Nothing quite stirs a good debate like a ranking and alma maters.
With fans and players encouraged to wear their school’s colors for Saturday's University Day during the third round of this week’s Farmers Insurance Open -- the player with the lowest third-round score will receive $10,000 for his alma mater’s golf team, and any player wearing his school colors will have $500 donated in his name to his school's golf program -- now seems as good a time as any to look at the best college golf teams of all time.
But there’s a slight twist: The below ranking is based more on success at the pro level. It’s also specific to players being on the same team, rather than teams across eras.
1. 1974-75 Wake Forest: Led by Curtis Strange, Jay Haas, freshman Scott Hoch and Bob Byman, the Demon Deacons beat favored Oklahoma State by a record 33 shots to win the national championship (Haas also won the individual title). Once that group turned pro, the records continued to pile up.
Strange won back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1988-89 and added 15 other PGA TOUR titles on his way to a Hall-of-Fame career. He was the first player to earn a million dollars in a season and also played in five Ryder Cups while serving as captain in another.
Haas never won a major, but he won plenty, amassing nine wins on TOUR before racking up 16 more on the Champions Tour. He also played in three Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups.
Hoch, meanwhile, had 11 career wins on TOUR and has since added three more on the over-50 circuit. He finished second at the 1989 Masters two years after finishing third at the PGA Championship and also played in three Presidents Cups and two Ryder Cups.
Byman had the least impressive career of the group, which is saying something. He won four times in Europe before adding Bay Hill to his resume in 1979. In all, he had six career wins.
“We were young, we were cocky and the world was uncomplicated,” Strange once told Golf Digest of his college team. It’s hard to dispute that, or their place atop this list.
2. 1970-71 Texas: Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite led the Longhorns to its first NCAA title in any sport, but it’s what the duo did in the years the followed that etched their names into history and onto this list.
Crenshaw won 19 times on TOUR, including at the 1984 and 1995 Masters -- the latter coming just days after his mentor, Harvey Penick, had passed away. He was also a member of four Ryder Cup teams and captained the record-setting comeback at Brookline in 1999. Three years later, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame after 29 worldwide victories.
All Kite did was match him with 19 wins, including a memorable 1992 U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach. In 1981 and 1989, he led the money list, and in 1991 and 1992 earned the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.
Kite was the first player to reach $6 million, $7 million, $8 million and $9 million in career earnings and has since added to his victory total with 10 wins on the Champions Tour. He was a member of seven Ryder Cup teams, captained another and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.
3. 1994-95 Stanford: All you need to know about this team is that Tiger Woods was on campus. The Cardinal were hardly a one-trick tree, though. Notah Begay III and Casey Martin helped fill out the roster and both would go on to serviceable if not notable careers in the pros.
First, Woods. He has 14 major championships and 65 other wins on TOUR and has set numerous records thus far in his career. That resume obviously carries a lot of weight when it comes to the ranking.
For his part, Begay went on to win four times in his career -- and he did it in his first nine months on TOUR. Back problems would plague him, but at one point he did reach the top 20 in the world. He is also one of only a handful of players to have shot 59 in a professional tournament, doing so in 1998 at a Nike Tour event.
Martin, meanwhile, suffers from a birth defect in his right leg known as Klippel Trenaunay Weber Syndrome. His lone professional victory came on the Nike Tour.
4. 1992-93 Georgia Tech: Neither David Duval nor Stewart Cink won an NCAA Championship while at Georgia Tech. Both of course would go on to win a major championship -- Duval’s coming at the 2001 Open Championship, Cink’s the 2009 Open.
In all, Duval has won 13 times on TOUR. He also reached No. 1 in the world in 1999 -- the same year he shot 59 in the final round to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He finished second three times in major championships and played in three Presidents Cups and two Ryder Cups.
While Cink hasn’t had quite the level of success that Duval has enjoyed, he does have five other TOUR wins to go with a Claret Jug. He has also finished third in each of the other three majors, has reached as high as No. 6 in the world and was a member of five Ryder Cup and four Presidents Cup teams.
5. 1979-80 Houston: Like the 1994-95 Stanford team, the Cougars are buoyed by one of the game’s legends in Fred Couples. But like Woods, he had company -- specifically Blaine McCallister and Jim Nantz.
Though Nantz never played professionally, he was an accomplished player in college and has been a fixture in the game as the voice of golf for CBS for nearly 30 years.
McCallister? He won five times on TOUR.
As for Couples, his Hall-of-Fame career has been well-documented. He has 15 career wins on TOUR, which includes the 1992 Masters, and another nine on the Champions Tour. The 54-year-old has also played in five Ryder Cups and four Presidents Cups and has been the winning captain in the Presidents Cup another three times.