Down, not out
Texas looks forward to making run for NCAA title next season
MILTON, Ga. -- The 2013 season did not end quite the way Texas head coach John Fields envisioned on Friday, but he did not despair.
Texas, the defending national champion, was knocked out of the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship by Illinois in the quarterfinals of match play on the Crabapple Course at the Capital City Club, which won three individual head-to-head matches to two for Texas.
For Fields, getting to the final eight for his team was an admirable accomplishment considering it lost No. 1 player Jordan Spieth to the PGA Tour last December. Spieth decided to turn pro after playing only his freshman season at Texas.
“I feel great about this year. I feel like we had a really good year,” Fields said. “We won five times. We won the Big-12 conference. I think some thought maybe we were dead after Jordan turned pro – and the truth was, we weren’t. We still came here with a chance to win.
“There are going to be four teams here [Saturday] with a chance to win. We were one of eight teams left with a chance to win it all. So I’m proud of our guys. The future is bright. We’ve done some great stuff at Texas and we just need to keep it going.”
Even though Texas came in the higher-rated team against Illinois, Fields said he entered Friday’s match play with no illusions that the Longhorns would have an easy time of it.
“Well, first of all, I want to give a lot of credit to Mike Small and the Illinois team,” Fields said. “They’re a great team. They’re a northern team. They’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing by that ranking. We know they’re good. They won the regional that we were at [where Texas finished third]. So obviously they’re a great team and he’s a great coach.
“They got the best of us [Friday]. We felt like we played pretty good golf and they just played better. That’s all there is to it.”
“Texas is a great team," Illinois head coach Mike Small said. "They played a great round and they’ve got a stable of great players. But you know what? So do we.”
Asked what the key was in deciding the match, Fields pointed to the hot putters wielded by Illinois.
“They’re rolling the putts in. You’ve got to do that if you’re going to be successful in this format. And they just made more than we made,” he said.
Fields said Illinois is good enough, and playing with enough confidence, to pull off another upset Saturday in a semifinal match against heavily-favored and top-seeded California.
“The advantage that they have is that Cal may think that they can’t [beat them]. And in collegiate athletics, if you can get some momentum, it can be a magical thing,” Fields said. “So I think they [have a chance]. Now whether they think they do is probably the bigger key.”
In the other team matches Friday, Cal narrowly defeated Arizona State, host school Georgia Tech edged UNLV thanks to a clutch birdie by Ollie Schniederjans in a playoff against UNLV’s Kevin Penner and Alabama routed New Mexico. Georgia Tech and Alabama will square off in Saturday’s other semifinal, with the winners of the two matches meeting Sunday at 10 a.m. to decide the 2013 champion.
Meanwhile, Texas is headed home. But Fields insisted that he is excited about what the future holds.
“Well, there will be some motivation because of [not winning it all again] going into next year. We’ll evaluate what happened – but again, I think we had a really good year,” Fields said. “I think our guys did great overall. I think dealing with success is very difficult.
“You can look at teams that have won the national championship. But for very few, they seem to go someplace else for a while – and that’s not what we want to do. I’m very appreciative of what happened last year. I’m very appreciative of what happened this year. And I’m going continue to be because these guys gave their all and we’ve got great people on our team.”