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Thursday, April 27, 2017

It's a Texas two-step as Longhorns claim Big 12 men's, women's titles

   I couldn’t quite get to the Big 12 Women’s Championship before Thursday’s NCAA Regional reveal, so I figured I would just make it a two-fer and wrap up both the Big 12 men’s and women’s tournaments in one shot, both of which were won by those Texas Longhorns.

   Yes, you’re crowning a conference champion, but maybe the most important thing a conference can do for its tournament is to make it as a tough a test as possible, say, add a fourth round and put it on as difficult a golf course as you can find and if you can add in some rough weather, all the better. A secondary goal for the conference championship should be to send your representatives off to the regionals ready for whatever might come their way.
   Well, consider the Big 12 men prepared. From the look of some of the still photos from the Big 12 Championship, which concluded Wednesday at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., conditions were appropriately brutal with cold-weather gear very much in evidence.
   Somehow, when the dust settled, it was Texas, No. 18 in the latest Golfstat rankings, that prevailed by a single shot over No. 2 Oklahoma State, the Longhorns finishing at 48-over 1,168 to the Cowboys’ 49-over 1,169 total. It was the fifth straight Big 12 crown for Texas.
   The original plan was for 36 holes Monday and then 18 Tuesday and 18 Wednesday. But apparently the weather dictated just 18 holes Monday and it must have been bad because the scores were really high. The double round turned out to be Tuesday with an 18-hole windup Wednesday when it was cold and windy.
   Texas opened with a 33-over 313 Monday over the 6,940-yard, par-70 Prairie Dunes layout. The Longhorns probably won the tournament with their bounce-back 6-under 274 in the second round and they added a 3-over 283 in the third round before finishing up with a 298 that was just good enough to hold off Oklahoma State.
   The teams were tied heading into the final round after a solid 2-over 282 by the Cowboys in the third round, but their final-round 299 left them one excruciating shot short of Texas.
   No. 43 Kansas was another three shots back of Oklahoma State in third at 52-over 1,172 after a final-round 288. It was nine more shots to No. 11 Texas Tech in fourth at 1,183 after a final-round 296 and No. 13 Oklahoma took fifth at 1,185 after a final-round 304.
   Texas was led by Doug Ghim, a junior from Arlington Heights, Ill., and Scottie Scheffler, a junior from Dallas, both key holdovers from last year’s team that fell in the national championship match to Oregon. Ghim and Scheffler shared second place, a shot behind individual winner Chase Hanna, a senior at Kansas from Lakewood, Kan.
   Scheffler had fired a 2-under 68 in the third round to grab the individual lead, but fell back with a 3-over 73 in the final round to finish at 8-over 218. Ghim opened with an 80 in Monday’s tough conditions and then bore down with rounds 68, 70 and 70 to also end up at 218.
   Also for the Longhorns, Gavin Hall, a senior from Pittsford, N.Y., finished alone in 22nd at 299 after a final-round 77, Steven Chervony, a sophomore from Boca Raton, Fla., finished tied for 26th at 302 after struggling home with a final-round 83 and Spencer Soosman, a freshman from Westlake Village,  Calif., finished tied for 34th after a final-round 78.
   Give Soosman credit, though, as he bounced back from an opening-round 85 with a 2-under 68 in the second round, a big part of the Longhorns’ 6-under 274 in that round.
   Hanna, like just about everybody else, struggled in the opening round with a 78. But he followed it up with a 1-under 69 and then a pair of even-par 70s, again the final round being played in cold and wind,  to capture the individual title at 7-over 287.
   Oklahoma State’s Zach Bauchou, a sophomore from Forest, Va., finished alone in fourth, three shots behind the Texas pair of Ghim and Scheffler at 11-over 291 after a final-round 75. Oklahoma’s Max McGreevy, a senior from Edmond, Okla., grabbed fifth place at 12-over 292 with a final-round 73.
   The Longhorns lost Beau Hossler from last year’s team. He quite famously blew his shoulder out near the end of his semifinal match at last year’s NCAA Championship and was forced to forfeit his match in the final against Oregon. He has since turned pro, but Ghim, Scheffler and Hall give Texas a chance to go deep in the postseason.
   I mentioned in a post about the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational a couple of weeks ago that I thought Ryan Murphy, the Texas women’s coach, deserved credit for taking his team to Big Ten country on a tough golf course, Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, after the Longhorns finished second to Michigan State.
   That decision might have paid immediate dividends when the No. 18 Longhorns captured the title at the Big 12 Championship, which concluded Sunday at another tough golf course, The Dominion Country Club in San Antonio, Texas.
   The Longhorns followed up an opening-round 297 with a pair of solid 6-over 294s to finish at 21-over 885. No. 50 Iowa State finished strong with a 4-over 292 to claim runnerup honors, seven shots behind the Longhorns at 28-over 892.
   No. 34 Texas Tech finished third at 894 after a final-round 296, No. 17 Oklahoma State finished fourth at 897 after a final-round 303 and No. 19 Baylor finished fifth at 900 after a final-round 295.
   The Longhorns were led by Emilee Hoffman, a freshman from Folsom, Calif. who was the runnerup in the individual chase at 1-over 217. Hoffman finished up with a 1-under 71 over the 6,263-yard, par-72 Dominion layout and was three shots behind individual champion Dylan Kim, a redshirt sophomore at Baylor from Plano, Texas. Kim fired a final round of 4-under 69 and was the only player to finish under par at 2-under 214.
   Sophia Schubert, a junior from Oak Ridge, Tenn., finished in a tie for fifth for the Longhorns at 4-over 220 despite a final-round 77. Schubert had captured the individual title at the Lady Buckeye.
   Also for the Longhorns, Haley Mills, a senior from Tyler, Texas, finished tied for 12th at 234 after a final-round 75, Greta Isabella Voelker, a freshman from Germany, finished alone in 26th at 229 after a final-round 74 and Julia Beck, a senior from Austin, Texas, finished tied for 31st at 231 after a final-round 74.
   Iowa State’s Chayanit Wangmahaporn, a sophomore from Thailand, and Oklahoma State’s Kenzie Niesen, a junior form New Prague, Minn., finished tied for third in the individual standings at 3-over 219. Wangmahaporn matched par in the final round with a 72 while Niesen carded a 1-under 71 in the final round.
   Joining Texas’ Schubert in the tie for fifth at 4-over 220 was Baylor’s Fiona Liddell, a freshman from Germany, who finished strong with a 2-under 70.
   Texas is headed for the Lubbock Regional along with four other Big 12 teams, including Texas Tech, which will be playing on its home course, The Rawls Course. Iowa State, Oklahoma and TCU will also be in the field at Lubbock. Three other Big 12 teams were also extended bids to the regionals with Baylor and Kansas State going to Athens, Ga. and Oklahoma State going to Albuquerque, N.M.
   I’ll give myself a couple of days to digest the regional selections before commenting, although that Albuquerque site looks loaded.

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