As Bronson Burgoon sized up his second shot on the 18th hole at Inverness Club, he was smiling.
The fact the Texas A&M senior had lost his last four holes to Arkansas opponent Andrew Landry - that was no joke. But he couldn't help but laugh at the words of assistant coach Jonathan Dismuke, who was trying to loosen him up as he prepared to hit out of the rough.
"[He said], 'You're an idiot for bogeying your last four holes, so let's do something special right here,'•" Burgoon said. "In a nice way."
Burgoon took the words seriously. He hit a gap wedge 125 yards to within three inches of the hole, all but assuring the Aggies their first national championship. When Landry missed a 35-foot putt, it was official. Texas A&M beat the Razorbacks three matches to two.
"Bronson talked to me about it earlier this week that he wanted to be on 18 with a chance to win the national championship coming up the last fairway," Texas A&M coach J.T. Higgins said. "That's all I said to him on 18. I wouldn't rather have anybody else playing this hole than you right now, even after losing four straight. I knew he was a clutch performer."
The final day at Inverness had about 500 fans in attendance. They got to see the NCAA's new championship format play out to perfection.
When the day began, it appeared at first that A&M, ranked 14th in the Golfweek rankings, would run away with the championship match. Aggies Andrea Pavan, John Hurley, and Matt Van Zandt were all up at least two strokes after four holes. Pavan won his match 7 and 6, and Hurley won 6 and 4.
But the Razorbacks hung tough, with the fourth and fifth players Jason
Cuthbertson and Jamie Marshall winning for the third time in match play. With six holes remaining, it was evident Burgoon and Landry's match would be the deciding one.
Burgoon took a four-shot lead on the 13th when Landry bogeyed. That was when things began unraveling for Burgoon - and when Landry got into a zone.
Burgoon, a native of The Woodlands, Texas, and the 13th-ranked player in the country, bogeyed hole No. 14, and Landry made par. Landry birdied 15, hitting fairway after fairway and greens in regulation.
"I just knew I had to dig down a little bit to come back," Landry said. "I felt I could get this whole match back to square, and I did."
Burgoon seemed to be self-destructing, bogeying holes 16 and 17 to slip back to all square with Landry. Said Higgins: "He was pressing a little bit. He was trying to close it out early. The next thing you know, the momentum had shifted."
Off the 18th tee, Landry hit yet another fairway, and Burgoon was off to the right in the rough. Landry's second shot landed short on the edge of the green.
"After the tee shot on 18 when we were in the fairway and he was in the rough, I really thought we were going to win," Arkansas coach Brad McMakin said.
Burgoon was finally able to calm his emotions down, thanks to his coach's joking. He hit the ball in the middle of the green, and it rolled right next to the hole.
"I kept figuring that by the last one, Bronson was going to win one of them," Higgins said. "He saved the best for last. What can you say, that was fantastic."
A&M finished tied for seventh in stroke play and defeated Arizona State and Michigan earlier in match play. After the awards ceremony, Van Zandt ran behind the scoreboard, captured the A&M flag, and planted it in the 18th cup.
"Bronson has wanted this situation, and I'm so proud that he got to live it out and prove to himself that he has what it takes," Van Zandt said. "It's storybook. It feels great."
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