For a college athlete, there is no greater feeling than winning a national championship, just as nothing compares to the sting of losing one.
The Texas Longhorns men’s golf team felt the latter on Wednesday, falling to the Stanford Cardinal in the NCAA championship at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Texas’ start was promising. In fact, the Longhorns led in three of the five matches.
It was the back nine where the Longhorns faltered, eventually conceding the championship to Stanford on the 17th hole after junior Spencer Soosman failed to extend the match.
As Texas made the turn, senior Steven Chervony and freshman Parker Coody led their matches with Soosman and freshman Cole Hammer tied. With freshman Pierceson Coody down three to Brandon Wu, it was evident the championship would come down to Soosman and Hammer.
Announced as a First Team All-American during his round yesterday, Hammer would be paired up against Stanford’s Isaiah Salinda in what could be considered the marquee match of the day.
“If I was in their position as a freshman, I would have been shaking and they were ready to go, ready to win,” Chervony said to Texas Athletics.
No moment seemed too big for the freshman, who hammered NCAA individual champion Matthew Wolff in the Longhorns’ semifinal upset over the defending champions and No. 1 seed Oklahoma State. But it was Salinda who would grind out the victory, winning four of the first five holes on the back nine as Hammer struggled off the tee, the opposite of his performance the day before.
With Hammer’s match in doubt, fellow freshman Parker Coody defeated Daulet Tuleubayev 6&5, winning the first point for either team. Yet even with a point on the board for the Longhorns, the matches began to snowball in favor of the Cardinal as both Pierceson Coody and Hammer found themselves down three through 13 holes. With Chervony in control for Texas, the deciding point would come down to Soosman.
Soosman and Stanford’s Henry Shimp had battled throughout the round with neither golfer grabbing a lead greater than two, but that’s how many strokes Soosman found himself down through 14 holes. After Shimp found the penalty area on 15, the lead dwindled back to one, leaving the door open for the Longhorns to possibly clinch their second national title in the match play era.
Standing in the middle of the fairway on the 16th hole, Soosman would land his second shot safely on the green, putting the pressure on Shimp. Without hesitation, Shimp fired away — telling his ball to “be good” as it was in the air.
Not only was it good, it landed just a few feet away from the hole, which ultimately decided the championship for Stanford.
“We got beat by a really good team today,” Texas head coach John Fields said. “They are good players. They are among the best in the world.”
As much as the loss stings, the future looks bright for the Longhorns. While they will lose the leadership of Chervony, who delivered the deciding point that sent Texas to the national championship, the rest of their four starters, all of which are freshmen, including Hammer and the Coody twins, will return.
“This is painful for us,” Fields said. “But I want to be in those other shoes here pretty soon, and I know all of the guys here (want to), too, and we’re not gonna stop. This is just fuel for the fire.”