See complete results HERE.
By Ken MacLeod
It was a Memorial Day victory lap for Oklahoma State and sensational sophomore Matthew Wolff Monday at Blessings Golf Club near Fayetteville, Ark. Wolff claimed the NCAA individual title with ease after his final round of 3-under left him at 10-under 278, five shots clear of Steven Fisk of Georgia Southern, who finished at 5-under playing as an individual.
The Cowboys finished 31 shots ahead of second-place Vanderbilt and will carry the No. 1 seed into Tuesday’s 7 a.m. match play quarterfinals against SMU, which defeated Clemson in a one-hole playoff for the final spot.
While the Cowboys will go for consecutive national titles for the first time in the school’s long, proud golf history, don’t overlook the other state representative. Ryan Hybl’s gritty Sooners, the 2017 champions, are in match play for the fourth consecutive year, making seniors Blaine Hale and Brad Dalke the first NCAA players from any school to compete in match play four years in a row.
The Sooners finished tied for fourth with Texas and will face the Longhorns early Tuesday in the quarterfinals Should OU and OSU advance, they would square off in the semifinals at 1 p.m.
Quade Cummins and Garett Reband each shot 74, freshman Patrick Welch, who swings crosshanded, shot 75, Hale 77 and Dalke 78 for a 12-over round of 300. Most of the Sooners got off to shaky starts but gutted out their rounds on the exceedingly difficult Blessings in windy conditions while their competition struggled as well.
“This is awesome to be back in match play,” Hale said. “For Brad and I to have competed in match play all four years really shows how consistently good the program has been. The guys before us laid the groundwork and now hopefully we have put the program on a great foundation for the guys behind us.”
“I feel like my game elevates in match play. I’ve been lucky enough to have some success in match play over the years and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I’m excited. OSU has been whipping everyone through these four rounds, but tomorrow is a clean slate. All that matters is what’s going on in that match at that moment.”
Hybl was emotional discussing the impact of Dalke and Hale in building OU into an elite national program, but also relieved that the Sooners regrouped and safely advanced.
“I saw a lot of ugly golf out there early,” he said. “True to our character, our guys are three or four over and they just were out there grinding their tails off. We didn’t give up too much coming down the stretch. Our guys did what they had to do and we’ve got a fighting chance.
“For Brad and Blaine, it’s special. Not just to be here four times in a row, but to actually take it all the way one time. I was walking down the fairway with Patrick and told him, hey, these big guys have got us here four times in a row, now the mantle falls to you and the younger guys. It’s just really neat to see. I’ve talked very emotionally with both those guys about what their impact and legacy means to this program.”
Wolff became the ninth individual champion for Oklahoma State and the first since Jonathan Moore in 2006. The Cowboys will be going for their 12 national championship and the Sooners will be looking for their third.
Wolff, who shot a 40 in his first nine holes Friday, like Tiger Woods did on his way to his first victory at Augusta National, made 20 birdies in the tournament to overpower the field in recording his record sixth individual victory. His 69 was equaled Monday by Hayden Wood, who played brilliantly in his final 36 holes after struggling the first two days. Viktor Hovland shot a 1-under 71 to finish tied for 15th, while senior Zach Bauchou shot 75 and tied for eighth. Austin Eckroat, who led through 36 holes, closed with a 78 but still tied for eighth as the Cowboys placed three in the top-10.
In the final round Monday, Wolff started well with birdies on holes 5 and 6. Over the four days, Wolff played holes 1-9 at 8-under-par and, after a slow start to his championship, he played his final 63 holes at 14-under par. Wolff sealed the championship with birdies on holes 10, 15 and 17 for a 3-under-par 69.
“It was certainly nice to have a front row seat to the show that Matt put on,” said OSU coach Alan Bratton, who noted that Wolff hit an 8-iron from 151 yards on one hole and from over 200 on another with his ability to change swing speeds. “He worked the ball both ways. He did a fantastic job of keeping his composure after the slow start. Hopefully that’s a lesson he’s learned and remembers the rest of his life.”
Wolff said his goal for match play is the same as stroke play. “We killed everyone and want to do the same in match play.”
“We want to be the best golf team ever,” Wolff said. “I know that’s a big statement, and we’ve had so many great teams and great players and Hall of Famers at OSU. But we have a chance to be the first to win the NCAA back-to-back and that would be a great thing. I’d love to help give that back to the school that has given me so much.”