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Rebirth at Riv: 2012 NCAAs, an oral history (Part II) – 'Can’t help but get chills'

Vegas
UT Athletics

It’s been a decade since the greatest national championship ever played. Hollywood venue. A-list players. Oscar-worthy moments. And a final that still gets two thumbs way up – and not just from the Texas Longhorns, who lifted the trophy that week.

This is the story of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, as told by those who had front-row seats.

Part I: "Everything’s going to be all right" (lead-up and Rounds 1-2)
Part III: "A clash of the titans" (Final)

Here is Part II of III:


Pieters
Getty Images

V. THIRD ROUND: ‘DEAD TIED’

After re-pairing for Thursday’s third and final round of the 54-hole stroke-play portion, Alabama was in the last threesome off No. 1 in the afternoon alongside UCLA and third-place Florida State. Alabama's Justin Thomas, UCLA's Arboleda and Florida State's Brooks Koepka drew the 1:50 p.m. tee time, just behind Alabama's Cory Whitsett, UCLA's Patrick Cantlay and Florida State's Daniel Berger. As for Texas, the Longhorns were part of the last groups off No. 10, with Texas senior Dylan Frittelli, Oregon’s Daniel Miernicki and San Diego State’s Alex Kang starting at 2:20 p.m.

Thomas Pieters, with Illinois in a five-way tie for eighth, teed off earlier off the back, at 12:40 p.m., alongside Florida's Tyler McCumber and USC’s Jeffrey Kang.

Mike Small, Illinois coach: “Thomas was the star of the week for us. He’s hitting it well, he’s starting to believe in himself, and with a chance to win, albeit going out early, he played great. I walked with him the whole back nine. The greens were firm, and he’s hitting wedges into some of these holes. I remember 7, 8, 9, we’re coming in and the ball’s bouncing over head-high with short-irons.”

Pieters, who carded just seven bogeys all week, including only two during a final-round 71: “I remember holing a 3-footer on 9 for par, but at the time you don’t even know if you’re winning or not … it was a strange feeling.”

Pieters
Golf Channel

Small: “He just played solidly and put himself in a position where he just had to wait around all day and everybody else was trying to chase him.”

Pieters, as quoted in a Golfweek gamer after winning by three shots over McCumber and TCU’s Julien Brun: “Being from Belgium, I know this means a lot more to the people and players in America, but it is a great win for me.”

Pieters: “I stand by that. It was just another tournament. If you’re from Texas and you win nationals, it’s different. … Plus, it was not a nice week because obviously you want to make it as a team, and you go there as a team, and individual is secondary to the team result.”

Small, whose Illini, despite Pieters’ play, ended up solo 21st after shooting 19 over in Round 3: “We had just established making match play the year before ... so that year was kind of a downer from the team aspect, but for Thomas to win, it made it an up for us emotionally and personally. Scott Langley had won the individual title two years before, so it was our second win in three years, which is rare. I remember watching that week thinking this kid’s got a chance.”

Pieters, who led Illinois to a national runner-up finish the next season: “I really wanted to turn pro after Riviera because I had proven to myself that I could beat all these guys. It was a credit to Coach Small for talking me into doing another year.”

Will Haskett, host of the live stream on NCAA.com, which, in the age before Golf Channel's telecast, covered a handful of holes on the back nine: “The year before Patrick Cantlay had an eagle putt to force a playoff against John Peterson and lipped out on 18. But then we go to Riviera, and Thomas Pieters goes out and just kind of cruises and then finishes on the opposite nine. It was the first introduction to what Pieters was going to be as a player, but it was anticlimactic because with all the young guys and loaded schools, I think we expected to have that drama on the individual side, and we just didn’t have that. But on the team side, that day was so chaotic. I remember there was nothing you could do until the dust was settled. And we knew we were heading toward a potential playoff.”

Pieters
NCAA.com

Hunter Hamrick, Alabama senior, who led the Tide with a final-round 70 as Alabama won stroke play by two shots over the UCLA, which received a closing 66 from Cantlay: “We were the team where we weren’t going to back off just because we were on top of the leaderboard. We wanted to win every day and be dominant. We were relaxed, but we were pushing the pedal down.”

