His freshman year couldn’t have gone much better for Ryan Spurlock at Arkansas Tech.
Spurlock, 19, the Arkansas State Golf Association’s Junior Boys Player of the Year for 2016, was named Great American Conference Freshman of the Year as the Wonder Boys put together the most successful season in their history — reaching the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championships.
He said all the success was something he hadn’t even dreamed.
“Even making it to the national championship was something,” Spurlock said. “We’d practiced all year, and to make it to the final four was really special.”
The Wonder Boys lost a close match to No. 2-ranked Lynn in the semifinals, 3-2, at the Reunion Resort Golf Course in Kissimmee, Fla. Spurlock tied his career-low round of 67 to win the No. 1 pairing by five strokes.
The showing marked Tech’s first top-four national championship finish.
On Facebook that day, Spurlock posted: “Well we feel just short in the final four. Won my match in the semi finals, shot a bogey free 67 this afternoon. Feels great to have my game back. Couldn’t be more proud of this team for how hard we fought at the National Championship. We made it to the final four!! Not many people can say that. Couldn’t have ended my Freshman year on a better note. Now it’s time to grind this summer. Looking forward to what the future holds. #GoTech”
The Wonder Boys were riding a wave in the post-season. As one of 20 teams to qualify for the Midwest/Central Super Regional at the Awarii Dunes Golf Course in Axtell, Neb., in early May, they rallied in the second round from 14th to tie for eighth. In the final round, they moved to fourth to advance to the national championship for just the second time in history. The only other time was the 1997-98 season.
Spurlock moved up 41 places over the final round with his 67 to set his career low, two strokes better than his previous at the Missouri Western Holiday Inn Express Classic.
His Facebook post from May 10: “Wow, what a day. We came from behind and shot -14 today to make it to the National Championship! Couldn’t be more blessed to battle it out with these guys. We got it done!! Also had my lowest college round so far. -5 (67) plus it was bogey free.”
At Kissimmee, the Wonder Boys stood 18th after the first round, moved to 15th after the second and moved to eighth on Day 3 to reach the match play portion.
On Facebook May 24: “These past 3 days have been crazy. WE MADE IT!!! We came from 16 shots back today to make it to the top 8 and advance to the match play portion of the National Championship. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Cannot describe this feeling. Thank you for all the texts and calls.”
In the opening round of match play, the Wonder Boys secured a one-stroke tiebreaker win over top-seeded Barry.
“We just did it again,” he posted May 25. “We beat one of the best teams in the country to advance to the semifinals of the National Championship. Cinderella is still dancing! here we go.”
In late April, Spurlock was named GAC Freshman of the Year. The third Wonder Boy to be so honored, at that point he averaged 74.27 per round and had four top-10 finishes. He was also an honorable mention all-conference selection.
On April 22, he posted: “Won the GAC Freshman of the year award ⛳️ couldn’t be more blessed to play with this team. Now we have to buckle down and focus. Let’s go get the job done boys. #ATU.”
But golf wasn’t his life 24-7 during his freshman year. Studying psychology, Spurlock put together a 4.0 GPA in the fall and a 3.7 in the spring.
Now he is back home in Maumelle for the summer, working at Maumelle Country Club and practicing. He said he would play a limited ASGA men’s schedule this summer, including the Fourth of July Classic at War Memorial Golf Course, the Arkansas Amateur Championship at Hot Springs Village July 13-15 and the ASGA Match Play Championship Aug. 10-13.
“But I’m mainly focusing on the Maumelle Classic (July 21-23) just because I got so close last year,” he said. “That’s the only one I’m focusing on.”
Last year, Spurlock shot 69-70-72—211 for a three-way tie for second, three strokes behind Trey Schaap.