Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Notebook: Texas golf is struggling, but coach still optimistic

John Fields isn’t thrilled about the slow start by his golf team this fall. But he’s been around long enough to understand why it’s happening.

In two tournaments, the Longhorns have finished eighth and fourth. This from a squad that started the year ranked No. 2 nationally.

“There’s not one guy on my team, from a team perspective, that’s happy with the way we’ve played the last two tournaments,” Fields said.

Yet no one is panicking. Here’s why:
  • Beau Hossler, Texas’ top player, missed the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational last month because he was representing the U.S. in the Walker Cup. How valuable is Hossler? This week he made his season debut and fired a career-low 64 in the final round to win the Nike Collegiate Invitational in Portland. He finished 18-under par, topping Duke’s Adam Wood by six strokes.
“When you leave a player like Beau Hossler off of your roster, it can cost you up to 25 strokes,” Fields said.

Fields likened it to 2012, when Texas won the national title but finished eighth and third in tournaments when Jordan Spieth was off playing on his own.
  • For the first time, Fields has three players in his five-person lineup navigating the McCombs School of Business. “That’s a pretty big grind,” he said.
  • The Horns are having a difficult time replacing Kramer Hickok, the lone senior and the No. 5 contributor on last year’s team that won the Big 12 and six other tournaments. Taylor Funk, Tayler Termeer and Kalena Preus are vying for the spot, and Preus, a former Hawaii state champion, appears to have taken the lead with his final round 71 in Portland.
Preus, a redshirt sophomore, was playing in his first event as a Longhorn.

“He’s been through some hard times as a Texas golfer, as a Texas student,” Fields said. “With the guy coming from Hawaii, it’s certainly out of culture for him. It’s taken him a significant amount of time to get back to where he’s credible as a golfer. That 71 gets everyone’s attention. That means he showed up to play.”

Fields said the abundance of golf his team played in the summer has taken a toll, as have some minor nicks and bumps.

Optimism remains strong heading into the U.S. Collegiate, Oct. 16-18 in Atlanta. Along with Hossler, the lineup is loaded with reigning Big 12 champion Scottie Scheffler, Big 12 runner-up Gavin Hall, and Doug Ghim, who tied for eighth at the NCAA championships.

“We’ll win tournaments this year,” Fields said. “It’s only a matter of time before we get into a rhythm.”

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