Bobby Wyatt, Alabama sophomore: “There was very much a heightened focus for us because of our previous year. We had shot 316 – that score’s seared in my memory – on the final day in Stillwater to miss match play, and we weren’t going to allow that to happen again.”

Frittelli: “The good thing was we were only a shot out of the eighth spot, so we knew, OK, even par today as a team and we’re making match play. These other teams are going to falter, they’re all going to stress, it’s a tough golf course. The downside wasn’t really looked at, we were just looking at the upside. … There’s no stress, just don’t screw it up.”

Jordan Spieth, Texas freshman, who birdied No. 10 en route to a closing 69: “The guys seemed really relaxed on the range. Myself, I was a little anxious, a little antsy, because we'd dug ourselves such a hole. … I never thought that we would actually miss the cut, but there was a point there where I was just really down on myself.”

Frittelli, who carded 72, one of four scores of 1 over or better for Texas: “I do remember it getting very tough. I parred the ninth hole, we’re in at even par, and the guys are sitting around and they’re like, ‘We should be good, scores are just tumbling right now.’”

Jean-Paul Hebert, Texas volunteer assistant: “The winds were up, probably 12-15 mph breeze, and we shot even par as a team, 280, and we vaulted from T-13 to solo third. Even par! … It was that third round that really ignited the whole thing.”

Trey Jones, Florida State head coach, whose Seminoles were hit by the injury bug in the championship’s leadup: “My five guy was averaging right at 72, and it was Doug Letson, who went on to play the Korn Ferry Tour. But 10 days before, right when we got back from regionals, he’s doing shoulder presses, and he drops the weight, it bounces up and catches between his fingers and the bench, and it cracks his finger, and he doesn’t get to play. That time of year, you kind of turn your other players loose, but we had to call Joaquin Lolas to come back in and Joaquin shot an amazing 71 in the first, but then he shoots 84-81. So, we were a little stung that we were going out there not at full strength.”

Mackenzie Hughes, Kent State senior, who helped the Golden Flashes get in the clubhouse at 23 over, just outside the projected cut at the time: “We were all waiting around on top of the hill by the clubhouse, just watching as the teams finished. We thought it’d be great if we could sneak in. It was so close.”

Herb Page, Kent State head coach: “We were back and forth all day between sixth and 12th, it’s unbelievable. It’s closing in on dark, we’re in the house, and Florida State is coming up the 18th, and they really look like they’re going to beat us by a shot. But 18 is a hard-a-- hole. … And Daniel Berger – and I can say this now, a cocky little freshman – he knocks it on, and the green was really quick, back-left pin. He’s got it like 20 feet and wheels it about 3 feet by. It was just lightning. He misses, he three-putts from 20 feet. Bottom line: Dead tied.”

Berger
NCAA.com

Jones: “Brooks is the last guy. You have to get a putt to go in and you trust all your guys, but he was the guy that we were pretty glad he was putting the ball. And he knew what that meant, no question. It was dark, and on that hole of all holes in the dark, he makes the par putt from 6 feet.”

Koepka: “At the time, it was one of the most nervous [putts I’ve had to make].”

koepka
NCAA.com

Page: “So, we’re both in a playoff, and there’s not enough time, so the NCAA says we’re going to come back at 8 a.m. and play off on the 18th hole to decide the eighth-place team, which will play Alabama in the first round of match play.”

Hughes: “We thought maybe it wasn’t going to fall our way, and then I remember us all thinking that we got a second life.”

Behind Alabama, UCLA and Texas, Cal and San Diego State, which equaled Texas’ closing round, tied for fourth. Washington and Oregon earned the sixth and seventh seeds, respectively. And behind Kent State and Florida State, Liberty came within a shot of that playoff for the eighth seed. Oklahoma was another stroke higher, and Georgia, all the way back in 17th place, finished just six shots behind.


Berger
FSU Athletics

VI. THE PLAYOFF: ‘I REMEMBER BERGER CHOKING’

When it comes to future Tour talent, no teams had more than Florida State and Kent State. With the final match-play berth and a date with Alabama up for grabs, Koepka, Berger and Chase Seiffert led their Seminoles into a sudden-death showdown opposite Hughes, Corey Conners, Taylor Pendrith and the Golden Flashes. The players would set out in fivesomes – Koepka, Berger and Kent State’s Big 3 in the second group – with the top four scores counting.

