Jan. 20, 2009
After battling through tough weather and course conditions for four days at Purdue University's Kampen Course, it all came down to one stroke at the 2008 NCAA Men's Golf Championships.
Just one shot prevented the Cardinal from repeating as national champions and capturing their ninth national title overall.
Though Stanford was unsuccessful in winning its second straight title in its third NCAA Championships appearance in four years, finishing the season as the national runner-up after winning in 2007 has proved one thing; the Cardinal has once again established itself as one of the top men's golf programs in the country.
Led by The Knowles Family Director of Men's Golf, Conrad Ray, in his fifth season, Stanford will again be gunning for its ninth overall NCAA Championship in the 2009 season. And Ray has good cause to believe his team can achieve its goal, as he has once again assembled one of the nation's most talented squads.
Anchored by 2008 CGAA First Team All-American sophomore Sihwan Kim and 2007 CGAA Second Team All-American Joseph Bramlett, the Cardinal will be returning its entire squad from the 2007-08 season, save for last year's lone senior Rob Grube.
Grube, a four-time All-American, will be missed, but the mantle has been passed on to some very capable individuals. Kim had a sensational rookie campaign, capped off by being named a 2008 first-team CGAA and Golfweek All-American, and ran away with a slew of other awards including Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, first team All-Pac-10, All-Nicklaus team, and a selection to the CGCA All-Freshman team He achieved the third lowest freshman stroke average in program history, 71.58, which was also the best on the team in 2008. He captured the CordeValle Collegiate Classic individual titles, and added six other top-10 finishes and four top-25 finishes in twelve events, finishing the season with a national rank of seventh.
has been rock solid for us," said Ray. "He works very hard and has high aspirations during his college career and beyond. I think Sihwan will be a major factor for us this spring."
Bramlett, who is returning from an injury that kept him from competing in the spring of 2008, also boasts exceptional credentials. He owns the program's second lowest freshman stroke average (71.46), and was a second-team CGCA All-American, a second-team All-Pac-10 selection, and a GCAA All-Freshman team honoree in 2007. In 18 events over his career, he has finished in the top 10 seven times, and in the top 25 six times.
"To have Joseph back and healthy is huge for us," said Ray. "He brings a determination and competiveness that is infectious among the guys. Joseph is a force to reckon with and I will not be surprised if he returns to where he was at after his great freshman year."
Daniel Lim and Dodge Kemmer, the two seniors of this season's group, will serve as co-captains of the squad. Lim was a member of the last Stanford side to win the national title in 2007, and earned All-American distinction that year. In 2008, he was a Pac-10 All-Academic selection, and twice finished in the top-25 on the leaderboard in eight events.
"Daniel and Dodge bring a lot of experience to our squad," said Ray. "They both have been great senior captains and I think both of them can lead us where we want to go as a team. I am sure they will go out with a bang."
Kemmer was a second-team Pac-10 All-Academic selection last season, competed in 11 events for the Cardinal. He was one of the five men to represent Stanford at the 2008 NCAA Championships, in which he finished in a tie for 23rd. Kemmer also posted two top-ten finishes on the season, one of which was a tie for 3rd at the Ashworth Collegiate Invitational.
Fellow returner, junior Jordan Cox, also brings a wealth of experience to the team. Cox notched two top-ten outings, including his best, a tie for fourth at the CordeValle Collegiate, and two top-25 performances. Cox was a part of the five-man crew competing in the 2008 NCAA Championships, and this past summer qualified for the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and earned the privilege to play a 9-hole practice round alongside Cardinal alumni and 2008 U.S. Open Champion Tiger Woods.
"Jordan Cox has no physical equal," said Ray. "He hits it well, has great touch and has all the tolls. If Jordan can put it all together and manage his game on the course I look for big things from him."
Rounding out the returners are Steve Ziegler and Graham Brockington. Ziegler, now a sophomore, vastly improved his game during his first year on The Farm. An All-Pac-10 honorable mention, he competed in nine events for the Cardinal, including the NCAA Championships and continually bettered his previous finish with each tournament throughout the season, culminating with his best finish (T7) at Stanford's U.S. Intercollegiate. Brockington competed in three events in his first year.
"Steve and Graham are doing a great job," said Ray. "Steve has played consistently in our third spot and has contributed every week and Graham has been knocking on the door of the starting five. Both guys are a pleasure to coach and will be a big part of what we are doing as we move forward."
Filling out the remainder of the roster is yet another sensational freshman class recruited by Ray, David Chung and Wilson Bowen.
Chung, who was home-schooled, is a two-time Rolex Junior All-American, is a three-time qualifier for the U.S. Amateur (2006-2008) and was the runner-up in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in 2004 at the age of 14 and continued to post excellent finishes in top-tier Amateur and Junior tournaments throughout his prep career.
Bowen, a graduate of New Trier High School (Ill.) was named an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Scholastic All-American and was a two-time all-state selection as a junior and senior. He won the AJGA SAP Junior Open in Cleveland, Ohio in June 2007 in a three-hole sudden death playoff.
"David and Wilson have done a wonderful job in their short time so far on the Farm," said Ray. "They both realize how hard they need to work to improve and mark their mark in our line-up. Both will get better because they understand how to practice and compete the right way."
Ray's schedule once again will challenge his team to be the best, and the table will look fairly similar to the 2007-08 campaign, as the team will revisit the same tournaments with the exception of Japan's Topy Cup in the fall, and will instead participate in the Callaway Golf Collegiate Match Play Championship in March.
"Our schedule this year will pit us against the country's best teams on quality golf courses," said Ray. "I am a firm believer that good golf courses and stiff competition can give my guys the experience they need to have a chance to compete for the trophy in the spring. The harder the better as far as I am concerned and we are lucky to have one of the top schedules in the country."
The fall schedule had the Cardinal traveling from coast to coast, as the team played two tournaments in California (The Prestige at PGA West and the CordeValle Classic), one in Florida (The Isleworth Collegiate Invitational), and another in Chicago (The Fighting Illini Invitational). Stanford took home one top-ten and three top-five finishes, capping off an excellent autumn with a second place finish at the CordeValle Collegiate before heading into the winter break.
In the spring, the Cardinal will return to the U.S. Collegiate Championship in Alpharetta, Ga (Apr. 5-7), and will again put on the U.S. Intercollegiate at the Stanford Golf Course (Apr. 18-19). This year's Pac-10 Championships will be hosted by Washington and held at Seattle Golf Club (Apr. 27-29), and the 2009 NCAA Championships are slated to be held in Toldeo, Ohio at the Inverness Club.