By Ken MacLeod
EDMOND – With its format of all five players from the same team playing in a group, The Maxwell provided coaches Alan Bratton of Oklahoma State and Ryan Hybl of Oklahoma a rare and precious look at how all their starters react under pressure.
The pressure was provided by howling south winds and the difficult Pete Dye layout at Oak Tree East Country Club. Through 54 holes over Friday and Saturday, Bratton’s Cowboys handled the elements the best, shooting a 2-over 282 Saturday for a 9-over 849, six shots better than New Mexico and Oklahoma, who tied for second.
Getting prepared for the Big 12 Championships April 24-26 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., another place where the wind is often fierce, was high on the priority list for both coaches. Except for one hole, both teams executed quality shots in the gales.
The par-3- 14th hole, a 248-yard brute over water to a multi-level green, proved the Sooners undoing. The team had just shot 2-under par on the tricky par-4 13th to pull close, but all five Sooners missed the green. The team had to count three bogeys and a triple bogey on that hole, while the five Cowboys all hit the green in regulation and made pars.
“Fourteen was not good to us at all,” Hybl said. “It’s a very difficult hole, but not as hard as we made it. We were right where we needed to be at that point. I love this format, but momentum can swing both ways.”
OU and OSU co-hosted The Maxwell this year, helping it move to Oak Tree CC. Previous events have been at Dornick Hills CC in Ardmore, which is undergoing a greens renovation.
All five OSU starters finished in the top 30, led by freshman Viktor Hovland, who finished second at even-par 210 after a closing 70. Zach Bauchou tied for sixth at 213, Zachary Olsen tied for 10th at 214, Hayden Wood tied for 19th at 217 and Kristoffer Ventura tied for 28th at 219.
OSU also had five players playing individually in the event, and two of them came up with top-10 finishes. Tyson Reeder tied for sixth at 213 and Nick Heinen tied for 10th at 214. Also, Sam Stevens tied for 40th at 222, Brendon Jelley tied for 42nd at 223 and Statton Nolen tied for 58th at 226.
“I’m glad to get to play in these windy conditions right before we go to Prairie Dunes,” Bratton said. “A lot of cross winds on this golf course, which is the same up there. I love the format of all five guys together so you can see every player hit every shot. And we had seven different players shoot 70 or better. In those conditions, that shows the strength and depth of our team. By the same token, we’ve still got a lot to work on.”
Bratton was particularly pleased that his team had the 36 hole lead after the marathon rounds Friday even though seven other teams had made more birdies than the Cowboys, meaning his team had grinded out pars in true OSU fashion. He also was happy to see all five players land on the treacherous 14th in regulation.
“That was some really quality ball striking to have all five guys within 25, 30 feet on that hole.”
The Sooners were led by Grant Hirschman, who tied for fourth at 2-over after a closing 70. Rylee Reinertson tied for sixth at 213, Brad Dalke earned his first top-1o of the year, tying for 10th at 214, Blaine Hale tied for 23rd at 218 and Max McGreevy overcame a poor Friday with a 71 despite the triple bogey on 14 to shoot 71.
Five Sooners also played as individuals, led by Riley Casey who tied for 19th at 217. Quade Cummins tied for 28th at 219, Garett Reband tied for 33rd at 221, Thomas Johnson tied for 71st at 231 and Griffin Pierce finished 80th at 274.
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