Page: “It was humid, and the air isn’t moving. We go to 18 tee and there are five guys from Florida State, five guys from Kent State, lots of officials and people, and I said to my assistant, ‘Have you ever seen so many white-faced guys in your life?’ They looked scared to death. You couldn’t breathe. And away we go.”

Jones: “They had cut and rolled the greens at least once. The speeds when we left there [the evening before] were probably running 9 ½, and we get out there the next morning and they were 11 ½. Both of our [teams'] guys couldn’t putt it close to the hole. We get behind the hole, or wherever else, and we’re putting it 6-8 feet by. It was not the greatest of golf on that green. But looking back, those players were so good, they just got fooled. They were putting off their memory, and that’s a tough green to go out and be your first green.”

Page: “Everybody was three-putting. You couldn’t stop the ball. But Kyle Kmiecik is in the first group, and he hits it in there to about 10 feet above the hole, breathes on it, if it doesn’t go in it goes 10 feet by, but it goes in for a ‘3.’ Kevin Miller bogeys, and Florida State goes par-bogey-double. Now, I’ve got my guns coming in. I’ve got Conners, Mackenzie and Pendrith!”

kmeick
NCAA.com

Conners: “I remember hitting a 5-iron into the green, pin was in the back left, and I hit it just over the green, a little far. I was staring it down and was surprised that it went long, but a little adrenaline, I’m sure, helped the ball get 10 extra yards.”

Hughes: “I hit it short of the green in two, pitched on to 10 feet and missed, so I made bogey. Corey made bogey. Taylor made bogey. It's such a weird thing … you just didn’t want to make double.”

Koepka, who made his team’s other par: “What I remember? I remember Berger choking. That's what I remember.”

Berger, who three-putted again, this time for double: “That was not a great memory. We were right there coming down the end, and going into that playoff, that was my first real pressure-packed experience being a freshman and never having been in an environment like that, so I probably didn’t handle it as well as I would have with a little more experience. … But it makes you a better competitor, it makes you a stronger player and gets you ready for the next level to be in that situation.”

Koepka: “He seems to be doing all right now, doesn’t he?”

Page, whose team advanced, 2 over to 3 over: “Kent State never made a par on the hole … and we won.”

playoff
Golf Channel


Spieth
UT Athletics

VII. QUARTERFINALS: ‘SACRIFICIAL LAMB’

For the first time in championship history, coaches were responsible for doing the pairings for match play. In the three years prior, the matchups were determined based on the players’ Golfstat rankings, but now coaches would take turns throwing names up on the board with the better seed’s coach having the option to defer or put forward the first player.

To celebrate the occasion, the eight teams gathered in a ballroom at the Loews on Thursday night, right after stroke play ended – even USC’s band attended – and, two by two, the lineups were filled out.

But with the eighth seed yet to be decided, only six coaches came up on stage. Alabama head coach Jay Seawell, on the other hand, had to discretely do pairings with both Page and Jones.

Seawell: “I had to sit down in front of two different coaches. We didn’t have a game plan that night because we didn’t know who we were going to play, which I think was helpful. We didn’t even know what time we were playing.”

Page: “We’re laughing because we have to phony it up.”

Seawell, who didn’t hesitate putting Thomas on the board first: “I started studying how I wanted our team to go for weeks before the championship. I read the [Paul] Azinger book (‘Cracking the Code’). Each spot I wanted to have a certain personality in. I had made my mind up before we got there, and I didn’t care who we were playing.”

Scott Limbaugh, Alabama assistant coach: “It was before you had as much data as we do now, and I think we thought we had five dang-good players.”

Page: “Now, here I don’t know much about Alabama. I knew Justin Thomas was the player of the year. The guys knew Bobby and Cory. [Scott] Strohmeyer was the guy who bombed it for them, and I didn’t know that, so the Ping guy says, ‘Hey, you should put Pendrith against Strohmeyer, they both bomb it.’ … So, I was sitting there, and Jay puts out Justin Thomas, and I’m going, Now, do I put Conners, who is probably my best player playing the best at that time, or Mackenzie? And I said, Nope, I’m going to put … Kevin Miller. And Jay looks at me like he doesn’t even know who this guy is.”

