When senior Toni Hakula began his career at Texas in the fall of 2010, he was just a kid from Espoo, Finland, trying to adjust to life in America.
“It was different, the whole culture change and trying to live by myself here,” Hakula said. “It definitely took a toll the first year.”
Now, more than three years later, Hakula is in the beginning of what is his final season at Texas — a fact that he said is hard to believe. But as the only remaining player from the championship run just two years ago and the only true senior on the team, the time has come for Hakula to fully assert himself as the leader.
“He’s got tremendous ability,” head coach John Fields said. “He is extremely intelligent … he leads by example and is a fabulous person.”
In his career at Texas, Hakula has appeared in 34 tournaments, playing 104 rounds of amateur competition. He has an average score of 73.31 and has finished in the 60s nine times, with 36 par or better performances.
More than his game value though, Fields said it is Hakula’s experience that makes him a true asset to the No. 3 ranked team in the nation. He said the fact that Hakula was a part of the Longhorns’ 2012 championship gives him the type of pedigree and leadership that can be passed down to the rest of his team.
And if Hakula were to help lead the Longhorns to another championship, there is no question his footprint would be cemented in the history of notable Texas players. Behind him stands the support of teammates like Brax McCarthy, who said Hakula knows what it takes to play team golf at the highest collegiate level.
“He is a hard working guy,” McCarthy said. “He is always out there practicing, playing and just leading by example.”
Hakula’s senior season is important for many reasons. Among one is the impact it will have in determining what kind of future he will have beyond Texas. Hakula said he plans on pursuing golf on the professional level, starting on the Web.com Tour or European Tour and eventually the PGA Tour. It is a goal both his teammates and coach believe he is more than capable of accomplishing.
“He’s got that ability and that opportunity,” Fields said. “Absolutely I expect to see him on both [the European Tour and PGA Tour].”
For now, Hakula said he is solely focused on winning a championship and improving from last season, where he felt he left a lot out on the course. Passing the torch to his younger sister and women’s player, freshman Anne Hakula, will also be a task the senior golfer will embark on. After all, he said, it is only right to keep the Hakula name alive in Texas golf.
“I’m looking forward to having her this year,” Hakula said. “I’ll be coming back now and then to watch her progress the next few years.”
Currently playing at the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate in Vastavia Hills, Ala., the Longhorns are in third place after Monday’s first two rounds of competition, finishing with a four-over-par 564 overall score. Hakula notched a two-under-par 68 in first round and a four-over-par 74 in the second round. He will tee off at 9:10 a.m. in Tuesday’s final round as he and the rest of the team hope to catch Alabama and Texas A&M, who currently hold the top two spots.
“It is about taking it one day at a time and one shot at a time,” Hakula said. “As long as everyone does that, it is going to be good for the