Taste of defeat motivates talented Texas team

Claire Cruz

Oregon’s redshirt junior Sulman Raza rolled in a six-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole at the Eugene Country Club on June 1. The putt gave the Ducks their first NCAA title while denying Texas of its fourth championship.

The Longhorns fought valiantly, taking Oregon to three extra holes before Raza’s putt clinched the title. As the fall season gets set to begin on Sept. 16 at the Olympia Fields Golf Club in Illinois, Texas will use that loss as motivation.

“We’ll sting for a while, there’s no question about it,” head coach John Fields said after the loss. “Until we get back here next year, that taste in our mouth will be present.” 

Fortunately for Texas, four of the five members on the national championship lineup are returning this season. 

Senior Gavin Hall and juniors Doug Ghim, Scottie Scheffler and Taylor Funk will lead the Longhorns in a quest for their fifth straight Big 12 Championship and 11th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. 

All four Longhorns stayed busy during the summer and closed the offseason by competing in the U.S. Amateur in Michigan in late June. Ghim advanced furthest, competing until the round of 32.

“Getting a chance to compete in a USGA event with some of your closest friends is awesome,” Funk said after the opening round. “Any time I get to play golf with those guys I’m having fun, smiling and joking around.” 

Three talented freshmen will add depth to Texas’ roster. The 2016 recruiting class is led by Drew Jones, a four-time All-State honoree and UIL District 8-4A Champion from Decatur High School. Both Nick Costello of Westlake and Memphis native Parker Sexton look to make an impact in their first year.

With Fields — the Dave Williams and Big 12 coach of the year — at the helm for his 19th season and an abundance of experienced veterans, Texas checks in at No. 1 in the Bushnell Golfweek Coaches Preseason Poll. 

But the Longhorns aren’t satisfied with the No. 1 ranking after ending their 2015–16 season at No. 2. The team hopes to solidify their top ranking with a national title this year. 

“Coach Fields is just an incredible coach to be playing for,” Hall said after the national championship. “I don’t take for granted what we did, and I just know that we’ve got a good chance to win next year.”