Seawell: “Herb way outcoached me on that one. He had a strategy to it. I put JT and Cory first, and he put the back of his lineup (Kmiecik against Whitsett) in there, his two sacrificial lambs.”

Page: “Kevin was an Ohio kid who nobody recruited, but he was a senior and he was really good. Honest to God, I think he can beat him. … But maybe you could call him a sacrificial lamb.”

Hughes: “On any given day Kevin could have won … it just wasn’t that day. He ran into a steamroller and got crushed.”

Page: “On the first hole, Thomas missed the green where you can’t get it up and down for birdie, so he’s going to make par. And Miller’s just perfect, hits a 5-iron in and hits it right where he’s supposed to, has about a 35-footer downhill for eagle. But he knocks it 18 feet past the pin and misses the birdie putt. The hole was tied, and by the 12th hole, Thomas had him 6 down and ended up winning, 6 and 5. Thomas was just a snot-nosed 18-year-old, but he was so good it was scary.”

JT
Tracy Wilcox/Golfweek

Whitsett closed Kmiecik out on No. 14, 5 and 4. Conners clipped Wyatt, 4 and 2, in the fourth match. And Strohmeyer built a 5-up lead on Pendrith at the turn before Pendrith clawed back to just 2 down with three holes to play.

Seawell: “Pendrith just comes flying back.”

Page: “But that dang guy Strohmeyer on the par-3 16th makes a 35-footer for par when Pendrith had it in there 10 feet for birdie. Make, miss, and they both birdie 17, and Taylor loses (2 and 1).”

Hughes, who was tied with Hamrick on No. 15 before they were called off the golf course: “We all thought we could beat them, but obviously no one else did. … I remember thinking, Man, if Taylor could just somehow flip that match, it’s coming down to this, which that would’ve been cool. But it wasn’t meant to be.”

Hamrick: “We took that match for granted and didn’t realize how good that team was.”

Page: “You tried to not make it anti-climactic. There was a celebration on the 18th hole when we won the playoff, and we came out a little flat. … It goes down as a 3-1-1. I’m going to tell ya, it would’ve been the upset of all-time.”

Cal and San Diego State met in another quarterfinal after both squads tied in stroke play. The Aztecs were 0-4-1 against the Bears entering the match.

Steve Desimone, Cal head coach: “They hadn’t beaten us all year, but it wasn’t one of those things where we had wiped them out, either.”

Ryan Donovan, San Diego State head coach: “We won four in a row earlier that spring. We were rolling, and these guys were so confident. It was the first year that I stopped organized practice. They came to me at the beginning of the year and they’re like, ‘Coach, we all want to go pro, just let us do our thing.’ And it was so hard, but I did and just made sure they access to the courses, and I’d show up randomly and kind of hung out. They were that kind of self-motivated group.”

J.J. Spaun, San Diego State senior, who was 2 down after seven to Cal junior Max Homa in the leadoff match before eagling No. 10 and eventually winning, 4 and 3: “I beat Max, which is nice to have on the resumé.”

Joel Stalter, Cal junior, who drained a 20-footer for birdie on No. 17 against Alex Kang for the clinching point in a 3-2 victory: “I hadn't made a putt all day. I told [assistant coach] Walter [Chun], I'm going to make that one, and it just went right in the middle of the cup.”

Stalter
Cal Athletics

Spaun: “They were such a good team that year. They were just unbeatable, but we hung in there and did our best. We just got beat. We didn’t blow it or anything.”

Donovan: “They were frustrated because they were really strong believers that they could win the whole thing. But for me, I felt good just getting there and being in that situation and setting the bar for our school. It changed our whole program really.”

Speaking of altering the trajectory of a program. That’s what Miernicki and fellow seniors Eugene Wong and Andrew Vijarro did for Oregon, which was attempting to reach another national semifinal after doing so just two years prior. But they would have to go through the reigning player of the year, Cantlay, and the Bruins.

