It was a season that at the outset augured nothing special for Stanford, but it ended with the Cardinal contributing another chapter to one of the most storied programs in men’s college golf history.
Stanford won its ninth NCAA Division I championship Wednesday, its first since 2007, by defeating Texas, 3-2, in the final at Blessing Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.
How it won its final was similar to how its season went—an indifferent start and a strong finish. Its match with Texas was all square at the midway point, the matches moved up to early in the morning to avoid forecasted storms in the afternoon. Then the Cardinal took control and stubbornly retained it, with junior Henry Shimp delivering the winning point with his 2-and-1 victory over Spencer Soosman.
“It’s unbelievable,” Shimp said. “To win with this group of guys is just so cool. As Coach [Conrad] Ray has said, we worked harder than any Stanford team ever has, working out, going to class, practicing really hard, and to cap it off with an NCAA Championship is unbelievable.”
The Cardinal’s season did not take a turn for the better until the Southern Highlands Intercollegiate in Las Vegas in early March. It finished third, its best tournament of the season to that point, in a field that included seven of the top teams in the country.
“We didn’t win at Vegas, but we played really well against a strong field,” Ray said. “It felt like the momentum shifted, and from that point forward they never looked back.”
The Cardinal won its final five tournaments, starting with the Goodwin at the end of March and followed by victories in the Western Intercollegiate, the Pac-12 Championship, the NCAA regional and this, the NCAA championship.
“We got the momentum going early in the spring, and we’ve just been riding that wave,” Ray said of his second NCAA title as Stanford’s head coach. He also played on a Stanford NCAA championship team in 1994 and was a teammate of Tiger Woods in '95 and '96.
Stanford’s Brandon Wu, a 4-and-3 winner of Texas freshman Pierceson Coody, echoed Ray’s assessment.
“Coach Conrad always says momentum’s a real thing in college golf,” Wu said. “Once we started to get on a roll we couldn’t stop. Trusting each other, I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Stanford’s first point came from Isaiah Salinda, who routed Cole Hammer, the national freshman of the year, 4 and 3.
“I think starting on the back nine I started hitting it well,” Salinda, who won all three of his matches in the tournament, said. “All square through nine, I was able to win 10 and 11 and from there I started putting pressure on. I wanted to play him really bad. I have the most respect for his game as one of the best players in college as a freshman. It was fun to go against him and come out on top.”
The first point of the match actually went to Texas, with Parker Coody, easily defeating Daulet Tuleubayev, 6 and 5. The final point, meaningless by then, also went to Texas, Steven Chervony defeating Daniel Snyder, 1 up.
The Coodys are twin brothers and grandsons of former Masters champion Charles Coody, and both are freshmen who along with Hammer form the nucleus of a young Texas team that seems destined to contribute to its own storied history.
“Last year, we got eliminated in the first round,” Texas coach John Fields said. “This year, bringing in three new freshmen, enthusiasm, talent, energy, and we get all the way to the final, only to get beat in the end by a really, really, really good team. That’s what I’ll tell them. Stanford, well coached, great players. I’m excited for our guys.”