Stanford assistant Matt Bortis wins national title on former course, against former team

Stanford assistant Matt Bortis wins national title on former course, against former team

College

Stanford assistant Matt Bortis wins national title on former course, against former team

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It’s one of those stories that appears to be fresh out of a movie script.

An assistant coach in his first year with a new school wins the national title at the course he used to play on against the team, and coach, he once played for.

About 1,500 miles east of Hollywood at Blessings Golf Club, that’s exactly what happened to Stanford assistant coach Matt Bortis when the Cardinal defeated Texas 3-2 to win the men’s NCAA Championship.

“Honestly I couldn’t believe it,” said a shocked Bortis after the final match on Wednesday morning. “To be able to do this on my old home course and then to do it against the team I used to play for was incredibly special.”

Bortis played at Arkansas for three years (2004-06) before transferring to Texas to play for head coach John Fields, where he graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government and a minor in communications. Blessings is the home course for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“In my first year to have that kind of stuff come together like that, you couldn’t ask for something better,” Bortis added. “It’s truly special. Once that last putt dropped, I just couldn’t believe it.”

Two years after graduation in 2010, Bortis joined the Marines, where he served in multiple leadership roles over the next eight years. Twice his platoon received “Top Squad” honors: First for tactical proficiency, knowledge and physical fitness; Second for having the best trained and most physically fit element within the battalion.

Bortis’ leadership fingerprints are all over this championship team.

Earlier in the NCAA Championship during stroke play, head coach Conrad Ray said this season was “the hardest we’ve worked in my time at Stanford,” noting how the team’s confidence has continued to build thanks to great practice and a new workout.

Stanford men’s golf team after winning the National Championship. (Walt Beazley/Razorbacks Athletics Communications)

The biggest thing Ray has learned in just one year with his veteran assistant? Accountability.

“Matt’s helped me a lot,” explained Ray. “Not to say that I’ve gone softer on the edges, but if you do something for 15 years you get in the routine and sometimes its easy to take the easier path with pushing guys and not having the tough conversations, but he’s not shied away from that. His honesty and directness has been huge for this group.”

Bortis said he spends time working with the players on the attitude they need to have on the course, specifically how to think about situations and how to deal with unforeseen circumstances and being able to react to whatever happens.

“We were the underdogs (this week), so in a lot of ways, some of the stuff we’ve been doing together as a team has proven otherwise,” said Bortis. “They’re a pretty mentally strong group of guys.”

No player showed more mental resiliency this week than senior Isaiah Salinda, who came back from a 4-down deficit at the turn in his quarterfinal match against Wake Forest’s Eugenio Chacarra by making six consecutive birdies, flipping the match and ultimately winning 3&1. Salinda never lost a match this week.

All that said, the team hasn’t always been the tough champions we saw at Blessings.

“They’ve made a big improvement,” Bortis said of the team from the fall season to now, noting how hard he and Ray have pushed. “The biggest improvement is with the freshmen, but across the board, these guys have made some big jumps.”

“He’s as intense as the day is long,” Ray said, “and it’s a good balance for me because I’m the affable guy most of the time, so we’ve done a good job together at getting the team ready to go.”

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