Casey Martin, Oregon head coach: “Cantlay was having such a good year and so highly respected. But it was so bizarre because a month prior we had talked about if we played UCLA, and Jonathan Woo, our fifth guy, was like, ‘Let me at him.’ When you have such a dominant player [in Cantlay], I could’ve put Eugene or Dan up against him, and most likely Cantlay, being the player he is, would’ve beaten them. So, I tried – and it worked out – to put Woo against him. It was so ironic that it happened. We were like, No way, and it gave us a little bit of juice going into that match.”

Cantlay
Golf Channel

Derek Freeman, UCLA head coach, who got an easy point out of Cantlay (5 and 3) and another from his leadoff man, Pontus Widegren: “We weren’t sure how Pontus was going to win, and he ended up winning. We felt great about that because he just wasn’t playing that well.”

Martin, whose seniors swept the three middle matches, including Wong and Miernicki with clutch pars on the last hole: “UCLA was extremely good, but my guys were just so amped to play them.”

Freeman: “Casey has this tough, bulldog mentality, and I think his team assumed that mentality. ... Those guys were really challenging and got the maximum amount out of everything that they did.”

Spieth
UT Athletics

On paper, Texas appeared to have its hands full with Washington, which boasted top-5 amateur Chris Williams and future Tour winner C.T. Pan. The Huskies also had won regionals over the Longhorns in Oklahoma.

Matt Thurmond, Washington head coach: “The night before I had spent hours and hours running scenarios. I was so proud of how everything worked out, and I felt like we had won the pairings battle.”

Hebert: “They threw a curveball at us. They had a guy who they didn’t count, their fifth man (Ty Chambers, who had shot 82-76-76), and they put him against Spieth. … And then that next morning, Jordan gets stung by a bee on the first tee.”

Spieth: “I was just trying to say hi to Dick, [Texas junior] Julio Vegas' godfather, and got a little bee sting.”

John Fields, Texas head coach: “I was really worried about that. If a guy’s allergic, who knows what could happen. Am I going to have to take him to the hospital? Thankfully, he was not allergic, and he was able to just shake it off after a few minutes. But it was another little moment, like, Oh, my god.”

Thurmond: “Ty actually ended up playing him pretty tough, was 1 down through 10 holes. But it turned out nobody else won their matches either. … We felt good momentum, had great team chemistry and energy about us, kind of breezed through the stroke play. So, [the 5-0 result] was really just a bucket of cold water on us. And it happened so fast. It’s three hours and then it’s done.”

Cody Gribble, Texas junior, who beat Trevor Simsby, 2 up, in the only match to go to No. 18: “They just ran into a buzzsaw. We played exceptionally well. There was nothing they could’ve done. … We kicked the s--- out of them.”


Texas
UT Athletics

VIII. SEMIFINALS: VIVA JULIO VEGAS

And then there were four. The Texas-Oregon semi featured a pair of first-team All-America matchups: Frittelli vs. Miernicki, and Spieth vs. Wong. Alabama-Cal matched up the second- and third-ranked teams in Golfstat. Seawell stuck to his order, sending Thomas out first opposite Homa. Hamrick was in the anchor match against Stalter.

Seawell: “I was more nervous in that Cal match than I ever was in the Texas match. Nobody had any big leads. It was tight all the way around. You’re playing to get into a national championship, and as a coach, you dream about that your whole life and you want your players to do this, and I remember pretty much being a basket of nerves that day.”

Limbaugh: “Good lord, man, that was two heavyweights in that semifinal match.”

Wyatt, who was the first Tide player to fall down in a match, to Michael Kim … on the 10th hole: “I remember looking at the leaderboard and thinking we’re in a good spot, even though I was fighting for my life.”

Kim, who went on to win, 2 and 1: “We were behind all day, but we still had a chance at the end.”

Desimone, whose squad got another point from Homa, who lost three of his first six holes but rallied to close out Thomas, also on No. 17: “One of the things that you see in Max now is what I saw a long time ago. Max is a fighter. He’s tough. He doesn’t fear anybody or anything. He did have a tendency to get down on himself, but I will tell you, he thinks he can beat anybody at any time. I was concerned early when he got down, but it didn’t surprise me that he turned it around and came back to win that match.”

