By Kate MendelsohnArkansas Media Relations
You could hear the “whoosh” of the ball fly through the air as senior Andrew Landry hit his last drive in the final round of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship. The score was all square as the Razorbacks went head to head with Texas A&M for the national title. After six rounds of golf and five days into the tournament, it all came down to the final stroke.
Arkansas capped off one of the most impressive seasons in school history and the campaign to the championships was loaded with tournament victories, individual accolades and consistent top 20 rankings. Like any other team, the desire to be number one was always a driving factor. For the Razorbacks and head coach Brad McMakin the desire is reflected in the start of the season.
Arkansas’ road to the championship began in the fall with victories at the Maryland and the Fighting Irish Invitationals. Freshman Ethan Tracy captured his first career collegiate win at the first tournament of the year winning at Maryland. The Razorbacks finished the fall season ranked No. 6 in the nation with only one finish out of the top six.
Leading the Razorbacks was Landry and junior David Lingmerth of Sweden — each with four top 10 finishes. Landry, a two-time All-American, led the team with a stroke average of 72.39, and Lingmerth came in at 73.04. Other Arkansas key players included, seniors Will Osborne, Allen McFerram and Jason Cuthbertson, sophomores Jamie Marshall and Sam Chavez, and freshmen Tracy and Chris Avidsson.
“We have a group of guys who are hungry. They want to be successful,” McMakin would say about his squad. “They want to compete on a high level against the nation’s best.”
The No. 12 ranked Razorbacks opened the spring season at the 2009 John A. Burns Intercollegiate, hosted by the University of Hawaii. Standout performances were provided by Landry who shot a 68 in the final round to tie him for fourth place at 8-under for the event and Tracy who at two strokes behind Landry tied for 10th. The Razorbacks claimed a fourth place finish, going 15-under, to the tournament title-winner Texas A&M, 28-under. The momentum continued for the golf team with a trio of top five finished including a second place at the 2009 Border Olympics, in Laredo, Texas. Tracy stepped up and shot an even par 216 (70-72-74) to produce a third place finish for the Hogs.
“Ethan eats, sleeps and drinks golf,” McMakin said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to improve and be the best player he can be. And, like everyone else on our team, he knows that the hard work will eventually pay off.”
The next stop for the Razorbacks was the Morris Williams Intercollegiate held at the University of Texas Golf Club. The Razorbacks finished second to No. 2 ranked Oklahoma State. Lingmerth finished first among his teammates and fourth overall, with a 5-over 218. Jason Cuthbertson made a dramatic leap from his tie at 28th place to a tie in ninth for the final round scoring 9-over 222.
“It was the best tournament we played all year long,” McMakin said. “We were able to beat No. 3 ranked USC, who went to the National Championship last year with the very same team.”
The Razorbacks picked up another second place finish at the Reunion Intercollegiate. Landry claimed the individual title and was the only player to finish the event under par.
Arkansas built on the season’s momentum with a second place finish at the SEC Championships with a 2-under 862. It was the best performance for the Razorbacks since they took the title thirteen years ago in 1995.
“The team has been working hard, improving and they played well, all of them did,” McMakin said. “We had a good finish, and we were up against a good team that played well.”
For their efforts, head coach McMakin was named SEC coach of the year, Landry earned All-SEC First team honors, Lingmerth was selected to the second team, and Tracy was named to the SEC All-freshman team.
For the fifth straight tournament, Arkansas finished in second place at the 2009 NCAA South Central Regional Championship. The No. 9 ranked Razorbacks finished behind the host Oklahoma State, with a 903.
“Oklahoma State is solid so it was difficult to go in and play such a good team on their home course, but I think our team competed against them fairly well.” McMakin said,“It was a good week, and we were excited to place where we did. It was an extremely difficult day out there and the scores were high, but the boys were able to hang in there.”
Arkansas’ journey to the 2009 NCAA Division I Championship, in Toledo, Ohio had arrived. The Razorbacks made the cut to the final eight teams and won their first two rounds downing Washington and Georgia in match play. Arkansas advanced to the finals for the National Championship against Texas A&M.
Jamie Marshall started the match strong to claim the first win for the Hogs with a 3 & 2 win over Aggie Conrad Shindler. Arkansas also won the No. 4 match up between Cuthbertson and Matt Van Zandt by a count of 3 & 1.To even the score two-all between Arkansas and Texas A&M, Aggies John Hurley and Adrea Pavan clinched wins over Lingmerth and Tracy 7 & 6 and 6 & 4.
Everything that the two teams had worked for came down to an epic dual between Landry and Texas A&M’s Burgoon on the final green of the final hole. This was a historical moment for both Arkansas and Texas A&M golf programs; neither team has ever reached a higher finish than fourth.
It was the most watched match of the day and it began with the two matching each other shot for shot in the first three holes. Landry bogied hole 4, but was able to even the score up on the 5th. Burgoon claimed holes 7, 9, 11, and 13, bringing the score up four in his favor before Landry rallied through holes 14, 15, 16, and 17 to square the slate.
On the 18th hole, Landry had complete focus on the ball and hammered a picture perfect drive down the middle of the par-4 hole. Burgoon’s drive drifted off the fairway and landed in the rough. Burgoon’s second shot was one for the ages as his shot from the rough landed not just on the green, but came to rest within six inches from the cup. The crowd around the 18th was silent as the players approached the green. Landry’s approach shot came to rest on the front fringe about 30 feet from the hole and he had a chance to force a sudden-death playoff, but pulled his long birdie putt left. The Aggie won the hole, and the match with a one up win.
“I’m just really pumped up how it came down to the final hole,” Landry said. “I just knew I had to dig down a little bit to come back and I felt I could get this whole match back to square and I did. He just hit a great shot and there is nothing I can do about that.”
“I don’t think people understand what an emotional day it has been for me.Landry has been with me for four years, and he came to Arkansas to help build a program with me,” McMakin said.“He is like a son to me, and one of the people that was able to turn things around at Arkansas.He will be hard to replace, but he will have a career past this.It is going to be rough playing our first tournament of next season without him.”The Razorbacks closed out the 2008-2009 season with six second-place finishes, including the SEC Championships, NCAA South Central Regional and the NCAA Championship. In the post season Landry, Lingmerth and Tracy picked up honors from PING with Landry earning Third team All-America honors and Lingmerth taking an honorable mention selection. The Arkansas trio of Landry, Lingermerth and Tracy were each selected to the PING All-Central Region team.
“We’ve come a long way in a short period of time,” said McMakin.“We want to continue to get quality players and improve. We’ve done a nice job of that the last couple of years here.Our guys work hard and are focused on the right things — school and golf. That good combination has had a lot to do with our success.”