Daulet Tuleubayev (Walt Beazley, Razorbacks Athletics Communications)
Let the record show that Cole Hammer started the charge that led Texas into the NCAA match-play final over top-ranked – and clear favorite – Oklahoma State. It was Hammer, a Longhorn freshman, who put the first point on the board in Tuesday's semifinals despite going up against newly crowned NCAA champion Matthew Wolff.
Hammer, coming off a 7-and-5 quarterfinal victory over Oklahoma freshman Patrick Welch, never flinched. Hammer gets this way, particularly in match play. Last summer, he reached the semifinal of the U.S. Junior, won the Western Amateur, then made the semifinals at the U.S. Amateur. He is 18-2 in match play since the start of last summer.
On Tuesday at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark., the golf was comparable in Hammer’s mind.
“I played some similar golf last summer towards the end of it, right before my freshman year started but to make six birdies on the first eight holes on a track like this was pretty special. Matt and I kind of went back and forth there quickly and it was a lot of fun.”
Texas head coach John Fields used the same order in each of Tuesday's match – Hammer was always the second man out. He will be the second man out once again on Wednesday.
Hammer's 4-and-3 defeat of Wolff, perhaps the hottest player in college golf, was stunning. He was 2 up after three and 4 up after nine.
“Cole's victory over Matthew Wolff was outstanding and gave us an opportunity to get a point on the board,” Fields said.
The core of this Texas team is made up of freshmen. Besides Hammer, twin brothers Parker and Pierceson Coody are also in the lineup. Fields got four out of a possible six points from that section of the squad.
In the end, however, senior Steven Chervony got the clinching point for Texas in the near darkness. He took Oklahoma State senior Zach Bauchou to an extra hole, where he eventually won.
A day earlier, Oklahoma State had finished stroke play with a 31-shot margin of victory on Vanderbilt, which took the No. 2 seed. The Cowboys were 44 shots better than Texas. They were the talk of the season, which left every other team – Texas included – a bit overshadowed.
“Truth be known, I mean, people have been talking about Oklahoma State all year,” Fields said. “Somebody asked me out on the range the other day if I thought that we had been overlooked. I thought this entire field has been overlooked this year. Really last year too.”
Texas will now meet Stanford in the final match-up. The Cardinal took down Wake Forest in the quarterfinals then Vanderbilt in the semifinals. They also advanced on the strength of a freshman.
Daulet Tuleubayev took Vandy’s Harrison Ott to the 18th hole, where he won, 1 up.
Tuleubayev had lost his morning match to Wake Forest senior Cameron Young, but came back hot about it. There was a chip on his shoulder in the afternoon.
“I haven't had a chance to play too many match play events in my career,” he said. “We did some hole match play events against the guys, but obviously not the same high stakes as it was here. I come in here, it was a fresh experience. I got away with a victory.”
The championship match has been moved to 6:45 a.m. CT on Wednesday to assure that it gets in before weather moves into the Fayetteville area.
“I think we're all kind of in survival mode with as much golf as we've played, short nights and everything,” Stanford head coach Conrad Ray said. “I think we'll rely on our fitness. The guys wonder why we're having a third workout on Fridays in January. Now is when it comes to fruition.”
ABOUT THE NCAA Division I Championship
30 teams and 6 individuals not on a qualifying
team make up the field for the championship of
Division I women's golf.
After 72 holes of stroke play, the individual
champion is crowned, and the low 8 teams advance
match play to determine the team champion.
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