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.
Hogs' veteran golfers face tough schedule
Julian Perico of Arkansas hits Friday, May 24, 2019, onto the 16th green during the first day of play in the Men's NCAA Golf Championships at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Coach Brad McMakin opens his 16th season at the University of Arkansas on a familiar golf course with a different format and a mostly veteran roster.
The No. 19 Razorbacks, the defending SEC runners-up, will tee it off the next three days at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif., with seven other teams at the Carmel Cup. Arkansas is playing in the tourney, co-hosted by Texas Tech and Vanderbilt, for the 10th consecutive year in the final season of the event.
The format pits eight teams — four each from the SEC and the Big 12 — with six golfers posting five counting scores each day. The Razorbacks will be joined by No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 6 Vanderbilt, No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 9 Texas Tech and No. 14 Georgia, as well as TCU and Mississippi State.
“We always have one of the top five toughest schedules in the country, so we have to be pretty prepared early on,” McMakin said. “We have a tough fall schedule. Hopefully we filled [all] the holes after we lost a couple of starters.”
Seniors Julian Perico and Segundo Oliva Pinto lead the Razorbacks’ lineup, along with TCU transfer Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, who will play in the No. 1 position, Houston graduate transfer and Fayetteville native Luke Long, freshman Juan Camilo Vesga and junior Wil Gibson, a native of Jonesboro.
Perico, the school’s all-time leading scorer (71.31) and defending SEC champion Pinto, have said they plan to return for bonus senior years in 2022-23.
“We’re really privileged to be one of the eight teams going there,” Perico said. “That and Cabo [San Lucas] are my two favorite places to go. … The weather is great, the food is really good. It’s like the dream start to your season.”
Perico helped recruit several of his current teammates onto the roster.
“He knows a lot of guys,” Pinto said. “He knows a lot of people and he has a good eye. … He just loves Arkansas. That’s what he shared with me and also some of the other guys who came here from Latin America.”
De Oliveira said a prior relationship with his current teammates and UA women’s golfer Ela Anacona helped draw him to campus.
“The [Blessings Golf Club] practice facilities … it’s simply amazing, probably one of the best you will find in college golf,” he said. “My girlfriend [Anacona] plays golf for the women’s golf team so that was also a pretty good attraction.”
McMakin said qualifying for the lineup at Pebble Beach was competitive with strong scoring.
“We go a lot deeper than we have in the past,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of new guys starting off this week, so looking forward to seeing how those guys can step forward and try to earn a spot.”
The Razorbacks, who also added legacy freshman John Daly II and others to the roster this fall, will also compete in the second Blessings Collegiate Invitational, the inaugural Stephens Cup at The Alotian Club in Roland, and the first SEC in-season match play event in a beefed-up fall schedule.
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