SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Golf is hard.
You know what’s even harder? Winning a national championship.
Just ask head coaches Mike Small (Illinois) and Matt Thurmond (Arizona State). They’re two of the very best – maybe ever – to guide college golf teams and certain to be Hall of Famers, yet these two have yet to experience what it’s like to hold the national championship trophy.
In fact, there are only 11 active coaches who have experienced that feeling.
Small and Thurmond have similar stories: Their teams are consistently very good.
Small is in his 23rd season with the Illini and has had a tee time in the NCAA finals in 16 of those 23 seasons, including 14 of the past 16 years.
Thurmond’s 21 years coaching includes 15 years at Washington and six in Tempe, Arizona. He has seen his teams play in 16 of 20 national championships. Thurmond guided Washington to 11 finals appearances in 15 years. Washington has not made a trip to the finals since Thurmond left for Arizona State.
Since 2009, match play has decided the national champion. Small is tied with John Fields of Texas for all-time coaching appearances in match play with seven. Oklahoma’s Ryan Hybl, Alan Bratton of Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt’s Scott Limbaugh each have six. Thurmond has five – two at Arizona State and three at Washington.
We all know the story, match play levels the playing field, making it more difficult to win if you are the better stroke-play team. Oklahoma State won it all as the top seed in 2018 on its home course of Karsten Creek and remains the only No. 1 seed to do so.
Here at Grayhawk, Illinois and Arizona State are in the top 4 in the national…
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