CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Golf Coaches Association of America announced today (June 1) that Virginia first-year men’s golfer Ben James (Milford, Conn.) has been named the winner of the 2023 NCAA Division I Phil Mickelson Outstanding Freshman Award presented by StrackaLine. He is the second Virginia golfer to receive the Outstanding Freshman Award. Jimmy Flippen was the recipient in 1992.
James was also named to the GCAA’s All-Freshman team.
James had a historic season in his first year on Grounds. In 13 tournaments he posted a school-record stroke average of 69.0 for 40 rounds of play. He posted 11 top-six finishes, had 24 rounds in the 60s and 33 rounds of par or better. His sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships tied as the second best by a Cavalier. He helped UVA reach match play at the NCAA Championships for the first time and post the best finish in stroke play (seventh) in program history.
He previously was named a PING first-team All-American by the GCAA, becoming the first Cavalier freshman to earn first-team All-America honors. He becomes the 11th player honored as an All-American in program history.
James was a finalist for both the Haskins Award and Division I Jack Nicklaus Award which are presented to the nation’s top collegiate golfer. He was ranked No. 7 in the Golfstat standings prior to the NCAA Championships.
“What an achievement for Ben to be named the national freshman of the year,” said Virginia coach Bowen Sargent. “The consistency Ben demonstrated all year was incredible. To earn first team All-America honors at any point in a career is amazing but to do so as a freshman is almost unheard of.
“Ben certainly earned his place on the team, his passion for the game and professional approach day to day is unwavering. Ben is a special talent and a humble young man, we are excited for his future at Virginia. He now has the opportunity to be one of only a handful of players in college golf to earn first team all four years.”
James picked up a school record five first-place finishes this season. He was co-medalist at the NCAA Las Vegas Regional, matching his school record 54-hole scoring mark by shooting 20-under 196.
At UVA’s season-opening tournament at the Streamsong Invitational, he also shot 20-under, 196 to capture medalist honors. At that event, UVA posted a team score of 56-under 808, the lowest tournament score in program history. Coming off that opening win, UVA was ranked No. 1 nationally by Golfweek, the program’s first-ever top ranking.
James was also first at the Hamptons Intercollegiate, the General Hackler Championships and UVA’s own Lewis Chitengwa Memorial. He was an All-ACC selection and placed third at the league championship.
One of a handful of players to receive first-team All-America honors for four years, Mickelson was one of the greatest players in the history of college golf. He is also one of only two three-time NCAA champions, one of only five collegiate golfers to win medalist honors back-to-back and is the only player to win outright NCAA crowns in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Mickelson was the recipient of the Jack Nicklaus Award – which is presented to the top men’s player in college golf – three times and won the inaugural Division I Arnold Palmer Award winner in 1992. He was also named Pac-10 Player of the Year three times and was named first-team All-Pac-10 four times. A 2002 inductee into the Arizona State Hall of Fame, Mickelson notched a school record 16 career tournament victories.