By Scott Wright
STILLWATER – Edmond North junior Laken Hinton stood over a 4-foot birdie putt on the 54th and final hole of the Class 6A boys state tournament Tuesday evening at Karsten Creek Golf Club.
Hinton had birdied the three previous holes and the way he had been playing, the short putt shouldâ€™ve been a virtual tap-in.
But the putt slid just past the edge of the cup. Seventy-three was Hintonâ€™s destiny.
Hinton shot 73 in all three rounds of the tournament, posting a 219 total for a five-stroke victory, and in doing so, he helped Edmond North return to the throne of Class 6A golf with its 11 state championship in the last 12 years.
â€œTwo of my rounds started off really rough, and I brought it back on the back nine,â€ Hinton said. â€œThe middle round, I was actually playing extremely well, and blew up to shoot 73. I just kept coming back to 73 for some reason.
â€œWith the wind we had, the back nine was playing easier. I knew if I could get through the front nine, I knew I had a good chance, as long as I stayed focused, and I did that.â€
Hinton and junior teammate Austin Eckroat — who shot 224 and tied for second — combined for seven birdies over their last 10 holes as Edmond North held off charges from Owasso and Edmond Memorial.
Edmond Northâ€™s 923 total was good for a four-shot win. After having their streak of 10 straight titles broken by Owasso last year, Edmond North reclaimed the most coveted hardware.
â€œThis year is really satisfying,â€ said Eckroat, who was a freshman on the 2014 title team, also winning individual medalist honors that year. â€œWe felt like we were the best team, but the two teams we thought had a chance to beat us were right behind us all the way.â€
A longer-than-expected day saw the heat increase and the greens get faster than they already were on a course that will host an NCAA menâ€™s regional championship next week.
When play was stopped during the partially completed second round on Monday, players were told they would only play 18 holes on Tuesday.
By the time players teed off Tuesday morning – or for some, after they teed off – the decision was announced that 36 holes would be played to keep the event at the scheduled 54 holes.
When Eckroat, Edmond Northâ€™s No. 1 bag, reached the 18th green, coach Jeff Doherty still was unsure where the team scores stood.
As it turned out, with Eckroat shooting 73, Edmond North had more cushion than it seemed. Owasso and Edmond Memorial tied for second at 927, going to a team playoff as darkness was creeping across the course.
Owasso posted a 1-under-par total to win the playoff.
â€œI think thereâ€™s more parity in Class 6A golf now,â€ Owasso coach Corey Burd said. â€œI think the days of Edmond North running away with it are over, at least for a few years. We only have one senior, and we have some good talent coming up from the junior-high levels, so hopefully we can keep this going.â€