AUGUSTA, Ga. – TCU head coach Bill Montigel will never regret his trip to Istanbul. That’s where he first saw Julien Brun. The Frenchman is now a freshman in Fort Worth, and he already has made school history.
Brun won the Augusta State Invitational on April 1 for his third victory of his first season. He is the first TCU player to win three times in a season, according to the school’s sports information department.
Brun (69) finished at 14-under 202 at Forest Hills Golf Club, less than five miles from Augusta National Golf Club. He was one shot ahead of Texas senior Dylan Frittelli (68). Brun is No. 15 in the R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking and was 17th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Ranking before this victory.
Texas won the team title in a two-hole playoff with host Augusta State. Texas’ Frittelli and Jordan Spieth, playing in the second of two fivesomes, both birdied the par-5 ninth for Texas to beat Augusta State by a stroke on the second playoff hole. The two teams shot 9-under 279s Sunday after starting the final round tied for the lead. Augusta State’s runner-up finish allowed the two-time defending NCAA champions to clinch a postseason berth.
The victory was Texas’ sixth this season. The Longhorns won four in a row earlier this year. This is their second consecutive victory after having won their own Morris Williams Intercollegiate.
Brun won in spite of short misses on his final two holes: an 8-foot eagle putt on 17 and a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
He knocked his second shot close on the par-5 17th, while Frittelli’s rolled through the green. Frittelli knocked his eagle putt from the back fringe some 12 feet past. He made that putt, then watched Brun miss his short eagle try. That miss kept the pair tied heading to the final hole, a driveable par-4.
Frittelli had mud on the back of the ball as he attempted a chip shot from short of the green. His pitch failed to run up a ridge short of the back-left hole location, stopping some 40 feet short. Brun hit his shot from the right greenside bunker to approximately 6 feet. Brun missed, as did Frittelli, who had a 4-foot par putt for the tie.
The runner-up was Frittelli’s fourth this season; he also tied teammates Spieth and Julio Vegas for first at the Morris Williams. Frittelli is No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, trailing only Spieth.
Frittelli rebounded from his disappointment in regulation by playing a key role in the playoff. He hit a 23-yard flop shot to 5 feet to make birdie on the second playoff hole. “It’s a little bit bittersweet,” Frittelli said. “I’m glad it happened in this order.”
Augusta State started this week ranked 46th in the nation, high enough to all but ensure a spot in postseason play. This was the Jaguars’ final regular-season event of the year. They came in with a 55-53-1 record, needing to end the week with a .500 record or better to be eligible for an at-large postseason bid.
“We knew where we stood coming into this tournament,” Augusta State head coach Kevin McPherson said. “We’re not dumb. They stepped up when they needed to. It’s a small victory in itself that we lost by inches in the playoff.”
Augusta State’s Taylor Floyd (71) and Brendan Gillins (66) tied for third individually. Gillins also made a 4-foot birdie putt to extend the playoff to a second hole. That putt came immediately after Spieth made a 6-footer for birdie. Spieth finished fifth after a final-round 66.
Brun is the latest in an increasing number of impressive French amateurs. France won the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship; Victor Dubuisson was a top-10 amateur in the world in 2010. It’s not common for French amateurs to come stateside for college golf, but Brun said that is beginning to change.
“There will be more and more incoming,” he said. “We didn’t know really what to expect before. We have a really good vision of the golf in the U.S. now.
“All the best players in the world are in the U.S. in college. All these tournaments you play are on really good golf courses with a very good field. Like this week, probably five or six players are able to play on the Tour. That’s the case every week.”
He won previously at the season-opening Turning Stone Intercollegiate and at North Florida’s John Hayt Intercollegiate in February. Brun said a swing change in January, necessitated by pain in his left wrist, has helped his iron play. He said he now swings more to the left through impact, “like Tiger,” he joked. The new swing has helped his iron shots fly straighter and put more spin on the ball. The change has helped him exceed his expectations for his first season in the United States.
“I didn’t expect that much,” Brun said, “but golf is golf. You play good golf anywhere in the world, and it will work.”