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  1. Though it's a team that holds one of the most recent National Championships for The University of Texas, the coverage of the Longhorn golf team and college golf in general amongst most media outlets still isn't as prevalent as I would think it would be. Thousands of viewers and golf fans tune into professional golf tournaments all the time. Yet, the common golf fan likely doesn't know much about collegiate golf at all. Which is largely what motivated me to get an inside look into the Texas men's golf team. Brax was also featured in a special on the Longhorn Network that can be found here: The Drive To Compete Yesterday I spoke with Brax McCarthy, a friend of mine who walked-on to the Texas Golf team this past fall. Brax gave some great insight into his personal story and also what it takes to compete at this level. "For me, it started in high school. I wasn't sure if I wanted to play college golf or not. But I was going to attend Texas so my mom wanted me to call coach Fields (Texas' Head Golf Coach) to get an unofficial visit. When I was able to get into contact with him, he told me I needed a big win and had to qualify for the U.S. Amatuers before I could walk-on to the team... Well, I didn't do either of those. But I decided to still attend UT and just play golf for fun." Like many athletes, after leaving the world of competition, Brax still had the competition-bug and after his freshman year he decided to take another crack at walking-on. "The summer before Junior year I got interested in joining the team again so I emailed Coach Fields about walking on. And he said the policy was the same. So I signed up for the U.S. Am qualifier. But again, I didn't qualify. And at this point I thought to myself I gave it a shot and at least I tried. Well, two weeks later in September I got a voicemail from coach Fields about a spot that had opened up. When I called him back he invited me onto the team and I instantly said YES!" Even though he wasn't able to qualify for the U.S. Amateurs his second go around, Brax kept playing and practicing. And coach Fields knew that he was continuing to work on his game, which gave him an opportunity to take a roster spot. But once he got a spot on the team, Brax still had a realistic view of where he stood and what it would take to compete. "I knew I was low on the totem pole. And I didn't think I would be playing right away. But I wanted to compete so I kept practicing. And by February, after playing 7 rounds of qualifying a couple weeks before, I qualified to play with the team for the first time in the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii." In Hawaii, Texas finished 4th as a team, and Brax tied for 70th. But he had his moments during the tournament and after finishing 6th in another set of qualifying rounds coach Fields selected him to play in the following tournament in Houston, which ended up being his best performance to date. "In Houston I got off to a good start by holing out an eagle shot from 60 yards out on the 3rd hole of the tournament. And from there I had a few good breaks, accompanied with some good putting, and I ended up playing the first 36 holes 8 under par and was leading the tournament after the 1st and 2nd rounds. But on the final round, I couldn't get anything going. I had some bad shots, bad breaks, and bad putting that left me with a 77 for that round, which was 5 over for that day. And I ended the tournament tied for 6th. But the Houston tournament was a good experience and definitely one to build off of. I didn't finish as well as I had played the first two rounds, mostly due to nerves and a lack of execution, but that's golf. In the end, it was a nice feeling knowing that I was competing again." Because Brax finished in the top-10 of the tournament, he qualified to play in the following tournament in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. But more the most part, the struggles from the last day in Houston continued in Vegas. "It was basically a continuation of the last round in Houston. But right now, it's been a week since that tournament so I'm just working on a few things like chipping and putting and continuing to practice." To Play, You Have To Earn It Being on the roster for the golf team does not automatically mean you get to compete in every tournament that's on the schedule. In collegiate golf, only a number of players compete in each tournament. And that number can vary to a certain degree. "Whenever Texas goes to a tournament they take 5 players that compete as a team. After each round, the 4 best scores of the 5 players are combined for a total team score. And the team that has the lowest total score wins the tournament. But sometimes a coach will be offered another entry or two into the tournament for an individual player/s to compete. The players who play individually can not be counted with the team score, but they compete with everyone for the individual win." As I asked more about the difference between the team play and the individual play, Brax explained that the host of the tournament will give certain teams the option of playing an additional individual player or two at the hosts discretion. The teams that get offered individual spots are usually