prove its point yet again to the Jaguars in the semifinal.

The only thing more validating than winning one national title is winning two. Perennial powerhouse Georgia has two national golf titles. Phil Mickelson's alma mater Arizona State has two. Jack Nicklaus' beloved Ohio State has two.

Clemson, with all its young PGA Tour stars, has only one. Georgia Tech, with its legendary roster of players, has zero. South Carolina has none as well.

So it's safe to say that the school which plays Division II in all its other sports is worthy of its standing among the big boys in collegiate golf. Shout out of the day Sunday came from former Georgia Tech star Matt Kuchar, who said during a rain delay at the Memorial that he never thought Augusta State would turn out to be his alma mater's biggest rival.

2. What does it mean in the long term?

Since everybody except the school's sports information director scattered in different directions at the conclusion of the championship, where the program goes next is a mystery.

Coach Josh Gregory bolted for a fat paycheck at his alma mater, Southern Methodist. Patrick Reed took off immediately to pursue his first paycheck at this week's PGA Tour stop in Memphis. Henrik Norlander will compete in the prestigious Palmer Cup this week before turning pro next week and pursuing his future on the European Challenge Tour.

Mitch Krywulycz and Carter Newman plan to make their pro debuts in two weeks at the eGolf Tour's Bolle Classic. They will travel together and share expenses as they try to get their footing this summer.

Olle Bengtsson plans to return to Sweden and play golf in Europe during the summer before coming back to Augusta to pursue his graduate degree in business.

The departing players are lobbying hard for the new coach to be current Augusta State women's coach Kevin McPherson, who served as Gregory's assistant last week in Stillwater, Okla. Far be it from me to object to their wishes. McPherson could have a little experienced talent left in the cupboard with rising sophomore Alex Wennstam and 2010 championship contributor Taylor Floyd.

It's a long shot, by surely Augusta State will eye matching neighboring sports rival USC Aiken's three-year reign in Division II.

3. What does it mean historically?

Becoming the first team to win back-to-back national titles in 26 years and only the fifth program to do it since the NCAA started sponsoring the collegiate tournament in 1939 puts you on a short list of the great college teams.

But let's not get carried away just yet. It will be years before that evaluation can be effectively made based on perceptions shaped by future performance.

Consider that the back-to-back Texas champs of 1971-72 included Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, the Wake Forest champs of 1974-75 starred Curtis Strange and Jay Haas and the Houston squads of 1984-85 were led by Steve Elkington and Billy Ray Brown.

If Reed and Norlander or any of their teammates pull off a major title or start collecting professional wins by the handfuls, then the Jags can earn a place in the conversation. It doesn't hurt that other former Jags, Vaughn Taylor and Oliver Wilson, have shown the way by qualifying for Ryder Cups.

4. Which championship was better?

This is a lot like debating the prettiest Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, but here goes.

The 2010 title was ground- breaking and inspirational. Yet as impressive as it was, this one trumps it. Not only did they have the pressure of being defending champs, but Hollywood couldn't have drafted a more hard-to-believe script for the match-play run.

Once again they had to take on the alma mater (Georgia Tech) of the man (Bobby Jones) who made Augusta synonymous with golf.

Then in the much-anticipated rematch of last year's championship match, they had to outduel the top-ranked host team (Oklahoma State) in front of a massive partisan gallery with a homegrown kid from Evans (Newman) draining three consecutive putts down the stretch to clinch the victory.

And finally they had to tackle their homestate's flagship powerhouse (Georgia) with the climax coming down to the player (Reed) who was dismissed from Georgia two years before taking down his former team.

"Storybook" was the word Gregory used to cap the last chapter of all these Jaguars. Sounds about right.

5. Why is the NCAA championship not televised?

Flip through your cable listings and you'll find all manner of NCAA offerings from softball to baseball to lacrosse available for live viewing. It takes a web browser to get a glimpse of what has quickly become the most compelling non-revenue championship in the collegiate realm.

The NCAA aced it three years ago when it jiggered the format to use 54 holes of stroke play to determine an eight-team match play bracket for the championship. Everyone but Oklahoma State loves it for creating a truly team-oriented event that contains all the passion and drama of a Ryder Cup on a small scale.

With four networks, a Golf Channel and a half dozen ESPN offerings, surely someone will have the sense to televise at least the semifinals and final by next year.

Ex-Jags Wilson and Jamie Elson were watching the "nervy" matches on their computers in Europe. It would be nice to see the three-peat attempt live in HD next year from the famed Riviera Country Club.

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j-campbell
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j-campbell 06/07/11 - 04:04 am
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These players future

These players future professional performances are totally irrelevant to any discussion of this team's place in collegiate golf. This team's performance stands on its own as a superb accomplishment. The sport of golf has historically measured its participants by their performances in "major championships." For collegians there is only one major championship -- the NCAA -- and our guys stepped up and did what none of their peers could do two years in a row. They did what only four other programs could do since 1939 and none since 1985. These teams are without a doubt two of the best teams in the history of college golf regardless of what the players may or may not do as professionals.

It's bad enough that the politics of college golf give heavy consideration to non-collegiate performances in events such as the U.S. Amateur in selecting the winner of the Ben Hogan award symbolizing the outstanding collegiate player of the year without this team's assessment being dependent on the future professional performance of these players.

As for our wins this year being considered upsets, that's just a reflection of the poor judgement of those doing the pre-match handicapping. I'm reminded of several years ago when we were highly ranked but could never attain the #1 ranking which was held by Clemson virtually all year. We faced Clemson four times that year and went 4-0 against them, with one win being head-to-head in match play -- too much politics in golf rankings. These are the same kind of rankers who in college football persisted in voting Ohio State into the championship game against SEC opponents who systematically buried them.

ASU took care of business last year and returned every member of the 2010 championship team. Once match play began, there was not a stronger team in the field -- certainly not OSU with its 8 & 7 number 1 player who fell to Reed for the second year in a row.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 06/07/11 - 07:12 am
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I agree jc, what has their

I agree jc, what has their future success on the Tour got to do with the last two year's accomplishment?

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