FAYETTEVILLE — Though Arkansas’ men golfers won the 2019 SEC Tournament, coach Brad McMakin fretted if they had the depth to overcome some bad rounds during the NCAA Regional that would have advanced them to the NCAA Championships that Arkansas hosted at The Blessings.
Turns out they didn’t.
But for 2021, there was no 2020 college golf season after March because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset, the SEC runner-up Razorbacks showed their depth advancing second among the five qualifying teams at the Kingston (Tennessee) Regional into the NCAA Championships field of 30 teams starting Friday at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.
SEC 2021 individual champion Segundo Oliva Pinto wasn’t at his best at Kingston but the Razorbacks contingent also featuring seniors Tyson Reeder and William Buhl, second and third individually at Kingston, Julian Perico, Arkansas’ lone 2019 NCAA Tournament individual qualifier, and freshman Manuel Lozada still advanced.
“Yeah, we’ve got some depth this year, finally,” McMakin said before he and the Razorbacks headed to Scottsdale. “We’ve had some holes in our lineup the last couple of years. Obviously 2019 I didn’t feel we had enough depth to get us through. Julian didn’t play well at SECs and we obviously had a good event and got to the finals. Next week Segundo doesn’t play well and we finish runner up. So the two senior leaderships have been really incredible. Willam and Tyson have played really well down the stretch.”
Both Buhl, who had back surgery, and Reeder were among the 2020 seniors granted 2021 eligibility because of last season’s COVID-19 induced termination.
“Of course William back being healthy, he’s had two good weeks in a row,” McMakin said. “And Tyson’s had an incredible spring. But having some depth definitely helps. I don’t feel we have a hole in our lineup and I feel like that’ll bode well for next week.”
Reeder and Buhl both will turn professional post Scottsdale but savor this extra Arkansas year.
“Tyson was the first guy that called me when we found out they could get an extra year,” McMakin said. “Obviously the scholarships weren’t going to be the same. And he said ‘I don’t care what it costs. I’ll be back.’ And he’s obviously had an incredible year. Then obviously William’s finally healthy. I probably put a little too much pressure on William coming back early in the spring.”
Buhl said the surgery, rehab and late season surge made coming back more than worthwhile.
“Absolutely,” Buhl said. “It (surgery) was desperately needed and it took me a little time to readjust after my body had been through so much change. Finally feeling I’m heading in the right direction at the right time.”
Though nationally ranked 22nd as a team, Buhl believes the Hogs can fare far higher advancing through the stroke play cut for the match play that will determine the team title.
“I think next week we can fire on all cylinders,” Buhl said. “We’ll be a dangerous team to play against.”
No. 1-ranked Oklahoma seems favored though the Sooners qualified fourth in the Albuquerque Regional behind Texas Tech, Oregon State and Arizona State.
“Obviously it’s going to be tough,” McMakin said. “This year’s the strongest year that I’ve been involved with in college golf because you have so many sixth-year guys.”