After winning the individual championship at the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Golf Tournament, Texas State’s Stuart Smallwood was hoping for no letdown with his next big event.
“I’ve got plenty of momentum,” Smallwood said. “I’m picking up right where I left off. I don’t plan on stopping.”
Smallwood, a senior at Texas State, qualified for the NCAA Men’s Regional Tournament that was played in mid May at San Antonio’s Briggs Ranch Golf Club. Smallwood is familiar with Briggs Ranch after playing in a tournament hosted by UTSA earlier in the spring, and his first-round of 1-over 73 put him in 24th place, six shots back of the lead set by TCU’s Julien Brun and Bryson Dechambeau of SMU.
Brun, who came to TCU from France, won the Big 12 Conference title by nine shots. Dechambeau won the American Athletic Conference title by five for SMU.
Brun, with a 54-hole total of 10-under, won the NCAA Regional by a shot over Georgia’s Lee McCoy. Georgia won the team title.
Smallwood finished tied for 52nd at 9-over for the three rounds.
Smallwood, who played high school in North Texas at Paris, made a jump at the leaders early in the first round with a birdie on No. 2. He still was 1-under through seven and missed birdie putts inside 10 feet at both 13 and 14.
“I thought he played well,” Bobcats coach Shane Howell said. “If he would have made a few more putts today, as well as he hit it, he could have really scored. I know he’s a little disappointed in that, but he’s going to give himself a chance.”
Smallwood found trouble with Briggs Ranch’s par-3s. He had bogeyed the 198-yard 8th and did well to keep it to a bogey at the 15th where the 206 yards played into the wind.
“I hit a hybrid into the wind trying to get it on a little, bitty green,” Smallwood said.
He pitched up and over a pin cut on the short side of the green and two-putted for bogey, but got up and down after missing the green on the par-4 16th. A delicate, downslope chip at the 18th set up his putt inside five feet that finished a stretch where he parred nine of the last 10 holes.
“You hang in there,” Smallwood said. “Sometimes, you keep making pars. Eventually give yourself enough opportunities (for birdie), they’ll go in. They didn’t today, but hopefully I’ve saved them up.”
Smallwood went wire-to-wire to win the Sun Belt in Biloxi, Miss. His 8-under total matched a school-record.
“The problem with finishing at the conference tournament and starting here at the regional is he has finals in between,” Howell said. “His head has been buried in finals. But he had a good four days of practice coming in, and his attitude is great.”