May 06, 2015

College Success a Matter of Course for Hossler

By David Latouf
For Reporting Texas

Texas sophomore Beau Hossler left Florida’s Sawgrass Country Club in February with his first college victory in golf — one that seemed inevitable.

Hossler won the Johnny Hay Collegiate Invitational with a 4-under-par 212, helping the University of Texas at Austin men’s golf team to its second tournament of the season. He won by five shots.

The success continued. The Longhorns won the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters title on March 11, their second straight tournament victory. Hossler tied for second. Then the team won the Linger Longer Invitational on March 22, with Hossler again as runner-up.

He finished with a share of 20th in his next start, the Augusta Invitation in Augusta, Ga. Hossler’s success was enough to earn him the National Amateur of the Month award, given by the Southern Golf Association.

The first-place finish at Sawgrass was the biggest moment of Hossler’s college career.

But not of his life in golf.

Midway through the second round of the 2012 U.S. Open, Hossler was 17 and, for a moment, on top of the golf world.

“He finishes off 18 and then we had to go make the turn to walk over to the first hole,” recalled Bill Schellenberg, Hossler’s godfather and caddie that afternoon at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. “And I remember walking up to the first tee and just being bombarded by cameras and microphones, and all of a sudden everyone was watching.”

The reason for all of the cameras? After a birdie on the 17th hole, a kid from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., had pulled into a three-way tie for the lead of a major championship. Minutes later, Hossler rolled in a 12-foot putt for birdie on that first hole, which brought him into the sole lead. The two golfers he left tied for second were Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods.

His lead was brief. Hossler finished tied for 29th. Still, the experience gave him confidence and hope.

“I think it ramped up my own expectations more than anything else,” he said. “Everybody else really wants you to have your name out there and expects you to play well all the time. That’s always there.”

Hossler’s amateur success, including qualifying twice for the U.S. Open and three times for the U.S. Amateur, had turned him into a prized recruit. But he chose to delay his eligibility for his first semester and instead focus on academics — even after Jordan Spieth, currently the second-ranked player in the world and the newest champion of the Masters Tournament, left Texas after three semesters to turn pro.

“It helped him get a good start academically,” Jean-Paul Hebert, UT assistant coach, said of Hossler. “That really helped him get both feet on the ground as a student, and to acclimate himself to Austin, to the University of Texas, and that’s really what he wanted. He values his education, and he wanted to have that time to adjust.”

When his first college season finally began, Hossler found little success. Though he played in all 13 events, he didn’t record a top-five finish until his tie for third in the 2014 Western Intercollegiate, one of the last four events of the year.

“My goal is to win every tournament I play in, and I didn’t have any that year,” Hossler said. “And I really didn’t even get into contention until late in the spring, which is when I started to hit my stride a little bit.”

A down year by Hossler’s standards was still enough to see him lead the Longhorns with an average of 71.8 strokes a round. He won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and was named to the All-Big 12 Team.

“Golf’s a funny game,” Hebert said. “You can’t always explain why you’re not playing your best all the time and vice versa. It’s just the way it is.”

In June 2014, Hossler advanced to the finals of the California Amateur, a match play event. His opponent was Xander Schauffele, a senior on San Diego State’s men’s team against whom Hossler had played in the Southern California Amateur the year before.

“On the second 18 holes, they were just flat out lighting it up,” Schellenberg said. “They were making birdie after birdie, just going back and forth and it was really amazing to watch.”

Hossler missed a birdie putt on the 17th hole, his 35th hole of the day. He read the putt, but it didn’t break as much as he anticipated and he missed on the high side.

Hossler turned to Schellenberg. “You know, I’m six under par this round and I haven’t won a hole.”

“Well, Xander hasn’t missed a shot,” Schellenberg said.

Hossler lost the tournament on the next hole, but found himself in a similar situation less than two months later. Again it was a match play event, this time the Western Amateur, and again his opponent in the finals was Schauffele. Hossler was down going into the 12th hole but came back to win three consecutive holes and eventually the championship.

“It was a big confidence booster, because I’d been close at these national events,” Hossler said. “It was kind of a breakthrough and I would have been pretty upset to lose to him twice in the finals at two different tournaments.”

Hossler’s success continued after that summer. In September, he was one of three members of the U.S. team that beat 67 other teams and won the World Amateur Team Championship.

But all those wins aren’t enough to satisfy him.

“There’s no greater pressure that Beau feels than the pressure he puts on himself,” Schellenberg said. “He’s had such early success, and obviously people expect great things from him. But nobody expects more than him.”