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Freshmen hope to end UNT’s NCAA drought

Profile image for By Brett Vito
By Brett Vito

Arriving in a new country with a whole different culture isn’t what Thomas Rosenmueller remembers most about the adjustment process when he arrived at North Texas last fall.

Playing with new teammates and under the direction of a new golf coach didn’t make as much of a lasting impression, either.

Stepping off the plane from England into the blast furnace of the Texas summer for the first time?

That’s what the German native remembers.

“It’s pretty different coming from Europe where there is bad weather to here, where it’s over 90 for eight straight weeks,” Rosenmueller said. “I came straight from a tournament in England where it was really cold, like 45-50 degrees. It was 95 here.”

Rosenmueller hasn’t missed a beat, despite missing the mist of a cool European morning at times.

The same could be said of fellow UNT freshman Ian Snyman, who arrived at UNT at from South Africa at about the same time.

The foreign duo’s performance is one of the big reasons a young UNT squad finds itself in Arizona this morning for the opening round of the Tucson Regional at Gallery Golf Club. UNT is the 11th seed in the 14-team event that will consist of three rounds.

Rosenmueller and Snyman have been anchors in UNT’s lineup throughout their freshman seasons. Snyman recently was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year.

Snyman and Rosenmueller joined junior Cory Churchman on the All-C-USA second team.

UNT’s freshman pair has capably filled a rather large hole left in the Mean Green’s lineup after Juan Munoz and Jason Roets graduated.

Munoz and Roets helped lead UNT to a ninth-place finish in the New Haven Regional as seniors last season.

The Mean Green will look to crack the top five in Tucson and advance to the NCAA finals this week.

UNT hasn’t made the finals since 1963, but it has come close over the past few years.

UNT finished seventh in the Bowling Green Regional in 2012 and missed advancing by four shots. This week marks UNT’s fifth regional appearance in the last six years.

“We definitely feel good about our chances,” Churchman said. “We are a little bit of a young team, but we have some older guys in the lineup who have played at regionals before and know what to expect. Barely missing out last year fueled our fire. We know what it’s going to take to get there. We all feel like we should make nationals.”

That feeling grew over the course the season as Rosenmueller and Snyman showed no signs of freshman jitters.

Snyman finished in a tie for fifth place at the Memphis Intercollegiate in his first college tournament in late September. That was the best debut performance for a UNT freshman since Freddy Espericueta finished in third place in his first tourney in 1999.

Rosenmueller finished second at the Windon Memorial Classic a week later.

“You never know about freshmen coming in,” UNT coach Brad Stracke said. “You can have a stud freshman who has to study, gets overwhelmed and doesn’t play well. You never know until they set foot on campus. They were really good in high school, and luckily they came in and succeeded their first year.”

Rosenmueller and Snyman arrived at UNT with extensive junior experience that has helped them make the transition to playing on the college level.

“Through the years, I have gained a lot of experience playing in big events,” Snyman said. “I played in the World Cup and British Amateur. That made it easier to adjust and get used to the American courses.”

What UNT has to work with in terms of its facilities and being close to a host of courses in the Dallas area also helped.

“The practice facilities here are way better than what I’m used to,” Rosenmueller said. “We had almost no facilities and bad range balls. Here we have perfect conditions. It makes a huge impact on your game without you even noticing.”

UNT is hoping the improvement its freshmen have made will help make this the team’s breakthrough year to get to the national finals.

Getting through the regional will be tough for UNT, which is ranked No. 62 by GolfStat.com. No. 1 Stanford is one of five teams ranked in the top 25 in the region.

Despite those odds, Stracke said UNT’s goal is to finish in the top five and advance. One factor that could help UNT this year is a good break in terms of the regional it was placed in.

“Every time we have been to a regional, it has been on a Northern course where you are playing on different types of grass,” Stracke said. “I feel much better playing in the South this year. It will be a much more comfortable environment.”

That’s true now for Rosenmueller, who stepped off a plane last year and immediately was knocked back by the Texas heat.

Rosenmueller quickly adjusted, just like Snyman did while helping lead UNT back to the NCAA regionals.

“The freshmen have surprised us,” Churchman said. “We knew they were good players, but it’s hard to tell how good they would be because junior golf and college golf are completely different. We are impressed that they are playing well, but what is even more impressive is how they have made the transition to playing in college. They made it look easy.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 950-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.