Texas tries to replicate success in Puerto Rico

Nick Cremona

Texas is once again island hopping — the team travels to the Rio Mar Beach Resort to compete in the Puerto Rico Classic this Sunday.

The Longhorns finished second in their last outing, the Amer Ari Invitational in Kohala Coast, Hawaii. Senior Bobby Hudson and sophomore Cody Gribble led a late push and each finished in the top 10. Those two, plus juniors Dylan Frittelli and Adam Wennerstrom and freshman Toni Hakula, start for Texas in this weekend’s three-day tournament.

At this point in the season, Texas has not finished worse than ninth place in any team event and is No. 6 in the most recent Golfweek Magazine rankings.

The Longhorns are no strangers in Puerto Rico — they beat perennial powerhouse Oklahoma State by six strokes to win the last Puerto Rico Classic. The top-ranked Cowboys, along with many more of the nation’s best teams, will be looking for revenge.

“The field for this event is tremendous, as usual,” said Texas head coach John Fields. “We like to play against the best teams in the country, and this is another opportunity to do that.”

The Longhorns will play on the River Course of the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort, a course designed by golf legend Greg Norman. Norman’s first Caribbean course design stretches more than 6,900 yards and features wide fairways, open greens and shallow bunkers. This design should lend itself to lower scores for everyone in the event.

“It’s a golf course that some of our guys are familiar with, though we’ll be taking two guys who are not familiar with the course,” Fields said.

The two newcomers to the course, Wennerstrom and Hakula, will have to learn the terrain quickly, as nearly all of the teams from last year’s field are back. Along with Oklahoma State, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia Tech and 14th-ranked Georgia return, plus host school Purdue.

Winning a second-straight Puerto Rico Classic against such stiff competition is a tall order, and Fields knows it.

“If we play really good golf, we will have a chance to win,” he said. “We’ve prepared as best we can, and we will see where that leads us.”