Men's preview: Big 12 Conference

Men's preview: Big 12 Conference

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Men's preview: Big 12 Conference

The littlest putts used to give Jace Long the biggest problems. Now, his ability to overcome an early onset of the yips has helped the Missouri junior become one of the most prolific winners in college golf.

In spring 2010, Tigers coach Mark Leroux developed a plan to help Long sink more short putts. “He used to miss one or two every tournament,” Leroux said. “Short ones – 18 inches, 24 inches. That’d be the difference right there.”

So, in practice, the coach set up three tees 3 feet from the cup. Long had to then make 30 consecutive putts to move from that spot. When he did, they set up at 4 feet. Twenty in a row. Then 5 feet. Ten in a row.

Using a new routine that involved simply putting down a coin, lining up a putt and letting it go – no practice strokes, no time to let doubt creep in – Long won three consecutive events last spring, then shot a final-round 62 to share medalist honors at the NCAA Southeast Regional.

In the fall, Long won twice and never finished outside the top 19. He’s risen to No. 53 in Golfweek’s rankings.

There still is room for improvement, sure, particularly in terms of course management. Leroux recalled a moment during the final round at the 2011 NCAA regional, during Long’s record-low round. On the par-5 16th at Golden Ocala, Long blasted his drive way right into the trees, and his ball came to rest on dirt and pine straw. Seeing a small gap through the trees — emphasis on small — he attempted a miracle shot that ricocheted off a pine tree and luckily stayed inbounds. He managed to save par, but the questionable decision-making nearly cost him a shot at the title.

“He just needs to keep growing,” Leroux said. “Jace is a great talent.”

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Top of the class: Texas

Best player this fall: Dylan Frittelli, Texas

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Past champions

2007: Oklahoma State

2008: Oklahoma State

2009: Oklahoma State

2010: Oklahoma State

2011: Oklahoma State

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Wildman’s Corner

Asher Wildman visits with Texas standout Dylan Frittelli. Video.

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Conference capsules

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Complete coverage

Wondering how your favorite conference is shaping up headed into the spring season? Who is our favorite to pick up the automatic qualifier? Check out our conference-by-conference break down with our complete coverage page here.

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