04/26/2016

Was it only two years ago that the Golf Channel announced the return of coverage of the NCAA golf championships?

Yeah, it really was, but look at what’s happening this year. With conference championships in full swing, the Golf Channel is ramping up blanket coverage preceding the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships May 20-June 1 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon.

If you like NCAA golf, you’re in for a real treat. You’ll be able to sit back and watch more than 100 hours of news and tournament coverage of both championships onsite, as well as expanded coverage online on Golf Channel Digital and the network’s social media channels.

Golf Channel will dedicate its panoply of production resources to the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships, featuring more than 25 combined hours of live tournament coverage as well as more than 50 hours of replays and 25 hours of live news coverage.

The championships features the top eight teams and individual golfers who advance from the NCAA Regional Qualifying. The Golf Channel’s coverage also will include all three rounds of the team match-play tournament of both the men’s and women’s competition. Duke alum and professional golfer Amanda Blumenherst is joining the Golf Channel’s broadcast team as a news analyst for this year’s NCAA Women’s Golf Championships.

The NCAA has assiduously cultivated its relationship with the Golf Channel by helping the NBC Sports Group affiliate to develop a package of features leading up the event. They range from the exciting head-to-head battle between Stanford’s Mariah Stackhouse and Baylor’s Hayley Davis on the women’s side last year (won by Stackhouse) to the incredible consistency of the  University of Illinois golf program, featuring one of this year’s top collegians (Charlie Danielson), to Beau Hossler’s inspiring ascent at the University of Texas. By increasing its coverage of the event prior to the actual tournament and focusing on human interest stories, the NCAA has utilized a March Madness approach to the max in the golf world, which seems to be paying similar dividends.

Golf aficionados, from gurus to grunts, are realizing that today’s PGA and LPGA performers usually cut their teeth in NCAA competition, including Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahon, Stacy Lewis, Lorena Ochoa, and Annika Sorenstam, just to name a few.

So, who are the top teams and individuals to keep an eye on in this year’s championships?

On the men’s side the teams to watch are Texas, led by the aforementioned Hossler and widely considered the favorite, Georgia (with up-and-coming Lee McCoy), Stanford (last year’s winner), consistent Illinois, and perhaps sleeper University of Southern California, seeking an elusive first-ever NCAA crown.

Another top collegian to keep an eye on: Jon Rahm from Arizona State.

The women’s side is strongly represented by the Pac-12, with four teams to watch closely, including favorite UCLA (led by junior Bronte Law) Ana Newell), USC, Stanford, and Arizona State. But don’t count out Alabama, Duke or Georgia, all of whom are playing well lately. As far as individual players are concerned, the focus should be on Law and the Ana Newell from the University of Texas.