by Brentley Romine, Golfweek
EUGENE, Ore. (May 29, 2016) – Scott Limbaugh has preached all week about his players keeping their emotions in check. But forgive the Vanderbilt head coach for getting a little excited after junior Matthias Schwab birdied the final hole Sunday to give the Commodores a two-shot lead after 54 holes of the NCAA Championship.
After Schwab’s 12-foot birdie putt dropped at the par-4 18th hole at Eugene Country Club, Schwab calmly acknowledged the crowd, but Limbaugh turned to the front greenside bunker, away from the crowd, and did a few fist pumps. Schwab’s 3-under 67 got the 21-year-old Austrian to 4 under for the championship, two shots back of leader Aaron Wise of Oregon, and spearheaded Vanderbilt’s third-round, 2-over 282.
“That was great effort today,” Limbaugh said, smiling.
For the second straight round, Vanderbilt played well on a tough back nine, following a 6-under effort with a 2-over performance. Also, Sunday marked the second consecutive day where the Commodores threw out a 73.
There have been many bright spots – five to be exact – for the sixth-ranked Commodores, who advanced to match play at last year’s NCAA Championship before losing to eventual champion LSU in the quarterfinals. None have been brighter, though, than Schwab.
Two years ago at the NCAA Championship, Schwab was on the sidelines recovering from stress fractures in his lower back. The injury sidelined him almost a year. He returned to action last February and instantly stepped up as the “Robin” to then-senior Hunter Stewart’s “Batman.”
Schwab posted four top 5s last spring, including a shared title at the Mason Rudolph and a T-2 showing at the NCAA New Haven Regional. He tied for 11th at the 2015 NCAA Championship at The Concession Golf Club, but that tournament left a bad taste in his mouth. In the match-play quarterfinals, Schwab was 5 down through 11 holes to LSU’s Ben Taylor before falling, 3 and 2. (Vanderbilt lost to the Tigers, 3 1/2 – 1 1/2, that day.)
“After the match I was disappointed that I lost and I didn’t get a point on the board for the team,” Schwab said. “I just didn’t play well that day. I learned that I need to prepare myself better, both physically and mentally. I need to be more ready to go out there and compete and play as good as I want to play.”
With Stewart graduating and rising senior Carson Jacobs struggling with his game, Schwab knew he was going to be counted on to lead his team this season. He has, although he’s done it a different way.
Unlike Stewart, Schwab is not as vocal a leader, but rather he lets his game do the talking. “He leads by example,” Limbaugh said, “by the way he works, by the way he handles himself, by the way he goes about his business.”
Still, Schwab paid keen attention to how Stewart carried himself on and off the course. He saw how Stewart not only developed into a top-10 machine and model of consistency, but how he made everyone around him better.
“I’ve always looked up to Hunter as a great player, a great guy and a great team leader,” Schwab said. “Over the course of last year, I tried to look at stuff that he does that doesn’t only help him but influences the entire team. I’ve been able to, in parts, do a good job in being a team leader, but I think I have a lot of room for improvement.”
Schwab’s season has been impressive – nine finishes of T-16 or better in 10 starts, including a co-victory at the Carmel Cup, and a 70.63 scoring average. Limbaugh agrees that his star player, ranked 12th by Golfweek, had been overshadowed this year.
Schwab said it’s probably because he’s not very outspoken. He quietly goes about his business and has the demeanor of seasoned Tour pro on the course.
Calm. Serene. Unworried. All describe Schwab.
“I guess I’m low key, doing my thing, not bragging about anything that I do or my golf,” Schwab said. “I’m humble with the chance that I have being here in America playing for a great school. … Going forward, maybe a little more confidence or cockiness wouldn’t hurt to step up my game a little more.”
If Schwab keeps playing like this, we may see a little more emotion out of the cool, calm and collected Austrian – and certainly some more fist pumps from his coach.