UT’s golf squad was nearly unbeatable in 2011 . Finishing in either first or second place in eight of the team’s 11 regular season tournaments, the Longhorns placed second in the NCAA Norman Invitational, grabbing second, and the NCAA Stroke-play Championship, finishing third. These results, in addition to a second-place finish in the Big 12 Tournament, earned UT the No. 3 slot in the NCAA Championship Tournament.
After taking down Oregon 3-2 in the semis, the Longhorns advanced to the finals to face top-seeded Alabama. The Crimson Tide, who had already finished first in stroke play prior to the tournament, jumped out to a 2-0 lead. But UT gathered itself, taking the next two matches to knot the score at 2-2. Then, on the 18th hole, then-senior Dylan Frittelli lined up for a 30-yard putt to clinch the victory. Standing at the edge of the green, Frittelli, who’d needed only a two-putt to seal the championship, sent the ball in for the win.
The team hadn’t won a championship since back-to-back victories in 1971-72. And this year may prove their best opportunity yet to repeat the feat. The team comes into the season ranked second in the nation, right behind the same Alabama squad it knocked off last year.
The Longhorns have already begun their 2012-13 campaign on the right foot. Heading to Rocky Face, Ga., the team opened the season by winning the Carpet Capital Collegiate. With a combined score of minus-13, the Longhorns beat second-place Georgia by five points. More importantly, however, they trounced third-place Alabama, which finished the tournament with a plus-1.
Freshman Brandon Stone, currently 30th in amateur rankings, led the squad with his minus-12, while sophomore All-American Jordan Spieth claimed second place with a score of minus-10, the 24th time he’s finished at or below par in his young career. Stone’s nine-under 63 on Saturday was the program’s lowest single-round score since David Gossett’s offering in the 2000 NCAA Championship.
But the victory wasn’t simply due to the stellar performance of the Longhorns’ young talents. Saturday’s 22-under 226 also represented the lowest score since Head Coach John Fields began his tenure in 1997.
Longhorn golfer Toni Hakula. Photo courtesy Texas Athletics.