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Bohls: Longhorn Pierceson Coody latest in long line of great Texas golfers

  • Pierceson Coody rose to No. 1 in the world among amateur golfers and has had an outstanding spring.
  • His father, Kyle, played at Texas, and his grandfather Charles won the 1971 Masters.
  • "He's had a really good year and played extremely solid for us," Longhorn coach John Fields said.

Pierceson Coody had a confession.

His grandfather won the Masters way back when, and his father was a collegiate golfer at Texas the same as his twin brother is now.

But it wasn’t all that long ago that Pierceson told his famous grandfather a deep, dark secret.

He hated golf.

Hated it. Despised it. Didn’t want to have any more to do with it. Wanted to chuck it.

“I’ve (almost) always loved golf, but there was a time when I didn’t,” Coody said recently. “In the fifth or sixth grade, I really hated it. I told my granddad, ‘I hate golf. I never want to play it again.’"

Texas' Pierceson Coody rose to No. 1 in the world among amateur golfers and has had an outstanding spring run with a semifinalist nomination for the Ben Hogan Award and four straight top-three finishes in tournaments.

And just what was the immediate reaction of Charles Coody, the West Texan from Stamford who captured the 1971 Masters when he opened with a round of 66 and scored birdies on 15 and 16 Sunday to outduel Masters rookie Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus down the stretch to win by two strokes?

“I think it was a little shock to his system that I didn’t play for awhile,” the two-time All-American said, “but once you get older and you start hitting the ball a little farther, golf becomes really exciting. With the people and the family I have around me, it was really easy to get back into the game.”

Good thing.

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Luckily, the Plano junior grew out of that phase, persisted with the challenging game and just a week ago found himself with a lofty ranking that hardly aligned with that one-time distaste for the sport.

He became the No. 1 amateur golfer in the entire world.

Pierceson Coody watches his ball on a putt during the 2020 Western Amateur Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. Coody went on to win the championship.

Coody realizes that weighty mantle would do himself no favors in this week’s Big 12 golf championship and beyond, and he has since fallen to No. 2, supplanted by Japan’s Keita Nakajima who was a recent runner-up in the Token Homemate Cup. 

But Coody did reach the heights of No. 1, much as his current Longhorns teammate, Cole Hammer, did a couple of years ago.

Alas, that doesn’t guarantee success. Like nearly every other golfer, the Longhorns struggled somewhat Monday on the first day of the Big 12 championship in Hutchinson, Kan. But Hammer rallied for a 1-under par — one of just three players in the field of 50 to score in the red — and Coody followed with a 1-over on the first round of a blustery 36-hole day at the Prairie Dunes Country Club.

“To say we’re tired of losing to Oklahoma is an understatement,” Coody said.

Through the first 18 holes Monday, the nationally fifth-ranked Longhorns held a two-stroke lead over No. 1 Oklahoma and TCU before round two began, but the Sooners gained the advantage back late in the afternoon.

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“The guys did a good job this morning,” Longhorns coach John Fields said. “Prairie Dunes is an extreme challenge. The wind is up and blowing 25, 30 miles an hour. But Cole was outstanding, and Pierceson was really good as well.”

That’s befitting his world ranking and the news he has become for the second straight year a semifinalist for the prestigious Ben Hogan Award, one of Coody’s stated goals.

Pierceson Coody drives the ball down the course during last year's Western Amateur Championship, which he ended up winning. The Texas Longhorns star is currently competing in this week's Big 12 championship in Hutchinson, Kan.

He’s become a more consistent ball striker and made himself a really solid putter. And he has a great foundation of institutional knowledge, given his granddad was a great irons player who once played for the U.S. Ryder Cup team and almost won a British Open and his father played professionally in Asia.

In short, he has been on fire this spring. He’s had four consecutive top-three finishes, including a win in the George Hannon Invitational and a pair of runner-ups at the NIT and the Aggie Invitational.

“He’s obviously had a really good year and he’s played extremely solid for us throughout the year,” Fields said. “He slipped from seventh to eighth (in the world rankings) last year, and that kept him from playing in the U.S. Open, which took the top seven. He said that’s been the biggest motivator of his life, and he’s come back super strong. He has that intensity, drive and determination and is looking forward to a big finish.”

After conference play, Coody will compete in the Walker Cup and will join Hammer as competitors in the Byron Nelson before regional play and finally the NCAAs, which just happen to be at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. That’s also the host site of the Thunderbird Junior, which he won as a Plano senior.

Coody was sensational a year ago, winning the Western Amateur, and has carried over that success with a score of 32-under par in his last four tournaments.

“My freshman year, I felt like I played my best golf at that point, and then in the Western Amateur over last summer I felt like I did the same thing and hit it really, really solid and never got out of position. I’ve felt that level for about two months straight now. I’ve been driving it extremely consistent and not losing any healthy shots off the tee.”

Coody understands the pressures and expectations that come not only with his recent status as the world’s No. 1 amateur, but also simply with his standing in a Longhorns locker room that historically has been shared by some of the best golfers to ever play the game.

When asked how he copes with what could be an overwhelming burden, he said, “I definitely feel it and understand it.”

How could he not? The locker room is filled with posters of the Longhorns All-Americans. Everyone from Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite from the school’s early days and first national championship in 1971 to current stars like three-time major champion Jordan Spieth and last year’s PGA Tour rookie of the year and 2021 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play finalist Scottie Scheffler.

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“You don’t forget where you are and what you’re supposed to be doing,” Coody said. “To know that I’m taking the right steps to get there is nice, but we still have a long way to go.”

Texas' Pierceson Coody and other players walk to the 18th hole at the 2019 NCAA Austin Regional tournament at the UT Golf Club.

It may not take a great leap of faith to think Coody can reach the level of play that several of his predecessors have. That said, it’s very difficult to win on today’s Tour. 

For instance, another prominent Longhorn, Beau Hossler, has yet to make an impact as a pro. After being denied his first win on Tour by Ian Poulter in a playoff hole at the 2018 Houston Open, Hossler has struggled to excel. After turning pro in 2016 following a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing in the NCAA finals loss to Oregon, the 26-year-old has only a pair of runner-up finishes in 106 starts and has had just one top-10 finish (but six overall) in the last three seasons.

But Coody’s feeling good about his game as well as his future.

Plus, Pierceson knows he’s got props over his brother Parker with his world ranking even though Parker’s at No. 74 and has been as high as 40th. Bragging rights can be pretty cool, and Pierceson couldn’t resist a little good-natured razzing.

“He got me on (qualifying for) the first Tour event, so this one was good,” Pierceson said. “This one was really good to get him on, so I enjoyed it a lot.”