HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla.-Parker Mitas stared down the hole. In what could be defined as the biggest tournament of his young collegiate career, the freshman’s bid to reach round three at the NCAA tournament came down to a single playoff hole against Gustavus Adolphus’ Jacob Pederson. And he proved that his remarkable poise was very much a strength, coming up clutch, as the last player on UMHB’s five-man team with an opportunity to advance to Thursday’s action.
Less than an hour before Mitas’ fate in the national tournament was determined, his team was eliminated from the team portion of the event by a mere three strokes. But his season was not yet over, and head coach Jordan Cox quickly headed over to see how the native of Woodlands, Texas, would fare in such a high-pressure moment.
Mitas responded by opening it with a solid drive, chipping it onto the green, before a perfectly-placed putt found its way into the hole for a birdie, sending him into round three. His story was one of the main highlights of the program’s second straight trip to nationals, as he carded a 302 over four rounds, finishing tied for 39th place. He closed out Friday’s final round with his second straight 76 (+4), opening the day with 12 consecutive pars.
“His demeanor for the game is good,” UMHB head coach Jordan Cox said. “He’s a good thinker, a very intelligent guy.”
Cox noted that, ordinarily, with a five or six-man lineup, he does not have the opportunity to walk a full 18 holes alongside just one member of the team. But with Mitas as the lone Crusader still playing over the final two rounds, Cox saw up-close, hole after hole, his high-level character on the course.
“Ordinarily, I’m not able to walk 18 holes with any one player, but it was terrific doing that over the past two days,” Cox added. “He represented [UMHB] so well. He handled himself so well on the golf course.”
Mitas’ growth throughout the course of his freshman year was put on full display, as the Second-Team All-ASC honoree improved in all facets of his game, leading to moments such as the clutch putt on the playoff hole Wednesday night.
“Parker is very fit and strong,” Cox said. “And he uses that to his advantage. I think his biggest area of growth from the fall to the second semester was his ability to manage his game on the golf course. I think he recognized he didn’t have to always pound the driver to get the results he was after.”
Composing UMHB’s lineup alongside Mitas in Florida was William Sammons, Andrew Baucum, Harrison Jaeger and Nikolas Keratsopoulos, Keratsopoulos finished the tournament with a +6 after two rounds, while Sammons turned in a +16. Baucum posted a +17, while Jaeger came in at +27. While a heartbreaking finish to miss the 18-team cut by just three strokes, finishing 21st as a team, Cox is optimistic. He should be. Every player in the lineup is either a freshman or a sophomore, meaning this same lineup could potentially compete together for at least two more seasons.
“Each year brings a new dynamic,” Cox said. “And in the era of the transfer portal, that becomes even more heightened. The momentum is terrific for our program. The reputation is as well. We will tee it up with the very best lineup we have, and look forward to trying to repeat.”
UMHB, the ASC Tournament champion for the second consecutive year, won six tournaments during the 2021-22 season.