Homa
NCAA.com

Limbaugh: “As you get older, you realize that water’s gon’ find its level, everybody’s going to go on a run, you just gotta weather those times as a team. But at the moment, it was like, Oh, my lord, we’re done. It could’ve been trouble in paradise, but our boys hung in there … and it was like, ‘Let ‘em run!’ And they did.”

Seawell, who walked with Strohmeyer on No. 18 against Pace Johnson: “Scott is 1 up, and Pace has this strong grip, and I remember thinking this thing is going to give way somewhere, and he hit one so far to the right on 18. It was way right. And Strobie (Strohmeyer’s nickname) has already hit 3-wood right down the middle, way down there, and has a sand wedge into the green. And full transparency, I go, ‘We got this.’”

Desimone: “Pace didn’t have a clear shot. He had to hook that wedge around the trees, and it had to be a big hook. It was about 165 yards, and Pace hits it long for a guy who’s not that big. … I thought he was going to take 9-iron just for a little more control. And he goes, ‘No, coach, I think I can hook a wedge around the trees, and I know I can get it to the center of the green.’ I said, ‘Fire away.’ And I can still see the ball in flight. That thing took off like a rocket, hooked around the trees. The applause was huge. And we got up there and he was about 10 feet away.”

Pace
NCAA.com

Seawell: “Strobie hit it to about 25 feet and just lagged it to a foot. The great part of golf is you have to just sit there and watch somebody else do something with zero control, and Pace hit a putt that looked like it was going to go in, and it didn’t go in.”

Hamrick, whose 3-up lead had dwindled to 1 up with Stalter stalking a 12-footer for birdie at No. 17: “Coach had come to me right after regionals on the range at Ol’ Colony and said, ‘If we get in match play, I plan on putting you last, are you cool with that?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ That’s where I wanted to be.”

Whitsett: “Hunter always had that mentality. He called it the warrior mentality. Dont’a Hightower from the football team, he would always tweet out, 'Warrior mentality,' and so Hunter adopted that, and it kind of bled through the team.”

Desimone, who was watching Stalter’s putt with binoculars from the 18th fairway: “I saw the 360. That was to tie the match, and they ended up halving that hole. You think about certain shots over the years that you’d like to have back and no doubt, that one sticks out.”

Limbaugh, who was standing just off the 18th green when Hamrick cozied up a birdie putt for the clinching point in a 3-2 Alabama win: “I remember thinking, Sure am glad it’s Hambone out there putting it, because he was tough. You know it’s going to come down to those moments and all you can do is try to have guys in position to make the plays, and Hambone, he made the play right there, and I don’t think any of us were surprised.”

Hamrick
NCAA.com

Hamrick: “I remember being nervous and it being on me, and after beating Joel, I thought, I don’t know if I can handle going into the last hole again and the whole thing coming down to me. I wanted to be in the spot, and I was prepared for it, but that spearheaded me going into the next day. I was really motivated, like whoever I play, I gotta get on top of this guy early and get a lead.”

Seawell: “We both had to go into the clubhouse that night and eat dinner right beside each other. They were gutted, literally a putt or two away from playing in a national championship.”

Desimone: “You couldn’t help but hurt. There was not a doubt in my mind that we were capable of winning a national championship. I didn’t talk about that with the kids. I just said, ‘We’re going to play our games, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see us with that trophy at the end.’ We laid it all out at Riviera, and we were that close.”

Chun: “Then we’re in the van going back to the hotel, and we’re all pretty bummed, obviously. But then just out of nowhere, the guys go, ‘John Wall!’ And before Des could park the car, they hopped out superfast, and it was Michael and Max … they were so excited to see John Wall.”

Homa: “Coach yelled at me, but I saw John Wall. And I love John Wall. I watched his Dougie video like a thousand times in college. He was staying at our hotel, and he took a picture with us and our third-place trophy.”

Desimone: “I could’ve killed both of them, but I couldn’t blame them. Anything to raise their spirits.”

