FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Signs pointed towards Texas A&M playing well this week at Blessings Golf Club.
For starters, the Aggies picked up an NCAA regional victory in Pullman, Wash., a couple of weeks ago, something that head coach J.T. Higgins wasn’t surprised to see.
“I feel like we have been playing better and better the last month to six weeks,” said Higgins. “You could see the confidence was rising and we were getting back to where we thought we should be.”
For much of the 2017-18 season Texas A&M was ranked No. 2 in college golf. The Aggies qualified for match play at last year’s NCAA Championship, snagging the last spot before losing their quarterfinal match to top-ranked and eventual champion Oklahoma State.
Here in the first round of this year’s NCAA Div. I Men’s Golf Championship, Texas A&M posted an 8-over 296, taking the morning wave clubhouse lead by one shot over Ohio State. The next closest teams are North Carolina (+16), Liberty and South Carolina (+17).
Leading the way for the Aggies was sophomore Walker Lee with a three birdie, two bogey performance at 1-under 71. Chandler Phillips, A&M’s best player, posted a 78, which can be viewed as a good sign for the Aggies, seeing as they were still able post what might be one of the better rounds of the day.
Higgins marveled at how well his group stuck to the game plan.
“Maybe of any team I have ever coached this was the most patient approach I have ever been around,” said Higgins.
Patience is maybe the most important thing players will face this week on the very demanding 7,550-yard, par 72 layout.
“We stuck to the game plan and never got flustered,” said Higgins. “You know you are going to hit some good shots that don’t work out, but it’s going to happen to everybody.”
The game plan: protect the ball off the tee and don’t give away any shots by keeping the ball in play. Play the correct side of the hole and when you have a wedge in hand, try to attack.
“In practice, qualifying and getting ready for SEC, it was apparent we were back,” said Higgins.
If this morning’s round, coupled with the performance at the NCAA Pullman regional is the sample size, the Aggies may indeed be ready for a long stay in Fayetteville.
Second-round action from the Blessings begins Saturday morning, with the first tee time at 6:50 a.m CT.