Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Arkansas Connection

The athletic departments at Texas A&M and Arkansas have found their paths crossing a surprising number of times in recent weeks, and for the Aggies each meeting has led to magical moments.

First, the Aggies and Razorbacks squared off in Toledo, Ohio, for the NCAA Men's Golf Championship in late May. The two teams played a classic match-play contest before the the Aggies clinched the national crown on the final hole of the final pairing.

Then, in mid-June, the Arkansas campus hosted the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The Aggies found more success there, with both the men's and women's teams winning national championships. For both teams, the title came down to the final event in which the Aggies competed, with the women locking up the crown in the triple jump and the men narrowly edging out the competition in the 4x400 relay.

The stakes will be similarly high when the two schools meet again in October. The Southwest Classic will pit the Aggies against the Razorbacks in football at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington. The game, scheduled for Oct. 3, will be the first meeting between the two schools on the gridiron since 1991.

Will A&M come out on top again?

That remains to be seen, but based on this spring's contests involving the two schools, fans might want to stick around until the final whistle sounds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Burgoon's U.S. Open Tee Times Announced By USGA

The United States Golf Association has finalized the pairings for Thursday and Friday's first two rounds of the U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park in New York.

Texas A&M's Bronson Burgoon will tee off the 10th hole on Thursday at 7:50 a.m. (CDT). Friday, Burgoon will begin on the first hole at 1:20 p.m. (CDT).

Burgoon will be playing both days with professionals Craig Bowden and Chris Kirk. Bowden is a 40-year-old from Indiana who will be playing in his fourth Open. Bowden's best Open finish was a tie for 50th in 2002, the last time the tournament was played at Bethpage. He qualified via a sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, finishing one stroke clear of a nine-man playoff for one spot. Kirk, 24, played college golf for Georgia and made the cut last year in his only Open. Kirk qualified for this year's the field via a six-man playoff for four spots in the sectional qualifier in Rockville, Md.

Burgoon, as everyone knows by now, clinched Texas A&M's recent national championship with his stunning 18th hole gap wedge to within inches of the cup three weeks ago. He played his way into the Open field by finishing second at a sectional qualifier in Dallas on June 8, firing rounds of 69-69=138 to make the field by one shot. This will be Burgoon's first U.S. Open appearance.

Former Aggie star Andrew Parr of Canada also made the field for the first time. He will tee off Thursday on the first hole at 8:01 a.m. (CDT). Friday, Parr will begin on the 10th hole at 1:31 p.m. (CDT). Parr, who graduated from A&M in 2006, currently plays on the Canadian Tour.

Coverage for Thursday's and Friday's rounds will be from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on ESPN; 2-4 p.m. on NBC; and 4-6 p.m. on ESPN (all times listed as CDT).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aggies Entering NCAA Championships With High Expectations

Could this be another national championship weekend for Texas A&M athletics?

The NCAA Track and Field Championships open today at the University of Arkansas, and both Aggie teams enter the meet ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll. A&M has never won a national title in track, but this week represents the best chance the Aggies have ever had to hoist the team trophy.

Thirty-two A&M athletes will compete in the event, which runs from Wednesday-Friday.

The women nearly burst through at this year's NCAA Indoors in College Station where they finished second to Tennessee. At last year's outdoor meet, the women finished a program-best third, and the men cracked the top five for the first time since 1989.

"We have the chance to be very successful," said head coach Pat Henry. "All you can do going in there is have everybody have a great day on the same day. It sounds too easy to say, but that's what it is. I've been involved in a lot of these meets, and that's what it's about. Whoever has the most people have the best day on the same day is going to win the track meet. It's not just Texas A&M, Oregon and others. There are a bunch of people in the mix."

That is certainly the case, according to the most recent formchart produced by Track and Field News. The recent projections show a couple of Aggie athletes being favored to win their events, including Porscha Lucas (200), Jessica Beard (400) and both the men's and women's 4x100 relay teams. The Aggie women have won the last two 4x100 relays and own the nation's fastest time again this year.

A&M will also expect to score points in the jumps, with four men and four women qualified in the long jump and triple jump.

For a full list of A&M's competitors, including meet notes, please CLICK HERE.

You can also watch the event live by CLICKING HERE.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jerrod Johnson To Throw Out First Pitch On Wednesday

(Story courtesy Texas A&M Media Relations)

Houston native Jerrod Johnson, the returning starting quarterback who earned Sophomore All-America honors for the Texas A&M football team last fall, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Houston Astros versus Chicago Cubs baseball game Wednesday at Minute Maid Park in Houston. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. and Wednesday is Aggie Night at the stadium.

