By Steven Bartolotta, April 24, 2011, 9:05 a.m.
It's been a good year for the North Texas men's golf team. They started the season with a resounding 20-stroke win at the UTA Invitational, followed that up with a second and third place finish and a near top-25 ranking in the fall.
In the spring, it was a third place finish, a whole bunch of fourth place finishes, and then a fifth place finish in Iowa last week....in the snow.
All the while North Texas has maintained a top-40 national ranking and all but sewn up a bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament, its first since 2003....but something just hasn't felt right.
As this team prepares for the Sun Belt Conference Championship, which begins on Monday here in Muscle Shoals, the team just doesn't seem to have found that fifth gear.
The Mean Green has been good all year long, but just not great....yet. They have a chance to be great this year when it matters this most.
North Texas, the Notre Dame of golf in the 50's as they were once called, hasn't won a conference title since 2003. The Mean Green isn't playing its best golf of the season, but the Mean Green hasn't been playing teams in the Sun Belt Conference either. The schedule head coach Brad Stracke put together has been good; make that great in terms of strength.
No hiding behind tournaments that features one team in the top 50, and the rest made of up of SWAC, Sun Belt, and other miscellaneous leagues you wonder whether they are real or made up.
North Texas has been on the cusp of being great, almost there, but just not over the hump yet. In golf, you play five guys, count the four lowest scores. North Texas this spring seems like they have been playing with 3 ½ men though. The only consistent one throughout the spring has been Carlos Ortiz.
Ortiz has been in the top-20 in five of the six tournaments this spring. His worst round this spring was a 75. Everyone else has had at least one round of 79 or better.
And that's the key, getting that one bad round out of everyone's system. More times than not, that one bad round has been holding North Texas back. It's a very fine line in golf, but that's the difference between first and fourth.
North Texas will face two primary opponents at the SBC Championship in Middle Tennessee and South Alabama. The Jags are the defending champions and Middle has been the best team in the league for the last few years.
The starting five of Ortiz, Rodolfo Cazaubon, Curtis Donahoe, Josh Jones, and Ty Spinella have shown they can be great.
I saw it at UTA to start the year. And I want to see it again in Alabama.