Wong
Tracy Wilcox/Golfweek

Hebert: “After Oregon beat UCLA, I ran into Derek Freeman, and he made a comment that they were really surprised by how good and how competitive Oregon was. And I took that into our team meeting the night before, like, this is not going to look like a group of guys that you’re used to looking at.”

Fields: “They were kind of a rag-tag team. They didn’t tuck in their shirts, they wore funny hats, they didn’t look the part. Miernicki was this big character, and they had other guys in there who were a little chubby.”

Gribble: “It just like, Man, y’all are really just a bunch of ugly ducks.”

Fields: “If you summed them up as a competitor, they were the guy who you’re going to play in a match and you show up on the first tee and you think, I got this guy. And the guy is like, ‘You wanna play for x, y and z?’ And you’re like, ‘Absolutely, there’s no way you can beat me,’ and then the guy just drubs you and takes your money.”

Spieth, who lost the first two holes to Wong and trailed the anchor match the entire way: “I’m paying attention to all the scoreboards … and I got kind of nervous because I was down in my match, and it seemed everything that I did, the guy either chipped in or made a long putt.”

Wong
NCAA.com

Frittelli, who led 1 up much of the way before Miernicki tied things with four holes to play: “I was more shellshocked than anything. I’m looking at the last two holes going, OK, if I finish birdie-par, that’s at least extra holes, and I’ll never forget it, he hit a 2-iron from 275-ish on 17, he was in the left rough, hooked it around those trees to 25 feet, downhill putt. And I hit it to like 8 feet for birdie, and he holed that eagle putt, and I’m like, Oh, great, 1 down playing 18. Here we go. And he ended up striping one down the middle, hit an iron shot to like 4 feet, nearly holed it. I don’t know where it pitched, but it must’ve been close.”

Hebert: “Frittelli and Spieth both lost.”

Fields: “Jordan says that he didn’t lose. He was 1 down on 17, and he said he was going to win that match. But it got called. He didn’t want to come off the golf course. He did not want to lose that match.”

Gribble, who beat Woo, 2 and 1, to earn a point along with sophomore Toni Hakula: “I watched Miernicki make a 25-footer on 17 for eagle and Oregon fans are going ballistic. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that everything’s going to work out, but I don’t know how that is. It wasn’t looking like it at all.”

Vegas
UT Athletics

Vegas, who was 1 down to Vijarro after his par putt hung on the lip at No. 15: “That is why we play golf, to be able to perform in that type of environment. Everything is on the line, everybody is watching, the whole team is trusting you and you have been fighting the whole year for that moment. I was trying to stay in my zone, in my own space and not get too distracted. ... When you’re confident, you’re competent, and you feel you can do great things. I had played well all season (10 top-15s), my confidence was pretty high, and I birdied 16, 17 and 18. Pretty memorable."

Frittelli: “On that golf course, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime finish.”

Vegas, who stuck his approach on No. 18 about 12 feet right of the front hole location: “I aimed a little bit right of the flag to give myself an uphill putt, and I hit it perfect, baby draw to 12 feet. When I got up to hit the putt, I'm so in it, trying to stay calm, so when I saw it go in the hole, it was just this reaction of all these emotions going out. ... I blacked out for a couple of seconds."

Vegas
NCAA.com

Fields, whose Longhorns snuck by the Ducks, 3-2: “It was an iconic fist pump that we’ve captured and it’s in our academy. As Jordan said, [Julio] put the University of Texas men’s golf team on his back and carried us to the final.”

Martin: “I think you could really say that might’ve been my best team, but Texas was just so good. I could just feel it slipping away those last couple holes. That feeling of having this special team that I’ve had for four years that had just put Oregon golf on the map, you could feel it coming to an end, and it was difficult. All of those emotions were coming to pass. We had some magic that week, for sure, and obviously it ran out short.”

Gribble: “You can’t help but get chills. I mean, it got me almost a little choked up watching how unbelievable and how clutch he was when he needed him. I just remember running up to him on 18 telling him he was my hero.”



FOR PART III, CLICK HERE.

– Information and quotes from team sports information departments, Golf Channel and Golfweek Magazine archives and Longhorn Network’s documentary, “Unmatched,” were used in this report