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John Fields Talks Jordan Spieth and the Future of UT Golf

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This week Longhorn golf standout Jordan Spieth tees off in the 2014 Ryder Cup, one of the biggest events in the golfing world. At the precocious age of 21, Spieth is only the second UT alumnus to quality for the American Ryder Cup team since 1999. The breakout star owes at least part of his development to his time at UT under coach John Fields. In 2012, Fields coached Spieth as UT won its first national championship since the Ben Crenshaw/Tom Kite era in the early 1970s.

Fields recently spoke with the Alcalde about the Ryder Cup, coaching Spieth, and the future of Longhorn golf.

How do you think Spieth’s very recent team golf experiences at Texas will play into what he does?

Obviously, I’m thrilled for Jordan, [both] that he made the team and that he’s going to play for a captain like Tom Watson. I know that’s been an incredible goal for him. If Jordan accomplishes any sort of goal he quickly moves onto another. Now, he doesn’t want to just play in the Ryder Cup, he wants to win the Ryder Cup for the United States. He’s a fabulous match play competitor. He’s one of two guys in the world have won multiple United States Juniors, the other being Tiger Woods.

In the past you’ve mentioned the last time UT won the national championship prior to the 2012 win, when Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw were on the team. You’ve talked about how this team as well had a lot of special players. Do you see this team having guys who come out, besides Spieth, who could be of the same stature as Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite?

Yeah. We have special players on our team right now. They will be finding out just how special they are, just like Jordan did. Jordan has gone out and done some incredible things right away. I’m so happy for him. He had the opportunity and it didn’t hurt to come to Texas. He raised the level of his game while he was here. I’m super excited for him and what he’s going to do.

How do you foresee this season of UT golf panning out?

We’re very, very excited about this year. Beau Hossler is an extraordinary player. Scottie Scheffler was the U.S. Junior Champion. Doug Ghim was a Junior Ryder Cup team member. Three guys right there are ranked in the top 10 of the world as amateur golfers. Then you have Gavin Hall who’s played in multiple PGA Tour events, including the U.S. Open at Merion. Then you got Kramer Hickock who’s been an All-American, who’s an extraordinary player himself.

The core of our team is super-strong and yet we’ve got several other guys who are just fantastic players, like Taylor Funk who is really coming along who is going go to be a redshirt freshman this year. Brax McCarthy is a redshirt senior who finished top 10 in the Big 12 last year. We have extraordinary depth on our team.

Last year the team was ranked in the top 15. Do you see this as more of a development year, or do you see yourself in serious contention for the national championship?

This is not a rebuilding year, this is a championship year. These next three years going forward, if we’re able to maintain and keep our team intact, would be a time where we could win any golf tournament we play in and win any championship that we play in. Whether we do that or not, I can’t tell you.

They still have to hit fairways and make putts and make great decisions. We have three guys in the top 10 in the world on the team right now. Four guys have played in multiple PGA Tour events. We’ll either be the number-one or two team in the country coming out, and it’s up to us to take it from there.

Is your mention of keeping the team intact a hint that some players could leave and try to play on the PGA Tour, like Spieth?

That’s exactly it. You’ve got guys who have made cuts on the PGA Tour, like Beau at the U.S. Open at the second round at Olympic Club, and Scottie Scheffler [who] finished 22nd in the Byron Nelson up in Dallas. If they do anything else that’s extraordinary, the pressure starts mounting with regards to the opportunities that are presented to them. So they have to look at those things and then weigh the opportunities versus their education and competitors they’re playing against right now.

We support all of our guys. One of the great things about coming to Texas is that we understand that that is a possibility [that they might leave early] but we’re not shy about continuing to recruit those types of guys, because those are the kind of guys that absolutely have legitimate shots at championships. We’re excited about having these guys on our team. It creates unbelievable opportunity for us. We’re just like [the players], we want to win.

Photo by Anna Donlan.

 

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