By Steven Bartolotta, May 18, 2011, 11:18 a.m.
Post-season play is here. This is what Brad Stracke and company have been waiting for all year long. The Mean Green grabbed an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional and will return to the national stage for the first time since 2003.
Returning is great, but this team and coach have no interest in playing the role of a show-pony that's finally made it back to the regionals. They want to advance and win, period.
For that to happen, it needs to come from a few unlikely places. Carlos Ortiz is playing lights out golf. He will be fine. Ditto for Rodolfo Cazaubon. Those two are also unlikely to have any stage fright having played in the NCAA Regional's last year. And they both played well.
Count on their scores counting. If the Mean Green is to move onto Stillwater Ty Spinella, Josh Jones, and Curtis Donahoe will be the reason.
Jones has what Stracke has called "a Tour 3-wood." He's talking about the big boys there, the PGA when he mentions how Jones strikes the ball. I got a chance to see it in Alabama and it's incredible how high and far he can hit it. Stracke is right. But then he gets onto the smooth stuff and....head for the hills.
Jones has a case of the "yips" as they call it in golf. His putter this spring has been failing him and he knows it. Everyone goes through a phase like this in their game. The yips can turn a 66 into a 76. He's given away too many strokes on the green and heading into the regional he's made the right adjustment.
Stracke has taught him a new grip and he might also use a belly putter to help cure the yips. Spinella has had an up and down spring season. The early part, he was money, three straight top-15 finishes, four rounds in the 60's, and a lot of confidence.
He tailed off a bit towards the end though and is still looking to find that edge again. Donahoe is another wild-card.
He carries the most relaxed and unorthodox swing of the group. He's got plenty of ability. He won the individual title to open the season out at UTA, but his last seven round this spring he hasn't broken even par.
That won't cut it in the regionals. North Texas needs to have all five players clicking because the field, while favorable in certain terms, allows for zero margin of error.
The top seven teams in the regional are in the top-40 in the nation. Four of them are 23 or lower. Not much separates those teams and you know it will be a scramble to get into the top-5 to advance.
North Texas can find their way into that top-5, but only if their top-5 play like it.