It wasn’t exactly the “Miracle on the Brazos,” but for the Bears, it was pretty close.
The Baylor men’s golf team drained 17 birdies on the last eight holes, putting them 11-under par as a team and pushing them to a fifth-palce finish last weekend at the NCAA Kohler Regional.
The blistering finish put the Bears in the NCAA Championship for just the sixth time in program history and first since 2010.
“Sometimes, you just get things rolling,” said second-year head coach Mike McGraw. “One player might make four or five birdies. But when a whole time does it, it’s pretty incredible when you make that many birdies that quickly.... I didn’t expect it, I’m just glad it happened, because we get to play one more week.”
Individually, Matthew Perrine led the Bears in the final round, carding a 4-under par 69 that was aided by five birdies in his final eight holes. The sophomore capped off his round by holing a 40-foot birdie putt on hole 18, moving him into a tie for 10th at 2-under 214.
“We knew we had a good team all year, we just hadn’t all played together,” said Perrine, who is third on the team with a 72.90-stroke average and six top-25 finishes. “We got it together the last round and played our best golf we have all year. To have that feeling going into nationals is huge for us.”
You could see a team starting to click, though, in the spring. The Bears won the UTSA Oak Hills Invitational and Border Olympics, placed third in a great field at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate in Mexico and finished a close second at the Maxwell Intercollegiate with a field that included second-ranked Texas, No. 5 Oklahoma State and 18th-ranked Oklahoma.
“It’s not like we were void of good golf this year,” McGraw said. “We played some very good tournaments and we led a couple tournaments that we didn’t win. Against good fields, we’ve done very well this year. So, it’s not like this was unprecedented. Sinking 17 birdies is, but to play good golf? No. They knew they had it in them. And the fact that they were able to do it at a really important juncture of the season, the most critical time when you have to do it, was a great feeling for all the kids.”
McGraw is somewhat of a veteran at the NCAA Championship, grabbing five top-five finishes in eight seasons and winning it all in 2006 as the head coach at Oklahoma State.
But his five players, seniors Freddy Anderson and Andreas Gjesteby, junior transfer Hunter Shattuck, freshman Braden Bailey and Perrine have never seen the likes of the biggest stage in men’s college golf.
“Hopefully, I have the right mindset,” McGraw said. “Hopefully, my nerves are good and calm, and I set a good example so that they can feed off of that. They know I’ve been there 16 or 17 times, so they know I know what to expect going there. And I think they’ll feed off of that. I’ll do my best to keep them calm and try to prepare them like it’s just another tournament.”