Johnson, who played many sports growing up and was a pitcher on the baseball diamond, signed to play football and basketball at Texas A&M after a stellar career at Humble High School. After playing both sports as a freshman in Aggieland, Johnson decided to concentrate solely on football.

Also, Aggie Night will highlight the State Farm Lone Star Showdown Trophy. The trophy highlights the head-to-head athletic competition between Texas A&M University and the University of Texas. The Longhorns won the trophy the first three years of the competition and the Aggies have retained the rights to the trophy the past two years.

Fans can access tickets via the web at The password is Aggie. Tickets are basically half-price with $2 from each purchase benefitting The Howdy Club, the Houston A&M Club and the Reveille Club.

The Aggie football team will open the 2009 season with a Sept. 5 home date against New Mexico at Kyle Field. Season tickets are available for as low as $250 for the seven-game home schedule which includes a Thanksgiving night game against the Texas Longhorns.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Behind The Scenes Of A National Title

The dust is beginning to settle in Aggieland around the national title captured by the men's golf team one week ago.

Coach J.T. Higgins has admitted it's been a whirlwind since then, with well-wishers flooding his house when the team arrived back in town and interview requests popping up at almost every turn. Higgins and assistant coach Jonathan Dismuke are tireless recruiters, and they'll be busy on the recruiting trail this summer, as well as hosting golf camps at their spacious accommodations at Traditions Club in Bryan.

The Associated Press published a story recently about sophomore Conrad Shindler, who departed College Station almost immediately so he could caddy for touring pro Todd Hamilton in the PGA Tour's Memorial this weekend. Shindler had an interesting quote in the story, about how the reality of last week still hasn't quite set in:

"I still wake up every morning and turn on my computer,'' he said. "I've got the picture of me and my teammates with the trophy and I have to look at that every time to remind myself that we're the national champions.''

Indeed, as someone who has been wrapped up in almost every Aggie sport on campus in the last decade, I'm guilty of doing the occasional double-check to make sure it really happened. In fact, I remember doing an interview with Gary Blair during basketball season, and I asked him what was on his Bucket List of things he wanted to accomplish before his career was over. He reversed the question on me, asking me what I had on my list.

My immediate response was: "I want to see the Aggies win a national championship, and I don't care what sport it's in."

At the time, I thought he might be the first coach to accomplish that feat in the maroon and white. But, I couldn't be happier for Higgins, Dismuke and everyone associated with Aggie golf.

But looking back at their magical week at Inverness, it's amazing to think about how many things had to happen for A&M to claim the crown.

- Winning the stroke play tiebreaker with Georgia: This was huge, allowing the Aggies to avoid playing top-seeded Oklahoma State in the opening round of match play. OSU has been a longtime nemesis to A&M, even toppling the Aggies at Traditions Club during the Aggie Invitational in April. But, I should also point out how important it was for A&M to...

- Make it in the playoff with Georgia in the first place: How big was Conrad Shindler's hole in one in the opening round. Not only did he ace the hardest par 3 on the course, but the Aggies had to have that perfect shot to even make it in to the tiebreaker with Georgia. If Shindler's ball doesn't take the perfect bounce and roll in, A&M is at least one shot back (and possibly in danger of finishing out of the top eight altogether).

- Long shot Michigan upending No. 3 USC in the Elite Eight: Michigan wasn't ranked anywhere near the top 25 at the start of the week, but the Wolverines not only made it to match play, but they also wiped out a dangerous USC team. The Aggies would have drawn USC in the Final Four, but instead played Michigan.

- Saying the exact right things to Bronson Burgoon: Burgoon admitted his head was spinning after he lost four consecutive holes on the back 9. During that stretch, Burgoon asked the Aggie coaches and players to give him some space and not do too much talking. After his tee shot on 18 found the rough, though, Higgins sent in Dismuke to say a few words. With the pin tucked left and a ridge on the green to the right of the hole, Dismuke had to make sure Burgoon wasn't flirting with danger by firing at the pin. Whatever Dismuke said to Burgoon worked like a charm.

- "One of the greatest shots in college golf history": This one needs no explanation, but who knows would would have happen if Burgoon had hung his shot out to the right and had to put down the ridge, or missed the green altogether.

Winning a championship is such a monumental accomplishment. To be certain, the Aggies deserved to be crowned national champs. A&M played the best, most consistent golf of anyone in the field over the course of the week. The Aggies also took advantage of a few bits of good fortune that lady luck tossed their way, and, sometimes in sports, that can be hard to do.