Spieth sizzles in first year

Peter Sblendorio

Entering his first season at the University of Texas, freshman golfer Jordan Spieth set a goal to become the top collegiate golfer in the NCAA. He just did not expect it to happen so soon.

Just three events into his Longhorn career, Spieth has surpassed his high expectations for this season, rising to the top spot of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings as college’s No. 1 individual golfer on Oct. 31. Spieth has finished among the top-six individual golfers in every event he has competed in so far, including a first-place finish at the Ilseworth Collegiate Invitation on Oct. 25, where he shot a 205 (-11) to led the field by eight shots.

Not coincidentally, the Longhorns have won each of the three tournaments that Spieth has played in, and Texas has climbed to the top spot in the national rankings. As a team, the Longhorns golfers have performed extremely well overall in 2011, and Spieth is pleased that he has been able to provide immediate contributions.

“I set goals coming in that went along with the team goals, and I’m just happy that I’m playing well individually and helping the team win,” Spieth said. “We are where we want to be, and we are better than we expected [at this point] and, individually, I’m just trying to do my job.”

Spieth’s success at Texas should not come as much of a surprise.

As the U.S. Junior Amateur champion in 2009 and 2011, Spieth joined Tiger Woods as the only golfer to win the championship multiple times. In 2009, he was named Rolex Junior Player of the Year, and before turning 18, he held the top spot in the Polo Golf Rankings.

In his junior and senior years at Dallas Jesuit College Preparatory, Spieth accepted an exemption to compete in the PGA Tour’s HP Byron Nelson Championship, where he made the cut both years and finished in a tie for 16th place in 2010 and in a tie for 32nd in 2011.

In September, Spieth competed with 20 of the top amateur golfers in the world when he represented the United States in 2011 Walker Cup, where he finished as the nation’s leading scorer.

Despite all of his accomplishments at the amateur level, Spieth believes that he has elevated his play even more since joining the Texas golf team, and he credits his teammates for much of this improvement.

“I think that since I’ve gotten to UT, I’ve gotten better and probably the biggest factor has been being able to learn from the [other Longhorn golfers],” Spieth said. “When you’re playing against these guys everyday, it’s going to make you better, along with the guidance of [Texas head golf coach John Fields].”

And while Spieth has tried to learn as much as possible from the more experienced golfers on team, senior Dylan Frittelli believes that the standout freshman’s personality and work ethic have helped make everyone else on the Texas roster better as well.

“He’s really energetic,” Frittelli said. “He’s not necessarily bouncing off walls, but he is very intense, very energetic and this correlates to good results. He’s a great player and he basically spurs you on days you play with him because you are just trying to compete with him.”

The Longhorn coaching staff has been equally impressed with Spieth and they believe that he has been an extremely strong addition to an already skilled team.

“He’s definitely meant a lot [to the team] in terms of his desire and confidence,” Fields said. “It was already a good team that he joined, with two All-Americans in Dylan Frittelli and Cody Gribble, and he has invigorated the program. He’s had a positive impact on the team, and that is including the coaches.”

Looking forward, Spieth has high aspirations of being the top player on the PGA Tour, and his dream is to win the Masters. For now, though, the freshman is focused on continuing to help the Longhorns win tournaments and compete for a national title, and no player will likely be more important in obtaining that team goal than Spieth himself.

Published on Friday, November 18, 2011 as: Spieth sizzles as season starts up