By Ryan Herrington
The subject of Beau Hossler and when his playing career would begin at Texas seems to have come to a resolution as Longhorn coach John Fields confirmed two days ago that the 17-year-old blue-chip recruit who enrolled in school earlier this month would stick to his "original plan" and pass on playing during the spring semester, waiting until the fall to tee it up.
Last month Fields and Hossler both told Golf World how they wanted Hossler—who causal golf fans might remember as the 17-year-old high schooler who briefly held the outright lead in the second round of last summer's U.S. Open—to settle into school for a semester before trying to balance academics and athletics. When I posted a story explaining this, I got a fair number of guffaws from readers who suggested I was being led astray. Most had the same basis for their opinion: What coach would rightfully let one of the top talents in the country sit out during the championship portion of his schedule when the golfer would otherwise be eligible to play and contribute to the team?
The idea seemed even harder to believe when you consider the curveball that came later that month. After failing to advance out of the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School, UT sophomore Jordan Spieth announced on Dec. 14 he still would be turning pro and not be returning to Austin for the spring, hoping that money earned playing in PGA and Web.com Tour events via sponsor's exemptions in 2013 might help be earn the tour card he missed out on a Q school.
Of course, the loss of a star player such as Spieth, a key member of the Longhorn team that won the NCAA championship in June, would certainly cause both Hossler and Fields to reevaluate Hossler's playing plans. With a void in the UT lineup, the luxury of sitting out Hossler seemed less … well luxurious.
I circled back to Fields last week to find out if the "original plan" to sit Hossler still held or whether there might be a change due to Spieth's departure. Fields told me that indeed they were rethinking what to do and that a decision would be forthcoming prior to the team flying to Hawaii in early February to begin its spring season. Fields said he was leaving it up to Hossler and that the decision might be made as late as just prior to the team heading to the airport.
I wrote an article for this week's Golf World Monday stating the potential for Hossler to now play in the spring, outlining the new circumstances that went into the equation. I have to admit, my personal gut had changed on this matter; I now sided with the readers who thought I was gullible back in December for writing about the "original plan." I figured Hossler would be wearing burnt orange in the near future.
I mention all this now because of the brief but thoughtful conversation I had with Fields last Tuesday when he called me to tell me that Hossler had made the final decision and that he was not going to play this spring. First off, Fields called me back in the first place, something he assured me he would do the week before. That doesn't always happen in this day and age, so I appreciated how Fields stuck to his word.
I also appreciated how Fields and Hossler stuck to their guns and decided against changing their plans. It would have been understandable for Fields to have twisted Hossler's arm with the loss of Spieth potentially hurting his team's chance of repeating at nationals this June. But ultimately this factor never really changed the tangible reason why Hossler was initially holding off on playing this spring semester. Hossler wants to get a degree at Texas, Fields explained, and a way to help achieve that goal is to get a good start academically so that they later part of his career isn't quite as challenging as he balances school and golf.
Cynics will say Hossler will never make it all four years in Austin, that the lure of pro golf will snatch him like it did Spieth. Maybe. Maybe not. But unlike cynics, I have a responsibility to believe what people are telling me when I question them as a reporter, on the record, to be the truth. Call me naive, but my job doesn't, and shouldn't, require I carry around a lie detector.*
I genuinely believe that Texas, the No. 2 ranked team in the last fall Golf World/Nike Golf men's coaches' poll, has a shot at repeating at nationals without Hossler in the lineup. Returning starters Julio Vegas,Cody Gribble and Toni Hakula aren't chopped liver and freshman Brandon Stone looks like a star in the making.
I also believe that Hossler would have added depth that would have helped the cause.
In the end, I'm glad to see that short-term interests didn't outweigh long-term plans here. It renews my faith about the sincerity of the people I write about when covering college golf.