Frittelli's dramatic birdie wins NCAA title for Men's Golf
June 3, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- On a golf course, the sounds usually tell the story.
The roar of galleries. The relieving jingle as a putt falls to the bottom of the cup. The forceful thwack of clubface against ball.
On a cloudless Sunday afternoon at Riviera Country Club, chants of “light the Tower,” and strands of “The eyes of Texas are upon you,” caromed around the picturesque 18th green, and of course the story was obvious.
The Texas Longhorns were national champions.
Senior All-American Dylan Frittelli sank a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to win his match 1-up and give the Texas Men’s Golf team its first national championship since 1972. The Longhorns used victories from Frittelli, Cody Gribble and Jordan Spieth to defeat Alabama 3-2.
“It’s so special because it’s so much pressure, and these guys handled it,” UT head coach John Fields said. “We got it done this week. That feels pretty good.”
The Crimson Tide won the 54-hole stroke play tournament on Thursday to earn the No. 1 seed in the match play portion of the NCAA Championship. Alabama won two matches, including one on a dramatic 18th-hole chip-in, to take a 2-0 lead in the national title match.
With Spieth and Gribble owning 3-up and 2-up leads, respectively, deep into the back nine, Frittelli’s match became the determining one. He was 1-down after a bogey on No. 12.
On the par-3 14th hole, Frittelli hit a towering iron shot directly at the flag, but it was long and scooted off the back of the green into the rough. Frittelli nearly holed his chip, but it rolled 15 feet past the hole.
Frittelli sank the uphill par putt -- exclaiming “Come on,” as it disappeared into the cup -- to halve the hole with Alabama’s Cory Whitsett and remain 1-down with four holes to play.
“That was the key,” Frittelli said. “That was huge.”
What ensued was a match play duel that was worthy of Ryder Cup drama. Frittelli almost holed out from the fairway on No. 15, and then tapped in the easy birdie to square his match.
A Whitsett bogey on No. 16 then gave Frittelli a 1-up lead going to the par-5 17th hole. Both had wedges of nearly equal distance for their third shots, but while Whitsett stuck his to within 12 feet, Frittelli’s caught the slope and rolled back to the front of the green, leaving a long-range birdie putt.
Whitsett sank his putt to square the match going to the 18th hole.
Frittelli hit the middle of the fairway on No. 18, while the left-handed Whitsett pushed his left. And as they marched their way up the fairway, spectators from all over the course rushed to see the dramatic conclusion.
“Once I was walking up the hill, I knew everything was on the line,” Frittelli said.
Frittelli executed, however, as if he was oblivious to the pressure. He lofted his approach safely to the green, 30 feet right of the flag. And after Whitsett pitched onto the green, Frittelli held the outcome in his putter.
Once the putt dropped into the hole, Frittelli ran back toward the fairway in delirious celebration until he was dogpiled by the Longhorns, who won eight tournaments this season.
“That right there was validation for all the hard work I’ve put in. I have a Longhorn on my chest. I’m really proud to represent,” Frittelli said. “That was also for Coach Fields as well. I would have felt really bad if I didn’t give him a national championship during the four years I was here.”
Amazingly enough, Fields wasn’t on the 18th green to see the triumphant putt. He lingered on No. 17 to see Gribble close out 2 & 1 win.
Fields was walking up the uphill 18th fairway when the sounds of the golf course told him the story.
“I heard all of our fans. It was pretty extraordinary. All of a sudden, in that brief moment, I knew we were national champions,” Fields said. “It’s a dream. It feels really good.”