Riding Off Into The Sunset
Nearing End Of Remarkable Career, Snyman Gears Up For NCAA Regional
DENTON - Ian Snyman isn't your run-of-the-mill golfer.
He acknowledges that golf is a mental sport that requires a lot of focus, calming and control.
But the UNT junior, who has been the Mean Green's No. 1 golfer all season and for much of his career, also knows he needs balance in his life.
Snyman has an edge about him, and one obvious tell to that personality quirk can be easily seen when he pulls into the Mean Green indoor golf facility – on a motorcycle, golf clubs sticking up in the air out of his backpack and all.
"I've moved up a bit," Snyman said about his new motorcycle with a 600cc engine, an upgrade he made about eight months ago from his old 250cc bike. "He (UNT coach Brad Stracke) is not a fan at all. He doesn't like it."
Turns out, Stracke's reservations of his No. 1 golfer's preferred mode of transportation were well-founded. For a few moments, Snyman thought he might not compete in the Conference USA championship last month, where he cemented his berth to the NCAA regional in Norman, Oklahoma, starting Monday, with a trip to the NCAA final on the line.
Three days before the C-USA tournament, Snyman was riding on a gravel road when his bike slipped out from beneath him, causing a nasty spill that left him scraped, scared and with a gash in the tongue of his black Nike shoes where the bike hit.
"I was lucky," Snyman said. "Thank goodness I had these shoes on and thick gloves.
"I jumped up and checked to make sure I could move my hands and feet, and everything felt fine," he added. "But my adrenaline was pumping, so I knew I needed to just get home and get with the doctors and let them check me out. Everything was good. My right arm was numb from shock because I landed on it, but I didn't end up having any injuries."
Days later, Snyman finished tied for second to secure his individual bid to the NCAA regional, but the top-seeded Mean Green team fell short of the tournament's match-play rounds and eventually of a bid to the NCAAs.
The tournament at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club begins Monday and concludes Wednesday. One individual not on a top-five team will advance to the NCAA finals in Stillwater, Oklahoma, May 25-30. There are 14 teams and five individuals, including Snyman, in the field in Norman.
"After conference, it hit me," Snyman said, "and I kind of got a little emotional there. You get so used to this lifestyle, that when Rice made that last putt, that was the end. I was hoping we'd get a bid as a team, but it was just an anti-climax. You're standing there and thinking, ‘This could be the end. And maybe I could've saved a shot here or there.' The whole team was emotional. We all wanted to do better. I've enjoyed every second of this. I would've liked to have finished better there."
Snyman is only a junior, but he will exhaust his NCAA eligibility at the conclusion of this season due to an NCAA rule regarding international students. The native of Bellville, South Africa, enrolled one semester late, and, as a result, only got three years of eligibility.
Snyman's first two years in Denton saw him earn bids to the NCAA regional tournament. As a freshman, he finished tied for 44th, and last season missed making the finals by two strokes after tying for 15th.
Now, he hopes to get through and end his collegiate career on a high note after being named Conference USA Golfer of the Year last week – adding to his decorated career that includes C-USA Freshman of the Year and numerous league Golfer of the Week honors. While a coach never knows how a recruit will pan out, Stracke said he saw Snyman's run of success as a pretty safe bet when he arrived on campus.
This year, Snyman, who's ranked No. 64 in the nation, led the way with a 71.66 scoring average. He has fired three rounds of 67, including one in the C-USA championship's second round – the low round of the tournament.
"He was ranked very high in the WAGR [World Amateur Golf Rankings] – around 400 in the world," Stracke said. "That's one of the highest rankings we've ever had coming here. You pretty much know he's going to come in here and be your number-one player, and he's done that throughout his career."
Stracke said Snyman will always hold a special place in his mind and in the history of Mean Green golf, which has now had at least one player advance to the NCAA regional in every year of Stracke's tenure except for his inaugural season in Denton. He said if Snyman advances past Norman, he'll have a great chance to be his second All-American since taking over at UNT.
"He's worked so hard, and he's done all the right things since he's been here," Stracke said. "It'd be an unbelievable accomplishment and something he would have achieved through hard work and doing the right thing. I really want to see him get that All-American plaque. It's something he's worked hard for, and he deserves it."
Snyman said he'll look at that down the road. All that is on his mind now is surviving and advancing.
"I'm hoping to make a run out there," Snyman said. "I'd like to go out with a bang. I don't want to go out yet. I want to make it to finals. That's the goal.
"I just take this game day-by-day," Snyman added. "I don't think about the things that can be. I just focus on the process. I'm going to go out there and give it my best. If my best gets up there, then that's awesome. I'll enjoy every second of it. But, yeah, it would be awesome to be part of history and become an All-American."