State of the Hogs: Golfers Hot

Talented and deep, Arkansas golfers head to Hawaii with a national reputation.

Out of sight, out of mind. That may be the problem with the men's golf team at Arkansas with fans. They don't see them since they play only on the road.

Not many may know that Brad McMakin, in just his third season as coach, has the Razorbacks ninth in the national rankings.

Someone posted on an Internet message board just recently that it could be the team's highest ranking. Not hardly. The Hogs were a national contender from 1985-94. They finished eighth or better at the NCAA Championships seven times during that stretch.

Their best and last top 10 was fourth in 1994 when Bud Still, Steven Bright, Craig Young, Rod Ellis and Tag Ridings all finished in the top 33.

It appears that McMakin and assistant Layne Savoie have turned the corner in both their recruiting and the implementation of their program.

"We are legit top 10 now," McMakin said. "We did well in the fall, but I really didn't think we played like I think we will. We won twice and could have won also in Dallas where our top two guys finished double, triple. We were leading and I was ready to pick up the trophy."

That stumble pushed the Hogs to fourth after firsts earlier at Maryland and Notre Dame. They are hopeful of contending in their first outing this semester Feb. 22-24 in Hawaii, if they can find somewhere to play.

"Our weather had been good, but the ice storm really caused problems at all of our home courses," McMakin said. "Everyone is cleaning up tree damage and we can't play. We went to Hardscrabble (in Ft. Smith) last week and we may drive somewhere else."

He's looking for easy.

"The course we play in Hawaii, you have to make birdies, go low," McMakin said. "You want to get out of the mindset that 72 is good. You might have to shoot 45-under to win there."

That's not what they see at their home course, The Blessings Golf Club. But home is yielding more low numbers with McMakin's upgrade in talent.

"Two years ago, if you broke 80 in qualifying, you got to travel," McMakin said. "Now, you better be around par."

The Hogs are one of the straightest driving teams and superb tee to green. He's not satisfied with the team's short game, something that let them down at the NCAA Championships in a 19th-place finish last year.

"We are ranked third in driving," McMakin said. "But we have to really focus on our short game.

"We've changed how we practice. Mostly, everyone wants to pound balls. That's not the right approach. Whatever you spend hitting balls, you double that in chipping and putting. Our short game has improved, but we still can get better."

Recruiting continues to improve.

"We are good now, but I think we are going to get better," he said. "The national ranking has helped recruiting. People know about us now. A lot of things are helping. The football win over LSU on national TV helped. I got some call backs after that game. Everyone across the country saw it. The basketball wins over Texas and Oklahoma helped. All of our recruits in those two states were calling us."

The key is to get recruits on campus. Nothing helps like seeing the practice facility and home course.

"We get ‘em here, we have a great chance," McMakin said. "It's special."

Team members ache to play a tournament on their home course.

"Oh, yeah, because we'd do really well," junior Jamie Marshall said. "I think we'd have a great advantage here."

It's one of the reasons Marshall transferred from Nebraska.

The 5-foot-8 junior was targeted by McMakin on the junior circuit. The only problem was that McMakin was at Lamar.

"He wouldn't even consider coming to play for me at Lamar," McMakin said. "He didn't think Lamar was good enough. Then, I come to Arkansas, he wants to play for me. It kinda made me mad."

There was mock contempt in McMakin's voice.

"Oh, he's given me a hard time about that," Marshall said. "Really, he is telling the truth. I saw Coach McMakin over the summer. He said he was at Arkansas. I was somewhat interested right away, but when I got down here from Nebraska and saw this facility, it was an easy decision."

Marshall has been a solid third in the lineup. "He's good, really good," McMakin said. "He's been our catalyst. He gives us the ability to win. He's not really long, but he's got everything."

Marshall thinks the Hogs are really good, too. They are strong at the top with Andrew Landry and David Lingmerth, but good elsewhere, too. There is great competition at the bottom two spots.

"We are good," he said. "You have to play to make the lineup. Our goal is to win the SEC. It wouldn't surprise me if we did it this year. If we get five going and play to our ability, we are top 10 at the NCAAs."

McMakin thinks the Hogs are "competitive nine deep." He's got three top freshmen — Swede Chistoffer Arvidsson, Ty Spinella and Ethan Tracy — and not all have been able to make the lineup. Tracy is making the Hawaii trip.

An Ohio native with two AJGA titles, Tracy turned down a full scholarship to Ohio State.

"Both his parents graduated from Ohio State, and two of his grand parents," McMakin said. "And, his grandmother has worked at Ohio State for 48 years. Getting him out of Ohio was a minor miracle.

"The other two freshmen would be in most lineups around the country. Arvidsson is very talented. He won one of the Swedish pro majors. He just had to get adjusted here. He missed a lot of our afternoons in the fall because he had to take English courses only available then."

It's only going to get better. McMakin has two more studs signed for next year, Austin Cook of Jonesboro and Josh Eure, two-time state champ from Maryland. Both are national top 50 players.

"We are getting in the door more with top players nationally," McMakin said. "We are excited about the future. We haven't reached our goals yet, but we will."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories