Balicki: Texas backs up lofty credentials
• • •
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Coming into this year’s NCAA Championship at Riviera Country Club, Texas coach John Fields knew his team would be under the microscope.
NCAA Men's Championship: Match Play, Day 1
Check out images from Day 4 at the NCAA Men's Championship at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
And why not? The Longhorns entered as the No. 1 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, a position it held throughout most of the season. In the starting field of 30, they were the No. 1 seed.
Simply put, they were the ones with the big bullseye on their backs and it got even bigger once they advanced to the match-play portion of the championship.
Texas then showed why it was worthy of carrying such lofty credentials Friday afternoon when it scored a 4-1 victory over No. 11 Washington in the quarterfinal round.
The heat will continue Saturday when the Longhorns face No. 7 Oregon in the semifinals.
“The pressure we’ve had over the last three, four months has been intense because of the success we’ve had this season,” said Fields, whose team has seven wins, including three last fall. “But these guys knew where they stood. They are competitors and they showed that today.”
Toni Hakula gave the Longhorns their first point. He won holes 11 and 12 to go 2-up and then 16 to close out a 3-and-2 win over Charlie Hughes.
Shortly thereafter, Jordan Spieth, after winning holes 11 and 12, scored a 4-and-3 triumph over Ty Chambers.
Dylan Frittelli gave the Longhorns the all important third point, winning holes 10 and 11 to go 3-up en route to a 2-and-1 victory over Cheng-Tsung Pan.
Once Frittelli closed out his match, the remaining two matches on the course were stopped with each player given a half point. The Longhorns were up in both those at the time.
Julio Vegas was 2-up through 16 against Chris Williams and Cody Gribble was 1-up against Trevor Simsby at the 18th green.
“I felt we were well prepared and the guys were ready from the get-go,” Fields said. “They rose to the occasion today and I’m really proud of them.
“Washington is a quality team and I knew they would not give up,” Fields said. “They gave us a good run. But our guys stayed up and focused and really got after it.”
The Longhorns never trailed in any of the five quarter final matches, keeping the Huskies at bay from start to finish.
“Texas simply played awesome,” said Washington coach Matt Thurmond. “They were making everything (putting) and played great. I don’t feel we gave them anything. They had to earn it and they did.”
Texas moves within two match victories of claiming the school’s first men’s national golf championship since it won two in a row in 1971-1972 behind the likes of Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite.