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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M men’s golf places fifth at spring season opener

Photo by Courtesy of Craig Bisacre/Texas A&M Athletics

Senior member of the Texas A&M golf team Sam Bennett secured a podium finish at the second tournament of the 2021 season. 

The No. 25 Texas A&M men’s golf team traveled to Tucson, Arizona to compete in the 21st edition of Arizona’s National Invitational Tournament on Jan. 29-30.

The Maroon and White are coming off a winter in the south of Spain where the team had the opportunity to visit historical landmarks and play on picturesque golf courses.

“Overall, it was an experience that we got to be us and really continue to create that bond of what we want to be as a team,” coach Brian Kortan said.

With an offseason focused primarily on team-building and finding tranquility, the Aggies entered the course with a refreshing mindset.

“Play one shot at a time and have a good attitude,” freshman Aaron Pounds said of the team’s mindset.

The par 72, 7,200-yard parkland style Catalina course is located at the OMNI Tucson National and consists of eight lakes and 80 bunkers. The course has an impressive resume with its selection as one of Golf Digest’s “75 Best Golf Resorts in North America,” the host to over 30 PGA Tour events and an 18th hole that holds the reputation of one of the most challenging in PGA Tour history.

The field consisted of teams that were familiar with the course and each other. This became apparent early into the rounds as New Mexico, Arizona State and Arizona led the leaderboard. Arizona looked to defend its individual and team titles won at the 2023 N.I.T.

The Maroon and White had a lesser sense of familiarity as they last appeared at the National Invitational in 2014. Historically, A&M has held a record finish in fifth place which occurred in 2013 and 2007. The Aggies were led by Kortan’s extensive knowledge of the course, as he has been on it “hundreds of times.”

Day 1 consisted of two rounds and 36 holes. The day was cut short due to darkness late in the second round. The majority of golfers had their final three to four holes delayed until early on Day 2.

Junior Michael Heidelbaugh set the momentum for A&M with a strong end to Round 1 at 3-under 69. Heidelbaugh fell back in Round 2 but held an even score and sat tied for 51st with teammate sophomore Jaime Montojo.

A&M senior Daniel Rodrigues flew under the radar during Round 1 until a shocking 5 birdie start in his first 10 holes in the second round. He flew up the leaderboard with a finish of 6-under 66 and a tie for fourth with Arizona sophomore Zach Pollo.

“He did a really nice job in the morning, too, but probably didn’t capitalize on some of his shots as much as he could have,” Kortan said. “He’s helping us out. We need those good scores because they [the field] are shooting low ones out here this week.”

Day 1 left A&M in seventh place at 15-under par. New Mexico led at 35-under with Arizona State trailing behind at 34-under and Arizona at 31-under.

Rodrigues highlighted Round 3 with a long-range putt on the 7th hole, six birdies, and an eagle to post a 7-under 65 score.

A&M junior Phichaksn Maichon heated up in the final round with seven birdies and finished tied for 21st at 9-under. Rodrigues tallied his collegiate career best at 15-under and tied for fifth.

“For Dani, it was a great all-around tournament and a great way to start the spring,” Kortan said. “P bounced back from kind of a rough stretch yesterday and put together a really good round today. It’s a good place to start and a great round to build on.”

Montojo and Heidelbaugh struggled to keep up with the pack, but still played some great golf and managed to put up a 5-under and 4-under overall score. Montojo tied for 41st while Heidelbaugh tied for 46th.

The final standings came down to just one stroke. New Mexico secured the victory with a score of 51-under 813. Arizona followed at 50-under 814 while Arizona State finished 49-under 815.

Similarly to the team standings, a single stroke was in between the individual winner and second place. BYU junior Zac Jones took an 18-under victory over Arizona State freshman Wenyi Ding.

A&M seemed to benefit from its offseason team bonding and practice as it placed fifth overall at 33-under 831.

“Our goal is to continue to build momentum going into the spring, get better each week and add them up in the end, we’ll be where we wanna be,” Kortan said.

The Maroon and White are set to tee off at the Hokuala Golf Course in Lihue, Hawaii for the John A. Burns Intercollegiate on Feb. 15-17.

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