At the end of the seven-hour drive home from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on May 12, Mike Akers’ North Texas team thought the season was over. Akers thought the season was over. North Texas, the No. 10 seed at the LSU-hosted NCAA Regional, was a bubble team that, after winning the Conference USA title, had hopes of advancing.
Like the rest of the field, North Texas never got to play. The regional was wiped out by weather, as officials deemed conditions not suitable for the championship. The top six seeds advanced without a single shot struck.
The next day, six North Texas players went to Maridoe Golf Club, a notoriously hard Dallas layout near their Denton, Texas, campus to play a round.
“That kind of shows you their work ethic,” Akers said. “I think also, they didn’t get to play in Baton Rouge so maybe they were wanting to play.”
Akers wasn’t mandating anything at that point because the season seemed to be finished. On May 13, Sam “Riggs” Bozoian, of Barstool Sports fame, made a big announcement on Twitter: Barstool would host a season-ending tournament for teams like North Texas, who had spent three agonizing days in rainy Baton Rouge hoping for a chance to play their way into the national championship.
It was a second chance for closure.
Among the 10-team field (team scores were made up of each team’s best three scores, considering that some teams only brought three players), North Texas, at No. 37 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, carried in the second-best ranking behind No. 26 Houston.
But on a 36-hole opening day at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Arizona – roughly 25 miles from where the NCAA Women’s Championship is being played this week at Grayhawk Golf Club – dove to 10 under and never looked back. They finished 54 holes at 11 under, seven ahead of Purdue to win the inaugural event.
“The conditions, they got really tough yesterday afternoon,” Akers said. “The wind came up. Thirty-six holes in that heat is certainly challenging. . . . Today it played very tough, course played longer, pins were tougher, and then the wind came up again so just really happy with the way they played.”
The field at the Barstool Let Them Play Classic. (Golfweek/Lance Ringler)
As the NCAA Championship was just getting started, Barstool’s Let Them Play Classic arguably stole the show, particularly on social media. The exposure, for a mid-major team like North Texas, will go a long way.
“I think the exposure is by far the most they’ve ever seen,” Akers said. “We’re a really good team, played solid all year. I think the media exposure, social media exposure will help in recruiting, kind of get our name out there.
“My phone’s been blowing up from countless people. I know there’s a lot more attention on this than a normal event.”
Barstool Sports offers a place to play for women's teams who missed out at NCAA Baton Rouge Regional
'Tears flowed like rain in Baton Rouge': Reaction to cancellation of NCAA women's regional
NCAA Baton Rouge Regional controversially scrapped without one single shot hit