In “Credit Hours,” we tell the stories of college golf teams whose seasons were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Next up, the Stanford University men’s golf team.
Defending a national championship is always difficult. It’s even more challenging when the tournament doesn’t happen.
Stanford University has one of the most storied golf programs in the country. In 2019, the Cardinal men’s team wrote another important chapter in its history. Led by seniors Brandon Wu and Isaiah Salinda, Stanford defeated Texas in the final match of the NCAA Championship to win its second national title under head coach Conrad Ray.
The victory capped off one of the most impressive runs in recent collegiate golf memory. After starting slow in the fall, Stanford won two spring events, the Pac-12 Championship, and its regional tournament before heading to Arkansas for the NCAA Championship in May. There they finished sixth in stroke play and proceeded to knock off Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, and Texas.
Coach Ray and his team celebrate at the 2019 NCAA Championship. Photo credit: Stanford University Athletics
This season, the Cardinal knew they had plenty to live up to. “A lot of people are watching, and that light gets pretty bright,” said Coach Ray. But if any coach knows how to navigate a post-championship season, it’s Ray. After Stanford’s title run in 2007, he led the team to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship in 2008. “Playing against top teams, on tough courses, in critical moments are all things we have done,” Ray said. “It is still golf, not a new game.”
It was, however, a new team in 2020. Stanford’s two leaders from last year, Brandon Wu and Isaiah Salinda, graduated and turned pro. Two new seniors stepped in as leaders. “Our captains, Henry Shimp and David Snyder, did a nice job getting the team on the same page and pushing us forward,” Ray said.
Still, in the fall, the younger and less experienced Stanford seemed to feel the pressure. Their play was uninspired. But in the spring, the pieces started to fall into place. The Cardinal saw strong individual performances from Barclay Brown (Fr.), Ashwin Arasu (Jr.), and Daulet Tuleubayev (So.) at the Prestige. At the competitive Cabo Collegiate, Brown finished runner-up and Stanford placed sixth. It was their final event before the COVID-19 pandemic ended play.
“Our best golf was ahead of us,” Ray said. “That’s what is the most difficult about the cancellations. The team hadn’t put their best foot forward yet.”
One positive takeaway for the Cardinal is the promise of their underclassmen. Sophomore Daulet Tuleubayev broke par in five of his last six rounds, sophomore Ethan Ng brought his scoring average down to 71.6, and freshman Barclay Brown finished in the top three at both the Prestige and the Cabo Collegiate. That trio combined for 14 rounds at par or better in their final three events. It’s a solid young core.
Early last month, Stanford became one of the first major universities to send its students home. Ray thinks his team has come to appreciate the administration’s decisiveness. “They were all disappointed, but they felt like it was a smart move, although aggressive at the time,” he said.
Before leaving campus, the team got together one last time. Ray encouraged his players to view the time off as an opportunity, not a setback. And he added, jokingly, “We’ll also own the longest reign as national champs.”
The Cardinal at the Cypress Point Classic in fall 2019. Photo credit: Stanford University Athletics
5th – The Southewestern Invitational
6th – The Cabo Collegiate
6th – The Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate
Barclay Brown – T-2 – The Cabo Collegiate (71-64-71)
Barclay Brown – 3rd – The Prestige (69-65-70)
David Snyder – T-4 – Nike Golf Collegiate Invite (68-67-70)
Ethan Ng – T-6 – The Southwestern Invitational (77-69-69)
Daulet Tuleubayev – T-6 – The Prestige (69-70-69)
Ashwin Arasu – T-7 – The Prestige (69-69-70)
Freddie Lee – T-9 – The Southwestern Invitational (70-76-70)