National Championship moments: 1971 Men's Golf
Over a 47-week span, TexasSports.com will be highlighting each of the 47 Longhorns National Championship teams, including 46 NCAA crowns and one AIAW title.
The University of Texas Men's Golf featured a dynamic duo at the top of its card during the spring of 1971, a season which culminated in the Longhorns' first-ever NCAA title in the sport.
The 1971 Longhorns featured a pair of future Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour stars, including Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. Coach George Hannon's team had a strong Texas flavor as Crenshaw, Kite, William Cromwell and George Machock all hailed from Austin. San Antonio native George Tucker joined them for the title run.
After dropping the Border Olympics Golf Tournament by 18 strokes to Houston during the first week of March, the Longhorns bounced back with three consecutive wins, including victories at the Louisiana State University Corbett Intercollegiate, Harvey Penick Intercollegiate hosted by UT and Lakeway Intercollegiate. In the homestretch leading up to the NCAA Championships, Texas suffered narrow two-stroke losses to Florida at the All-America Intercollegiate in Humble, Texas and Oklahoma State, at the Morris Williams Intercollegiate in Austin.
Of note, the Longhorns did not compete in the 1971 Southwest Conference (SWC) Championships in protest over the format. Texas won four of the seven SWC titles from 1964-70.
Texas never won an NCAA title as it packed its bags for the championships in Tucson, Ariz. The Longhorns' best finish came in 1949 when they were runner-up behind North Texas, and 1952 when they finished in a third-place tie.
To win the title in 1971, UT would have to topple the giant of the collegiate golf world at the time - the University of Houston. The Cougars were two-time defending champions and had won 12 of the previous 15 NCAA titles. Houston featured a pair of future pros in Bruce Lietzke and Tom Jenkins. Also challenging for the crown were the University of Florida with All-Americans Andy North and Gary Koch and Wake Forest University with future PGA Tour star Lanny Wadkins.
Crenshaw paced Texas in the opening round, firing a 67. "Gentle Ben" was also UT's low scorer in each of the following three days with scores of 69, 72 and 65. He ended the tournament with a then-record four-day score of 273 to earn the NCAA individual title. The record stood for 21 years, when Phil Mickelson fired a 271 for Arizona State in 1992. Crenshaw's teammates held up their end of the bargain as Kite fired a 289, including a day four score of 68, Cromwell carded a 290 and Tucker and Machock each logged scores of 292. When the dust settled and the final putts were sunk, Texas amassed a score of 1,144, besting runner-up Houston (1,151) by seven strokes. Florida (1,154) and Wake Forest (1,155) finished in third and fourth place, respectively.
Hannon's 1972 squad would repeat as champion, once again led by Crenshaw and Kite. Crenshaw is the only player ever to win three consecutive NCAA individual titles on the Division I level and Phil Mickelson is the only other player with three Division I crowns to his credit.
Hannon, who coached at Texas from 1964-81, ended his career with nine Southwest Conference titles and two national championships. He mentored four NCAA Championships individual champions.
Crenshaw and Kite both went on to PGA stardom. Crenshaw won 19 PGA Tour events during his career, including wins at the Masters in 1984 and '95. A 2002 inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame, He is currently playing on the PGA Champions Tour. Crenshaw was a member of four U.S. Ryder Cup teams and in 1999 he captained the squad that made the greatest comeback in the history of the tournament.
Kite also won 19 events on the PGA Tour, including a championship at the 1992 U.S. Open. He was named the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1989 and inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004. Kite was the PGA Tour leading money winner in 1981 and '89. In 1991 and '92, he earned the Vardon Trophy, presented annually to the touring professional with the lowest adjusted scoring average. He was a member of seven U.S. Ryder Cup teams and served as captain of the 1997 squad. Kite was the first player in Tour history to reach $6 million, $7 million, $8 million and $9 million in career earnings. He currently plays on the PGA Champions tour where he has nine victories to his credit, including wins at the AT&T Classic and Boening Greater Seattle Classic in 2006.