By Murray Evans
NICHOLS HILLS – One never knows what might happen in match play and Chandler Rusk of Edmond was reminded of that Tuesday in the Oklahoma Golf Association State Amateur Championship.
Rusk advanced to the semifinals with two wins in drastically different styles at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club. In his morning round, he won 1-up over top-seeded Chris Muriana of Stillwater after playing 23 holes. By contrast, in the afternoon quarterfinals, he cruised to a 7 and 6 win over Tyler Hargus of Shawnee.
Rusk, seeded 48th, will face 21st-seeded Nathan Hughes of Bartlesville in one semifinal on Wednesday morning. Hughes, a senior-to-be at Missouri-Kansas City, beat Jeff Coffman of Oklahoma City 2 and 1 before downing fourth-seeded Sam Lee of Stillwater 2 and 1 in the quarterfinals. The semifinal will be a rematch of sorts of the 2009 Class 6A high school state tournament, in which Hughes beat Rusk in a one-hole playoff for medalist honors at Emerald Falls Golf Club in Broken Arrow.
The other semifinal will pit two of the pre-tournament favorites, second-seeded Talor Gooch of Midwest City and sixth-seeded Taylor Moore of Edmond. Gooch, a standout at Oklahoma State, beat Cullen Stahl of Lawton 4 and 3 in the morning before outlasting Phillip Bryan of Mustang 3 and 2 in the quarterfinals.
Moore, a two-time Class 6A medalist at Edmond Memorial High School, had the toughest road of the semifinalists, edging Kacey Threet of Grove 1-up over 19 holes before beating Jeffrey Topp of Midwest City 2-up.
Rusk, who began his collegiate career at Texas Tech before transferring to Wichita State, was so dominant against Hargus that their quarterfinal match was the first to end – even though it was the last to tee off.
“It was just a blur,” Rusk said. “It was pretty cool.”
Rusk chipped in on the par-4 No. 1 to take a quick lead over Hargus – who just finished his freshman season at NCAA Division II Central Oklahoma – then won the next two holes to go 3-up. A par on the No. 7 and a birdie on the par-5 No. 8 gave Rusk a five-shot lead.
He rolled in a 60-foot birdie putt on the par-4 No. 10, then ended the match with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 12. It was Rusk’s most lopsided win ever in match play.
“It was crazy,” he said. “I didn’t hit the ball good at all in the first round and I was just trying to find something. The second round, I was like, ‘No matter what happens, just trust your swing and it will all work out.’ … I just felt really good in the second round, which was a little bit different than the first round.”
Indeed. Rusk and Muriana , who just finished his junior season at UCO, went back and forth throughout their match.
“I’d be 1-up, then he’d birdie a couple of holes and he’d be 1-up, and then I’d get one,” Rusk said.
On No. 18, Rusk lipped out a birdie putt and Muriana nailed a 10-foot par putt to extend the match. Both players parred the first four playoff holes before Rusk won it with a birdie on the 597-yard par-5 No. 5. Rusk said it was the longest match in which he’d ever played, by three holes.
“The nerves get to you a little bit, but I just try to take deep breaths and relax and talk to my caddie,” he said. “He kept me calm. It wasn’t too bad. I like the nerves. It means something is on the line. It was awesome.”
Gooch, who won the OGA Stroke Play title last year in dominating fashion, was locked in a tight quarterfinal battle with Bryan, a former Oklahoma player who’s now an assistant coach for the Sooners. The two remained tied until playing No. 6, when Gooch made a six-foot birdie putt to go 1-up.
The cigar-smoking Bryan came right back, draining a 30-footer on No. 7 to again even the match.
“In match play, that happens,” Gooch said. “You’ve got to expect anything. I was waiting for him to make that, knowing I was going to have to make my putt. It might have rattled some people but I was able to get over it pretty quickly.”
On the next hole, Gooch knocked in a 12-foot birdie putt to regain the lead for good, although Bryan hung close. Gooch hit his approach shot on the par-5 No. 13 within three feet for an easy birdie to go 2-up. Bryan found the right rough off the tee on the par-5 No. 16 and had to punch into the fairway, while Gooch was on the green in two shots and had an easy two-putt to win the hole and end the match.
“A veteran player, as you can say he is, isn’t just going to give you the match,” Gooch said. “He made me earn it. I was able to make a couple of birdies coming in to seal the deal.”
Moore, who just finished his freshman season at Arkansas, seemed excited about his impending showdown with Gooch, especially after grinding out two tough matches. He and Gooch have played together before, but never in match play.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Moore said “I’ve won four matches in a row and I’ve got two more to go, hopefully, so I think it will be fun to get out here bright and early and get after it.”
Hughes won two of his first four holes in his quarterfinal match against Lee, who just finished his junior season at Oklahoma State. Hughes hit an eight-foot birdie putt on No. 2, then parred No. 4 while Lee three-putted from 40 feet.
Hughes was 3-up after a par on 11. Lee rallied with birdies on No. 12 and No. 15, but Hughes answered back with a birdie on No. 16.
Oklahoma Golf Association
State Amateur Championship
July 22-24, 2013
Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club
Match Play Results
Round — (Round of 16)
Chandler Rusk, Edmond, Okla. (48) def. Chris Muriana, Stillwater, Okla. (1), 23 holes
Tyler Hargus, Shawnee, Oklahoma (40) def. Ben Blundell, Oklahoma City, Okla. (24), 5 and 4
Sam Lee, Stillwater, Oklahoma (4) def. Trent Mewbourn, Oklahoma City, Okla. (20), 4 and 2
Nathan Hughes, Bartlesville, Oklahoma (21) def. Jeff Coffman, Oklahoma City, Okla. (37), 2 and 1
Talor Gooch, Midwest City, Okla. (2) def. Cullen Stahl, Lawton, Okla. (47), 4 and 3
Phillip Bryan, Mustang, Okla. (23) def. Mason Overstreet, Laverne, Okla. (7), 5 and 4
Jeffrey Topp, Midwest City, Okla. (46) def. Zach Tucker, Oklahoma City, Okla. (3), 3 and 1
Taylor Moore, Edmond, Oklahoma (6) def. Kacey Threet, Grove, Oklahoma (54), 2 up
Round — (Quarterfinal)
Chandler Rusk, Edmond, Okla. (48) def. Tyler Hargus, Shawnee, Oklahoma (40), 7 and 6
Nathan Hughes, Bartlesville, Oklahoma (21) def. Sam Lee, Stillwater, Oklahoma (4), 2 and 1
Talor Gooch, Midwest City, Okla. (2) def. Phillip Bryan, Mustang, Okla. (23), 3 and 2
Taylor Moore, Edmond, Oklahoma (6) def. Jeffrey Topp, Midwest City, Okla. (46), 2 up