AUSTIN, Texas — Pierceson Coody fulfilled what he called "a lifelong goal" April 14 when became the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, according to the World Amatuer Golf Rankings (wagr.com). Now he's hoping to lead his team to a Big 12 title.
"In whatever sport you're playing, you aspire to find a way to get to the top," Coody said Wednesday. "When I got to Texas that was one of the very first goals I put down."
He imagined it upon arrival in Austin, and benefitted from being around someone who already had accomplished it in teammate Cole Hammer, who claimed the ranking in 2019.
"My teammate, Cole Hammer, was close to that position and got there the following summer [when I first got to Texas], so I had a good gauge of what it took to get there," Coody recalled.
While Coody was leapfrogged for the top spot by Keita Nakajima this week, he has not cooled off, and remains at No. 2 in the world, heading into next week's Big 12 Championships.
"I won a big amateur event my freshman year over the winter break, so it didn't count towards my college career, but I felt like I played my best golf at that point," Coody said. "The Western Am during the summer, I did the same thing: just hit the ball really solid, never got out of position. But it's only been a week at a time, and the fact that I've felt that level for about two months straight now in competitive golf has been the difference. I feel like I've been building each week."
Coody said that for as long as he can remember, golf has been a part of his life. It almost has to be for someone whose grandfather won the 1971 Masters, defeating Jack Nicklaus by two strokes, and whose father played collegiately at Texas.
"I've played since I can remember," Coody said. "There's pictures of me on the range, just holding a club and that kind of thing."
But there was a time when Coody gave up golf entirely.
"I've always loved golf, but there was a time when I didn't," the two-time All-America said. "In fifth or sixth grade I really hated it. I told my granddad 'I hate golf. I never want to play it again.' I think it was a little shock to his system that I didn't play for a while, but once you get older and you start hitting the ball a little further, golf becomes really exciting. With the people and the family I have around me, it was really easy to get back into the game."
While his grandfather, Charles, accomplished plenty on the PGA Tour and his father, Kyle, was the first Coody to play at Texas, Coody said his mother, Debbie, has had an equally big impact on his golf career.
"My mom is the biggest cheerleader," Coody said with a smile. "All she cares about is that I'm happy. If I shoot 80 or 65, but come off the course smiling, she's happy. That's been her influence: keeping a level head through everything. It's easy to get so result-oriented, but at the end of the day, I'm playing golf at The University of Texas. I could never have asked for anything more in high school."
He and his twin brother, Parker, followed in their father's footsteps in signing with Texas in 2018. The Longhorn golf program has a storied legacy, having produced current Tour members in Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Scottie Scheffler, a list many expect Coody to join. He said Wednesday that the history of greatness when it comes to golf on the Forty Acres is something of which he and the current team are frequently reminded.
"I definitely feel it and understand it," Coody said. "In our locker room, we have the posters of all the All-Americans and the staff bags surrounding us, so you don't forget where you are and what you're supposed to be doing. To know that I'm taking the right steps to get there is nice, but we still have a long way to go."
Coody is only scratching the surface of his goals for his collegiate career. As a junior this season, he is third in the nation in the NCAA Individual Rankings by GolfStat, but is aiming to change that prior to the season's end. Winning the Ben Hogan Award, given annually to the nation's top golfer across the NCAA Div. I, II, III, NAIA, and JUCO levels, is another goal he has set for himself; he was named a semifinalist for the award Thursday.
"To start the year, I was in the top 10 in the world amateur rankings, so to get to No. 5 and then get to No. 1 kind of came together," Coody said. "The other big ones are the Ben Hogan Award following the college season and the Haskins Award. If you had two college golf awards to win, those are the pinnacles."
Coody is the rare type who excels in an individual sport but embraces the team aspect. He has led Texas to five top-three finishes this season. The Longhorns are ranked No. 6 in the nation according to GolfStat entering next week's Big 12 Championships.
"We talked about that a lot in team meetings and going over the course between rounds," Coody said. "Golf is a team (sport, so) it's important to encourage one another. That's one of the things I thought we were struggling with at the beginning of the year. Between holes, you'll see a lot of these teams high-fiving each other, clapping and encouraging each other on putts.
"We weren't a team in the fall. We've come together a lot, though we haven't found immediate success."
Though Texas has won just one tournament this season, the Horns still enter next week's conference championship as one of the favorites to take home the Big 12 crown.
"To say we're tied of losing to Oklahoma is an understatement," Coody said with a laugh.
To change that, he believes it will take a strong performance from all five in Texas' lineup.
"We've had a lot of success individually, one or two guys per tournament," Coody said. "We just need one week where everyone feels like they had one or two rounds that were great. If everyone steps up on a shot or two, it goes a long way of just feeling positive about the way you're going the rest of the season."