A quick glance at the NCAA Division I Golf Championships records looks like a “Who’s Who” of golf.
Names like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods, and countless others who have made a name for themselves on the PGA Tour appear as Tournament Medalist or Individual Champions in NCAA golf history.
But two names stand out among all the others and not just for what they’ve been able to accomplish on the Tour but also for what they accomplished during their collegiate careers.
|Phil Mickelson||Arizona St.||1989-90, ’92|
Ben Crenshaw of Texas and Phil Mickelson of Arizona State are the only golfers in the 114-year history of the collegiate golf championship to win three individual titles.
Crenshaw, who helped lead Texas to team championships in 1971 and 1972, won the individual championship outright in 1971 and 1973, and shared top honors with teammate Tom Kite in 1972. Crenshaw is also the only player to win the NCAA individual championship in three consecutive years.
In 1971, Crenshaw matched the then-tournament record with a final round 7-under-par 65 leading Texas back from a 15-stroke deficit for the team title. In fact, he erased a three-stroke deficit in the race for the individual crown and won by seven strokes. His four-round total of 15-under-par 273 was a tournament record until 1984.
After sharing the championship with Kite in 1972, Crenshaw was the only player to shoot sub-par rounds in each of the first three rounds of the 1973 Championship. He then held off the field for a three-stroke victory and his third national title.
Mickelson punctuated a decorated amateur career with NCAA titles in 1989, 1990 and 1992. After winning his second consecutive NCAA title as a sophomore in 1990, Mickelson joined Nicklaus as the only men (later joined by Tiger Woods in 1996 and Ryan Moore in 2004) to win the NCAA Championship and the U.S. Amateur Championship in the same year.
In the 1991 NCAA Championship, Mickelson finished in a tie for fourth. Later that summer, though, Mickelson won his first PGA Tour event, claiming the Northern Telecom Open in Tucson. He became just the sixth player in PGA history to win a Tour event as an amateur and the first since 1985.
Mickelson’s most impressive feat as a collegiate golfer came as a senior in 1992 when he led from nearly the opening hole of the championship. His opening round 63 matched the tournament record at that point and his two-round total of 16-under-par 128 remains the tournament record today. Even with a final round 74, Mickelson won the tournament by seven strokes and matched the four-round tournament record that stood until 2000.
Obviously, the success in the NCAA Championships was just an early glimpse of what Crenshaw and Mickelson would become as professionals. The two men have combined for 59 PGA Tour victories including six major championships. Crenshaw was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002 and Mickelson is scheduled for enshrinement on May 7.
While the format of the NCAA Championship has changed in recent years to determine the individual championship after three rounds, the challenge of winning the individual title among more than 150 student-athletes has not. Since Mickelson’s third title in 1992, no student-athlete has won multiple titles.
The 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship will be played at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., May 29-June 3.