For many high school golfers, the transition from playing competitively in high school to not playing in college can be difficult. A sport that consumed part of your life is now over.
But senior Carson Stepler and alumnus Austin Jones weren’t ready to forfeit their love for the game. After searching for golf as an intramural sport with no such luck, they formed the UT Club Golf Team as an outlet for students who still wanted to play.
The club team coordinates with the National Collegiate Club Golf Association to play regional qualifiers against schools such as Baylor and A&M. The winner of each region, plus a couple wildcards, then play a semesterly national tournament held across the country. The teams play 36 holes over two days in hopes of becoming a national champion. Stepler acts as Texas Regional Coordinator for the NCCGA. He previously was UT’s team president.
“It’s more relaxed but still has that competitive aspect,” Stepler said. “It’s the perfect balance.”
Senior Steven Lauterbach said he explored D-II and D-III options but ultimately chose to attend UT for its academics. Now, he’s working to get UT RecSports to recognize the team so it can receive funding and sponsors. According to Lauterbach, their increasing members and No. 3 ranking out of more than 250 universities makes their case compelling.
“We met with the head of RecSports last semester but didn’t show enough longevity to be approved,” Lauterbach said. “We’ll try again this semester.”
The team is currently preparing for the NCCGA National Championship, which will be held Nov. 21 and 22 at TPC San Antonio. The club team earned a wildcard spot after competing in two tournaments in the Texas region. Stepler, Lauterbach, senior Tyler Bumpass, junior Ed Kolovson, senior Evan Cirinna, senior Hal Leveque, senior Joey Silver and sophomore Kyle Heenan will represent UT against 31 other NCCGA teams. NCCGA President Brandon Harrold has high hopes for the UT team.
“There’s a lot of growth to be seen in the future,” Harrold said. “There are more than 250 teams, and I think Texas is our most competitive region.”
The team said it welcomes any students who love golf to reach out. Most competitive players boast scores in the 70s and 80s, but all are welcome to practice and compete. The team often plays rounds at Bluebonnet Hill Golf Club and Morris Williams Golf Course.