Texas wins National Championship
In college golf’s ultimate finale, it came down to the two season-long powerhouses, the Texas Longhorns and the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Texas Longhorns prevailed in a victorious triumph, but let’s preface with the events which brought us to the exciting finish at Riviera Country Club.
In the new match play format (introduced in 2009), 8 teams were granted post-stroke play entry, which added to increased excitement to the drab NCAAs. At the conclusion of the stroke play, Alabama sat in first, followed by UCLA, Texas, California, San Diego State, Washington and Oregon. In a tie for eighth were Kent State and Florida State, who went on to play the 18th hole in a playoff for an opportunity to play the Crimson Tide. Kent State played the hole in 2 over, beating Florida State on the cumulative by 1 stroke to work them into the match play.
The individual champion of the tournament came from the 21st place team, the Illinois Fighting Illini, Thomas Pieters. Pieters, a sophomore from Nijlen, Belgium, shot rounds of 69, 68 and 71 to post a -5 total of 208, good for a 3 shot victory. The victory was the second of his young (born in 1992….um, young) career, winning the Jack Nicklaus Invitational this past fall.
On with the match play…
The number one seed took care of the Kent State Flashes 3-1-1 in the first round. The 2 vs. 7 matchup featured an upset by the 7th seed Oregon Ducks. They took down fellow Pac-10 rivals UCLA in a tight match 3-2. California beat San Diego State 3-2 in the 4 vs. 5 matchup. The final first round match provided some foreshadowing as Texas romped Washington 5-0.
The 4 semifinal qualifiers gave college golf an exciting set of matches as both Alabama and Texas narrowly escaped defeat, winning each match 3-2 over California and Oregon respectively, setting the stage for the championship showdown.
In the championship match, the groups set up like this:
Bobby Wyatt (4) Vs. Toni Hakula (5)
Cory Whitsett (1) Vs. Dylan Fritelli (1)
Scott Strohmeyer (5) Vs. Cody Gribble (4)
Justin Thomas (2) Vs. Jordan Spieth (3)
Hunter Hamrick (3) Vs. Julio Vegas (2)
Wyatt eagled the par 5 17th hole and chipped in for birdie on the 18th to steal a point from Hakula in the first group out. The Hamrick-Vegas match was long done at this point after Hamrick pummeled Jhonathan Vegas’ little brother Julio 6&5. Gribble beat Strohmeyer 2&1 in the 3rd match. In the 4th match, wunder-freshmen-kids Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were paired together, with Spieth winning 3&2. The championship came down in the end to the two number one players, Whitsett and Fritelli, a fitting way to end a National title. The match was tight all day, with neither player gaining more than a 1 up advantage. Fritelli won 15 and 16 to take a 1 up lead with 2 holes to play, but Whitsett fired back with a birdie on the 17th to enter the 18th hole, all square for the championship. Whitsett missed the green long and left of the tricky 18th, leaving himself a difficult chip shot, with Fritelli sitting safely on the green 30 feet away. Maybe trying to do too much with the shot, Whitsett whiffed the shot, his club slipping directly underneath the golf ball. This opened the door for Fritelli who needed two putts for the victory. He only used 1. He drained the 30 foot putt, following it with an emphatic celebration with his Longhorn coaches and teammates and coaches. A fitting way to end an exciting week at Riviera and an exciting season in Division I college golf.
Texas reigns atop the college golfing world.