Texas freshman Christiaan Maas well on his way to be next South African star

  • In Sports/Golf
  • 2023-01-26 13:00:25Z
  • By USA TODAY Sports - Golfweek

Standing on the first tee ahead of the DP World Tour's Alfred Dunhill Championship last month in South Africa, Christiaan Maas' eye drew wide. 

Also on the tee was Ernie Els, one of the greatest South African golfers of all time. The former world No. 1 with four major titles is now 53 and is on the decline of his stellar career. Meanwhile, Maas, a freshman at Texas, is only at the beginning of what's looking to be a promising story. 

Maas played alongside Els the first two days at Leopard Creek in Malelane, topping one of his idols, who's also a friend and mentor. Maas finished T-17 at the DP World Tour event, capping a stellar fall that included his first semester for the Longhorns. 

"Playing with Ernie was a dream come true," Maas said. "All in all, probably the best two weeks I've had."

Maas had met Els previously and talked with him on numerous occasions, partially because Maas' coach and Els are close friends. Maas said Els talked with him about the recruiting process and was supportive of Maas' choice to go to Texas. 

A week before the Alfred Dunhill, Maas placed T-35 at the DP World Tour's South African Open. 

Maas' brilliant play on the professional level at 19 years old is just a glimpse of how talented he is. The 25th-ranked golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking was named to the Fred Haskins Award watch list, which is awarded to the best player in college golf, after the fall season. Maas also captured the Brabazon trophy last year at the English Men's Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship. He has quickly risen to become one of the top amateurs in the world. 

And yet he's only scratching the surface.

"He has got off to a really good start," Texas men's golf coach John Fields said. "He's an absolutely wonderful kid. Everybody loves him in South Africa."

Fields was able to go to South Africa and watch Maas compete, which he said was an incredible moment for him. 

It meant a lot to Maas, too, to have his coach come and support him during the couple months off from college golf. 

Maas took a couple weeks off after his appearances on the DP World Tour to rest and refresh before the spring college season. Texas is the defending national champion, and though the Longhorns had a slow start in the fall season, Maas isn't worried about that carrying over to the spring. 

"Our goal is to win a national championship," Maas said. "If we can reach the match play at NCAAs, we'll definitely have a chance."

On a personal level, Maas said he wants to win a couple college events this spring. He came close in the fall, finishing third at the Ben Hogan Collegiate at Colonial Country Club, where the PGA Tour's Charles Schwab Challenge is contested. He also placed 12th at the Stephens Cup.

Maas notes the changes and adjustments he had to make to playing golf in the United States mostly compared to at home. There's a premium on hitting the fairway and avoiding the rough around putting surfaces. Having the ability to practice at Texas has helped him adjust quickly. 

The Longhorns' spring slate kicks off later this month at the Southwestern Invitational in Westlake Village, California. It's there Maas will look to continue building off his low amateur honors in South Africa and making a name for himself. 

And he's got his eyes on a big prize. Doing what Gordon Sargent did last year, winning the NCAA title as a freshman.

"That's the ultimate goal," Maas said. "And hopefully that can lead my team into a good position going to match play."


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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek


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