prestigious teams and the top golf teams playing in the tournament. And if a player is already playing on the team in the tournament, that player does not also play in the individual spot because that would be redundant since players playing for the team can also compete for the individual win during the tournament. Heading into any tournament, Texas will always have 5 players competing. Occasionally there will be 1 spot, maybe 2, for individual play. The roster often looks something like this... Team: Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4 Player 5 Individual: Player 6 As I stated earlier, being on the Texas golf roster does not automatically give a player the opportunity to compete in every tournament that's on the schedule. Instead, for Texas, players must qualify in some fashion to make it onto the tournament roster. "Longhorn players have three ways that we can make it onto the tournament roster. First, the most common way you can compete in the next tournament is if you individually finished in the top-10 of the previous tournament we played in. Secondly, Coach Fields sometimes picks certain players to play based on their resume and recent body of work. And then after that, if the 5 spots have not been filled, the remaining players can qualify by playing against each other at local courses. Normally, we play anywhere from 2 to 7 rounds over the course of 1 to 2 weeks. And the player/s who have the best scores get the remaining roster spot/s." The 2012-2013 Texas Men's Golf Team Below is the current Texas Men's golf roster. NAME HT. CLASS-EXP. HOMETOWN (LAST SCHOOL) (per TexasSports.com) Cody Gribble 5-9 Sr.-3L Dallas, Texas (Highland Park) Will Griffin 6-2 RS-Fr.-HS Lufkin, Texas (Lufkin) Toni Hakula 5-10 Jr.-2L Espoo, Finland (Etela-Tapiolan) Kramer Hickok 5-11 So.-1L Plano, Texas (Trinity Christian Academy) Beau Hossler 6-1 Fr.-HS Mission Viejo, Calif. (Santa Margarita) Brax McCarthy 6-0 Jr.-HS Ft. Worth, Texas (Heights) Johnathan Schnitzer 5-10 RS-Jr.-2L Houston, Texas (Kinkaid) Brandon Stone 5-11 Fr.-HS Pretoria, South Africa (Cornwall Hill) Tayler Termeer 6-1 RS-Fr.-HS Austin, Texas (Lake Travis) Julio Vegas 6-0 RS-Sr.-3L Maturin, Venezuela (Cecilio Acosta) Every player on this roster is active for tournament play except for Beau Hossler, who has been red-shirted this season. Many of you may recognize Beau's name from when he competed in the 2012 U.S. Open as an amateur. "I've played with Beau a few times. He's a good player but it's taken him a while to get used to playing golf in Texas on the Bermuda grass... He hits the ball well and has a good game around the green. I think he may tell you his putting can improve but he is one of the top-ranked amateurs in the world." Texas recently lost Jordan Spieth, one of the team's leaders from their National Championship campaign last season, as Spieth is taking his game to the professional level. But the Longhorns still have other great players on the roster that are keeping the team highly competitive. "I think we are pretty good. This may be a cliche, but we know where we are and that we have a lot of work to do in order to get where we want to be. And you know, when you lose a player like Jordan Spieth he isn't somone you can easily replace. But we have players who have continued to play at a high level." But what makes the Texas golf team as competitive as they still are is the fact that for any given tournament any player on the roster can step up and have a great weekend or provide a good round of golf for the team. What's Left? "Right now, the team is playing at the Schenkel Invitational in Georgia. We have one more tournament in Georgia, which is the Augusta State Invitational. And then our last tournament of the regular season is the Morris Williams Invitational April 13/14 in Austin. That tournament is open to fans and we'd love to see a lot of Longhorn fans out there." I also highly encourage Longhorn fans to get out to Morris Williams to see the team compete and to also see the renovated course and new club house. I haven't been out there yet, but I've heard good things about the course and club-house since Morris Williams re-opened months ago. "After the Morris Williams invitational, we will play in the Big 12 Championship April 22nd - April 24th. And then the NCAA Championship play starts mid-May. Only time will tell as far as how we finish the season. We have work to do and need to take it one shot at a time." According to golfweek.com, as of March 10th, Texas was ranked 4th in the nation. Brax did mention that since then they may have slipped to 6th, but the ranking can also obviously change dependent on the Longhorns' results from the Schenkel Invitational this weekend. I really appreciate Brax giving me as much information and insight as he did. Collegiate golf has a lot of great talented men and women within it's ranks who are all striving to be the next great players in the professional golf world. I'd love to see more college golf tournaments televised and more information and coverage accessible to the public in the near future. But until then, get out to Morris Williams soon and show some support for a Longhorn team that recently won a National Championship for Texas.

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