Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Arkansas golfers banking on their experience
Arkansas golfer Julian Perico (right) talks with Razorbacks head coach Brad McMakin during a practice round for the NCAA Men's Golf Championships at Blessings Golf Club on Thursday, May 23, 2019, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas men's golf team can match experience with plenty of programs in the country. But can the 20th-ranked Razorbacks match performances with the rest of the best in the land?
The Razorbacks, under 14th-year Coach Brad McMakin will start getting answers to that question soon as they tee off the spring season today at the Sea Best Invitational at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Arkansas, the defending SEC champions, will boast a lineup like none other under McMakin with four seniors, all of whom have won tournaments in the last two years.
William Buhl took the Canadian Amateur by eight strokes last summer. Luis Garza shared medalist honors with former Razorback Alvaro Ortiz at the Southern Intercollegiate in 2018. Mason Overstreet, the NCAA runner-up as a freshman in 2017, tied for the title at the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate in 2018. Left-hander Tyson Reeder won the Husker Invitational last season.
Sophomore Julian Perico, the Razorbacks' lone individual at the NCAA Championships at Blessings Golf Club last year, led the team with a 71.54 scoring average, the best for an Arkansas freshman and sixth on the all-time list. Perico won the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate last season.
"I've never had this many seniors with that much experience," McMakin said. "I've gotten to spend a lot of time with these guys over the four years. So I'm going to enjoy this semester. We're going to have some fun and go out and play well."
Overstreet said the Razorbacks are familiar with Dye's Valley Course layout at TPC Sawgrass, and the veteran team is ready to attack.
"I'd just say expectations are high," Overstreet said. "The four of us know our games and our strengths and weaknesses for what we need to work on for this last semester.
"We have a bunch of guys who played really well over Christmas break and I think we've all got some confidence. Our confidence is high. We should have a good spring."
Perico is coming off a sixth-place finish at the Latin Amateur Championship in Mexico with McMakin on his bag.
"I didn't play my best there, but still managed a way to get into sixth, which made me feel like I learned a lot, like I matured a lot," Perico said.
TPC Sawgrass has tight fairways and usually plays wet this time of year, which makes chipping on the Bermuda grass tricky.
"It's probably one of the toughest golf courses we play all semester," McMakin said. "There's trouble everywhere, but we've had some success there, so the confidence is really good."
Said Perico, "It's a good course. It's a little tight. Last year it was really wet and muddy, so it was kind of uncomfortable to play. You would hit it in the fairway and you'd get like a muck ball and the ball could go anywhere."
The Razorbacks will be tested by the likes of No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 16 North Carolina, No. 30 North Florida, No. 42 Florida and others.
"This field coming up is very strong," McMakin said. "Our spring schedule, week to week, is probably the best in the country. We play all the best teams every week."
Sports on 02/03/2020
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