TCU senior Julien Brun gained many new experiences after deciding to postpone his pro career one more semester and finish out his college eligibility.
As a part of the TCU men’s golf team, the three-time All-American played several courses that have hosted majors, notably Chambers Bay — the host of this year’s U.S. Open.
The French native also had time to improve little parts of his game with a coaching staff that has invested in him for four years.
“I’m in a lot better place right now,” Brun said. “I’m a lot more ready to turn pro than I was back in January of last year.”
This week, however, is the one that matters most to Brun.
TCU will begin play Friday in the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla.
Team play has always been important to Brun, and playing with his teammates was one of the biggest reasons he decided to stay at TCU.
“He wanted to see if we could make a run and do something special,” TCU coach Bill Montigel said. “He’s so close with the guys on the team, and they’re all such good friends.”
When faced with the decision last year to play in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial as a sponsor’s exemption or play as an individual in the NCAA Championships, he picked Colonial because the NCAA experience wouldn’t be the same without his teammates.
Heading into the initial field of 30, TCU will lean on the depth that has carried it through the season and through the NCAA Washington Regional.
It was a pair of sophomores, Giulio Castagnara and Chelso Barrett, who finished in the top 10 and pushed the Horned Frogs into a fourth-place finish to qualify for the finals.
“One tournament, one guy is up, and the next tournament it’s someone else,” Montigel said. “If we’re going to make a run and do something special, that’s what you’ve got to have. You’ve got to have all five of them playing.”
The 30 qualifying teams will play 54 holes of stroke play Friday through Sunday, with the top 15 teams advancing, and another day of stroke play Monday that will cut the field to eight.
A quarterfinal and semifinal round of match play will follow on Tuesday, and the champion will be crowned Wednesday after a final round of match play.
Golf Channel will have live coverage beginning with the round of 15 — Monday through Wednesday.
The tournament carries special meaning to Brun, who will be making his final appearance for the Frogs before chasing a professional career.
The tendency might be to put too much pressure on his game, which is what Montigel said happened in the NCAA Regional that saw Brun finish in a tie for 30th, shooting 2-over par in three rounds of play.
Montigel has preached one word to his players leading into the tournament — fun.
“I think a lot of teams that fail the most are the teams that set so many high expectations,” Montigel said. “Would we like to win? Absolutely. I just think if we can go down there and enjoy it, it’s all going to work out for the best.”
And Brun hopes a long run will be a nice tip of the cap to the team, coaching staff and school that have helped make him the future pro he is today.
“Last semester, it was great to have all those coaches next to me and helping me out the last four years,” Brun said. “It’s kind of nice to stay around and win more tournaments for them.”
NCAA Golf Championships
The Concession Golf Club, Bradenton, Fla.
TV: The Golf Channel
Friday, May 29 — 6 a.m.
First day of stroke play competition (18 holes).
Saturday, May 30 — 6 a.m.
Second day of stroke play competition (18 holes).
Sunday, May 31 — 6 a.m.
Third day of stroke play competition (18 holes); to determine the top 15 teams along with the top nine individuals not on an advancing team for final 18 holes of stroke-play competition.
Monday, June 1 — 10:30 a.m.
Final round of stroke-play competition to determine the top eight teams determined for match-play competition and 72-hole individual champion crowned.
Tuesday, June 2
Quarterfinals and semifinals of team match play:
7 a.m., CDT — Match #1 and #2 begin (1st and 10th tees)
7:50 a.m., CDT — Match #3 and #4 begin (1st and 10th tees)
1:30 p.m., CDT — Match #5 begins (winners of match #1 and #2)
2:20 p.m., CDT — Match #6 begins (winners of match #3 and #4)
Wednesday, June 3 — 1:10 p.m.
Championship match to determine team champion.