By Ken MacLeod
Mike McGraw said Friday he was disappointed to be relieved of his duties as golf coach at Oklahoma State and would be looking to remain in college coaching.
"This is what I know and what I enjoy," McGraw said. "It’s like I tell my kids, when you make a triple bogey, you move on. As much as I am disappointed in the decision, I have to respect what Mike Holder thinks the direction of the program should be. He’s been involved and built the program for 47 years."
Holder was head coach for 32 years, succeeding Labron Harris in 1973, and his teams won eight national championships. He was a Big Eight champion as a player at OSU and has been athletic director since 2005.
McGraw kept the program at the high standards set by Holder for a time, winning a national championship in his first season and being ranked near the top for most of the next five years. But when the Cowboys failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2012 for the first time in 65 years and won just one event this year while finishing 14th, Holder acted to change what he saw as an erosion of the legacy of Cowboy golf.
Holder announced in a release Friday that McGraw will not return as the head coach of the Cowboy golf team.
"This was not an easy decision," Holder said. "I could go on forever about what a good man Mike McGraw is, but at the end of the day, I had to do what I felt was in the best interest of the program."
McGraw had joined OSU as an assistant coach in 1997 and spent seven seasons with the Cowboys. In 2004-2005, he served as the head coach of the OSU women’s program and was named Big 12 Coach of the Year for that season. His first season with the men’s program culminated in the school’s 10th national championship. His 2008 team finished fourth while starting three Oklahoma natives and his 2009-10 and 2010-11 teams featuring Rickie Fowler, Peter Uihlein, Morgan Hoffmann and Kevin Tway were strong candidates to win national championships but each were upset in the new match play format instituted at Holder’s urging in 2009 The 2010-2011 team won eight tournaments, including a fifth straight Big 12 title.
After the "Dream Team" began to make their way into the pro ranks, McGraw lost out on a few prized recruits and the Cowboys began to lose a bit of their aura of invicincibility. The 2012 team became the first OSU golf team in 65 years not to advance to the NCAA Championship. It returned in 2013 but was not a factor, finishing 14th after a strong final round. The Cowboys won one of 14 tournaments in 2012-13, the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in October.
McGraw was successful in keeping most of the top Oklahoma players at home. Ian Davis of Edmond had a top-10 finish at the NCAA and he and Taylor Gooch of Midwest City have been among the Cowboys steadiest players. Davis was an honorable mention All-American in 2013. Oklahoma State has signed three players for 2013-14, including Brendon Jelley of Jenks, and has four verbal commitments for 2014-15, including two-time state junior champion Hayden Wood and Edmond North teammate Nick Heinen, two-time Class 6A runnerup.
Brendon’s father Steve Jelley said Friday his son and McGraw were very close but Brendon was a Cowboy at heart and would be attending OSU.
"I think our recruiting classes for the next two years were strong," McGraw said. "We were still recruiting the top players. We lost a few along the way. The players we did have gave good effort, but I don’t think we performed as well as we all thought we should. They expected more out of themselves than what we delivered this year."
McGraw has strong Oklahoma golf roots. His late father Gervis was a master club builder following a long career as head professional at Ponca City Country Club (1957-82) His sister Patty is a nine-time winner of the women’s state amateur and member of the Women’s Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame. Older brother Tim is an accomplished golfer and club repair specialist as well. Mike McGraw led Edmond Memorial to three state titles in four years before being named an assistant at OSU.
"I’m going to do my best to stay in coaching and hopefully in Oklahoma," McGraw said.