Jon Rahm of Arizona State was selected as winner of the Ben Hogan Award as the best player in college golf for 2014-15 over Maverick McNealy of Stanford and Cheng-Tsung Pan of Washington.
Rahm received the award during a banquet at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
While Rahm is a terrific player, the selection committee picked the wrong guy, based on his head-to-head college record against McNealy, the Pacific 12 Conference Player of the Year this season.
“I knew it was going to be a toss-up, because I know how this works and it’s such a diverse committee,” said Conrad Ray, Director of Golf at Stanford. “We thought Patrick Rodgers might win it two years ago, but he didn’t, then he came back last year and got it.
“Maverick just felt honored to be there and if he was disappointed I think he put it behind quickly, but he’s not going anywhere and he figures he will be back with a chance to win it again next year.
“Jon was very gracious in his acceptance speech and acknowledged the seasons that Maverick and Pan had. We were in Big 12 (Conference) country and it was great for the Pac-12 to have the three finalists come from our conference.”
The award, is billed as “the most prestigious award in college golf,” although performance in amateur events throughout the year also is considered, but the numbers will tell you that McNealy has been the best player in college golf this season.
McNealy, a sophomore from Portola Valley, is No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and the Golfstat Rankings, and leads the nation with six college victories, including his latest in the Chapel Hill Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
Rahm, a junior from Spain, has four victories, including his last in the NCAA San Diego Regional, and is No. 1 in the World Amateur Rankings and No. 2 in the college rankings.
However, in the four tournaments both Stanford and Arizona State were involved in this season, McNealy bested Rahm three times and claimed medalist honors in two of those events.
Head-to-head competition against other candidates is among the selection criteria.
McNealy, No. 3 in the World Amateur Rankings, captured the Prestige at PGA West by four strokes over Rahm, who tied for second, and finished second in the Amer Ari Invitational, four shots ahead of Rahm, who tied for eighth.
Rahm finished third and edged McNealy by one stroke in the Western Intercollegiate, the only time he got the best of his rival all season.
Most telling was the Pacific 12 Conference Championship, the biggest regular-season event for both players, which McNealy won by 10 strokes when he closed with a 9-under-par 61. Rahm wound up in a tie for sixth, a whopping 18 strokes behind.
So, in those four college events, McNealy was a total of 25 shots better than Rahm.
Rahm also picked up points by helping Europe win the Palmer Cup last year, reached the round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur, captured the Spanish Amateur, and helped win the World Amateur Team Championship.
McNealy, along with Stanford teammate Vidaat Badhwar, earned medalist honors at the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship before losing in the round of 16, qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 before missing the cut, and missed the stroke-play cut by one stroke and did not advance to match play in the U.S. Amateur.
The voters also might have been swayed by Rahm’s remarkable performance in the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he tied for fifth. But, the Ben Hogan Award selection criteria mentions nothing about professional events.
Rahm could well wind up winning the NCAA Championship which start next week and validate his selection to some, but at the time the votes were tabulated, McNealy was the best college player in the nation.
Of course the Hogan selection committee has gotten it wrong before, choosing Mark Wilson of North Carolina over NCAA champion Tiger Woods of Stanford in 1996.