By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer
AUSTIN, Texas — If the Texas men’s golf team felt like it had something to prove during the NCAA Austin Regional this week, consider the Longhorns’ performance in the three-day, 54-hole event as evidence of a mission accomplished.
Texas steamrolled the field at the University of Texas Golf Club, finishing 25 under par as a team and winning the event, which concluded Wednesday under sunny skies and warm, virtually windless conditions, by a whopping 20 strokes.
The runaway victory for UT's five-man team was its first of the season, and more than justified the NCAA’s high seeding for the Longhorns despite their winless résumé.
In the process, Texas qualified for its 13th consecutive NCAA Championship. The Longhorns have made a total of 68 championship appearances in program history.
“The guys played really well this week,” Texas head coach John Fields said. “The result was never in doubt. Our format with qualifying is very effective, and our kids let their clubs do the talking. There is no drama on this team — just great competition and teamwork.”
The top five teams and the low individual from a non-advancing team at the Austin Regional advanced to the 2019 NCAA Championship, which is set for May 24-29 in Fayetteville, Ark.
TCU finished a distant second in the team standings at 5-under 847, with Clemson in third at 1-under 851, Pepperdine in fourth at 6-over 858 and USC garnering the last NCAA Championship bid at 8-over 860.
Arkansas' Julian Perico earned a spot in the NCAA Championship as the low-scoring individual not from an advancing team.
The Longhorns were led to the win by senior Steven Chervony and freshman Cole Hammer, each of whom fired a 5-under 66 Wednesday to finish atop the leaderboard at 9-under 204 for the three rounds. Stefano Mizzoli of TCU carded a tournament-best 7-under 64 in the final round to share medalist honors with Chervony and Hammer.
Hammer, who committed to play for Texas in eighth grade, when he already was a highly accomplished junior golfer, called the win “a dream come true.”
“I was thinking about that walking up the last hole. Winning in this uniform and for this team really means a lot,” Hammer said. “Winning the NCAA with this team would mean even more, and that’s the goal now.”
Texas freshman Pierceson Coody finished eighth at 2-under 211, a single stroke ahead of twin brother Parker Coody, who placed 11th, and junior Spencer Soosman ended up tied for 20th at 4-over 217, as four of the Longhorns’ players finished under par and all five were in the top 20.
Texas, which was ranked sixth nationally and seeded first in the regional as the host team, made its biggest move on Day 2 of the competition, scorching the demanding 7,355-yard par-71 course with a 10-under 274 and assume an all-but-insurmountable 16-stroke lead with just 18 holes to play.
“There was a little bit of relaxed mode out there today, but there are also guys out there trying to win a golf tournament,” Fields said. “There was no drop off. (The Longhorns) played like every swing counted and every shot was important.
“Yes, the pressure of playing to get a spot in the championship was not there because we knew after Tuesday that we were going to advance, but they still kept to the task at hand.”
The second-round surge came after the Longhorns struggled but still led after Day 1 round, finishing the first 18 holes Monday tied with Pepperdine at 6-under 278. Pierceson Coody recorded a five-under-par 66 to grab the individual lead after the first 18 holes.
Chervony matched his season-low 18-hole round with his second straight 5 under 66.
“I stayed solid all day and made some putts that haven’t been falling,” Chervony said. “The margin of victory this week was an indication of how well our coaches have prepared us, and how hungry we were to win this thing. We will work even harder to carry this momentum with us to the NCAA Championship.”