Summer 2019

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S H A G B A G Stanford Men: Road to Glory BY MARK SOLTAU T he Stanford men's golf team arrived at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas for the NCAA Championships with a four-tournament winning streak and No. 12 national ranking. But few expected the Cardinal to be a contender in the 30-team field headed by No. 1 Oklahoma State, a squad some regarded as the best in college golf history. Led by All-Pac-12 first team seniors Isaiah Salinda and Brandon Wu, Stanford started strong in the 72-hole stroke play portion of the championship and seemed certain of securing one of eight match play berths. The Cardinal sputtered in the early going in Round 4 and slipped to seventh before steadying on the back nine of the demanding 7,500-yard Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout financed by Tyson Foods chairman, John Tyson. Freshman Daulet Tuleubayev eagled 15, while Wu, Salinda and junior David Snyder supplied late birdies to help Stanford finish sixth and advance to match play for the first time since 2014. Facing third-seeded Wake Forest in the quarterfinals, the scrappy Snyder sealed a tense 3-2 victory by sinking a slippery eight-foot par putt on the final hole. In the afternoon semifinals against second-seeded Vanderbilt, Tuleubayev delivered. A native of Almaty, Kazakhstan and a Junior Tour of Northern California alum, he was 4-up with four holes remaining, only to lose three straight. With Golf Channel cameras rolling and the drama building, Tuleubayev piped a drive at 18, then flushed what veteran Cardinal head coach Conrad Ray called one of the best 5-irons he'd ever seen given the circumstances. It stopped 24 feet from the hole and Tuleubayev buried the birdie putt to give his team a 3-2 win. "Coach Ray helped me turn that pressure into excitement," Tuleubayev said. "It was an opportunity for attention, and I love showing off." Stanford caught a break when Texas upset Oklahoma State in the other semifinal. On May 29, the fifth-seeded Longhorns grabbed an early lead in the championship, but the upstart Cardinal wasn't to be denied. Teeing off first and second, Salinda and Wu roared back to score convincing wins, and junior Henry Shimp clinched the program's ninth NCAA title with a two- putt par at 17. "I'm just so proud of these guys," said Ray, who was named National Coach of the Year. "It's the longest week in golf." Salinda and Wu both went 3-0 in match play in their final appearances for the Cardinal. "I couldn't think of a better way for it to end," said Salinda, who attended Serra High in San Mateo. J ustin Suh started playing golf almost as soon as he could walk. After developing his game at San Jose Country Club and on the Junior Tour of Northern California, Suh became a first-team All-America selection at Southern Cal, 2018 Pac-12 Player of the Year, and reached No.1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. In March, he played in the Arnold Palmer Invitational as an amateur and made his professional debut on the PGA Tour at The Memorial in May. Q: How much did the Junior Tour of Northern California help your development as a player? JS: It helped a lot. I grew up playing 90% of my golf there. Seeing the guys like Bryson (DeChambeau) and Maverick (McNealy) and Cameron (Champ) coming through the NCGA and now they're doing it at the highest level inspires me. To think that just a couple of years ago I was competing with them on the Junior Tour of Northern California. It's so cool to see what they are doing and it's a confidence booster for guys like me coming from junior and college golf. Q: What courses did you play that gave you confidence that you had the game to play at the next level? JS: Spyglass was really tough. That's one that really sticks out. There were so many that influenced my learning curve. I made a promise to myself that I would just go out and compete and try to learn. Q: What did it mean for your peers at the Arnold Palmer Cup to select you for a spot in the Arnold Palmer Invitational? JS: I was kind of shocked at first. What a thrill for them to pick me to represent them. It was kind of a blur. I'm looking to my left and right and seeing guys I know only from watching golf on TV. Q: How did you benefit from playing at Southern Cal? JS: Coach Zambri is full of knowledge on how to score and perform on the golf course. I came in with an open mind. They call me "The Pro- totype" because I've listened to everything Coach Zambri has to say. It's been a blessing to have someone like him to guide me and I think the things he taught me will resonate throughout my whole career. Q: Did any player take you under his wing? JS: I've learned a lot from Maverick McNealy. We've had a few late phone calls. One was before I went to college. He was very open in giving me his advice. He told me just learn and I think I've done a good job at that. Q: How did you make your decision to turn pro? JS: I knew I wanted to do it soon after NCAA's. I think I'm prepared. I played four years in college. I've learned everything I've had to learn and I feel ready. To stay in amateur golf, I feel like I've done it already. Giving up a full summer of events would have been tough, especially with some of the opportunities that have been given to me because of my ranking. That's why I felt that this is the right time. Q: When did you think a pro career could be a reality? JS: Probably right after my sophomore year at USC. I learned a lot that year and felt like I had a lot of momentum going into my junior year. That was the barrier I had to get over and just telling myself that I had the game. Justin Suh Faces of the NCGA 14 SUMMER 2019 | NCGA.ORG AP

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