ORLANDO, Fla. – Brandon Stone is just a freshman. You can tell because he took driver off the deck on the par-5 17th without thinking twice.
“I thought if I hit it perfectly, it would be able to chase up on to the green,” the Texas freshman said. “I hit it good, but the next few shots weren’t.”
Stone, who is ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, finished the first round of the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational with a 4-over 76. He made a double bogey on No. 17 after three attempts to chip up onto the green.
“I played the par 5s very poorly. I really couldn’t get anything going, and obviously, my short game proved to be pretty bad today,” Stone said. “But I’ll learn from that, and take something from it for my next couple of rounds.”
Stone learned about Texas from fellow South African Dylan Frittelli, who last season holed the winning putt at the 2012 NCAA Championships to give Texas its third national championship.
“Dylan (Frittelli) really opened the gates for me coming to Texas,” Stone said. “He just got me really interested in coming to Texas and play collegiate golf.”
Frittelli told coach John Fields about Stone about three years before his coming to Texas.
As the recruiting process went on, Stone made unofficial and official visits to Texas.
“The first day I was allowed to commit to Texas, I did. I was so happy with what I saw there,” Stone said. “I got along with both Coach Fields and (assistant Ryan) Murphy.”
Murphy and Stone have grown their relationship into something much bigger now. Since the start of Stone’s career seven weeks ago at Texas, Murphy has walked by his side in every round.
“He’s never seen these courses before,” Murphy said. “And since he is the only freshman, it makes sense for me to walk with him.”
It seemed to work right from the start as Stone won his first college event, the Carpet Capital Collegiate, by two strokes over teammate Jordan Spieth.
“It was one of those weeks where everything went right, and sure I got a few lucky breaks,” Stone said. “But I holed some putts that needed to be holed, and it was a week where I walked away with the trophy in hand.”
Stone likes that Murphy has taken him under his wing, and has been by his side from the beginning. They talk a lot on the course. And it’s just not about golf. It’s also about how the Longhorns’ football team.
“I don’t know how we got this player/coach bond so quickly,” Stone said, “but I like it.”
Texas, the 2011 Isleworth Collegiate Invitational champion, sits in second place, four strokes behind California, which is No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Cal is the only team under par at Isleworth.
“I feel like whenever someone has a bad day for our team, someone steps up and plays well,” said Cal sophomore Michael Kim, who leads at 5-under 67. “We just need to keep playing solid and keep going through our routines.”
Illinois is third at 3-over 291. New Mexico (293) is fourth, followed by LSU (294).
“I just really like the course, especially the greens,” Kim said. “I saw a lot of putts drop today.”
Defending champion Spieth and Cal’s Michael Weaver are tied for second at 4-under 68. Texas’ Cody Gribble and Arkansas’ Taylor Moore are tied for fourth at 3 under.