Fields praises Menís Golf for superb effort at NCAA Championships
Coach John Fields, who has led UT to three top-five finishes, including a tie for third (2002) and a tie for fourth (2004) in the NCAA Men's Golf Championships since 2000, couldn't say enough about his 2008 team that narrowly missed the cut in the championship on the last day of May.
Even though his Longhorns carded the lowest score in the third round of the championship in West Lafayette, Ind., they were four strokes shy of advancing to the final round. Texas wound up 19th. UT was 26th when it began third-round play that stretched across two days on the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex course because of inclement weather.
The NCAAs were a meteorologist's dream with wind and cold and storms that precipitated the stoppage of play.
"I don't think anybody gave this team a real shot at doing anything here two months ago," Fields began, referring to his young squad.
"But they really gave it a strong effort," he continued. "They worked so very hard. They did not panic. They showed a lot of character.
"And character counts. We finished well and it was a credit to the character of this team."
Sophomore Lance Lopez and freshman Bobby Hudson wound up tied for second for the lowest score among the players cut. Seniors Jace Moore and Kevin Schultz also earned kudos from Fields.
"We had our highs and lows this year," Fields said. "But our guys never gave up and they finished well.
Among the highs was a first-place finish in the 42nd Morris Williams Intercollegiate event in early April, with Hudson claiming medalist honors -- the 12th Longhorn ever to do such. It also was the 12th time Texas had prevailed in the tournament.
"Winning the Morris Williams was extremely meaningful," Fields said. "It (the win) was something to build on."
And Texas did just that.
Following the title in the tournament, Texas managed a second-place in the Big 12 Conference Championship, which was won by Oklahoma State.
The Horns were paced by Lopez and sophomore Charlie Holland, whose one-over-par total ranked him 6th overall. Lopez wound up in a tie for 7th with his two-over-par result on the Whispering Pines Golf Club course.
Texas, winner of three straight Big 12 Conference titles from 2002-04, has captured 42 conference championships in golf, dating back to the days of the Southwest Conference.
"Our guys played well that week (of the Big 12 tourney)," Fields said. "We played well at Morris Williams and kept playing well in the Big 12 event. Our guys managed the course well in the Big 12 Championship."
Texas might have played its best in navigating its way through a three-team playoff in the NCAA West Regional in Bremerton, Wash., in order to get into the NCAA Championships.
San Diego State's brilliant play forced the three-way tie with Texas and Pepperdine for the final two spots to qualify for the NCAAs on the last day of the regional.
Holland and Hudson both birdied and UT was able to claim a spot in the NCAA Championships field.
"It was phenomenal. It was awesome what the guys did there (in the regional)," Fields said. "I was really proud of them. I wasn't surprised, though. We knew we had to play well and we did."
Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds said of Fields, "When you look at everything you want in a coach, he has high marks. The respect John has nationally is tremendous."
Looking to 2009, Fields loses seniors Schultz and Moore, but will have five sophomores and three juniors on the team next season.
"The guys made a great run," the head coach said. "We appreciated having the opportunity to compete for a National Championship."