Quade Cummins bounced back from two mediocre rounds of 77-73 with a 4-under 68 in the final round, helping his Sooners shoot a 10-under 278 and move up from ninth to fourth in the Albuquerque Regional. The top five teams advance to the 2021 NCAA Mens Championship May 28-June 2 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Jonathan Brightwell, who tied for second individually at 10-under, shot a final round of 2-under 70, as did Garret Reband and Ben Lorenz, who was a second-round substitute for Patrick Welch. The Sooners’ 277 final round was better than every team except winner Texas Tech, which shot 276 and finished at 26-under, while OU was 13 strokes behind at 13 under.
The Sooners were thrilled to move on after residing in ninth place, with five shots and four teams between them and the cut line after Tuesday’s second round.
“What a week!” said Sooner coach Ryan Hybl. “I couldn’t be more proud of how they battled all day today and did what was asked of them. And really all week. Our first two rounds were poor, but it wasn’t because we weren’t fighting. We just didn’t have very good golf games. We weren’t making birdies on the easy holes and were giving up a lot of shots to the other teams.”
Among the four Sooner counters Wednesday, they played the par-5 first hole in a collective five under, with three birdies and an eagle by Brightwell, getting off to a great start and putting everyone in a positive mind set. Instead of laboring under the expectations caused by their lofty rankings, the Sooners got back to solid aggressive golf and avoided what would have been a disastrous finish to a great season.
“It was a grim scene the last few days,” Hybl said. “The van rides were not very good. The momentum was not in our favor after that first day. Everything is more magnified when the expectations are high and sometimes it’s very difficult to live up to that.”
As ultra competitive as Hybl is, he said he would have felt horrible for the team and his seniors had this team not been able to experience the NCAA Championship. Seniors Brightwell, Reband and Cummins made sure that didn’t happen with their collective 8-under performance in the final round.
“What people call Sooner Magic, people equate that to having great luck in the right moments,” Hybl said. “But it’s much deeper than that. It’s believing in each other and putting in the work and having the talent and that hopeful combines to where you have a moment like we did today that puts you over the top.
“We were feeling really bad after the Big 12 (finishing second). Now we’re leaving Albuquerque with a totally different vibe. We’re super excited and we really needed that shot of momentum that today’s round provided.”
The Sooners, Aggies and Toreros were tied coming down the stretch, but four birdies on 18, including three from the redshirt senior All-Americans Reband, Cummins and Brightwell, powered the Sooners to the finish line.
“For those seniors to play like that down the stretch and help us move on means everything to me,” Hybl added. “I’ll be honest with you, I started to tear up on the 18th green just because I was so happy. I didn’t want our guys to miss out, I mean, those guys came back for moments like this.”
Brightwell made the advancement-clinching birdie putt to finish his strong week at 10-under par and share runner-up honors. The redshirt senior, who punched his ticket to the first NCAA Championship berth of his career on Wednesday, was one of four Sooners in red numbers in the final round, firing a 70 (-2) to close.
“I came to Oklahoma for moments like this,” Brightwell said. “This is why we’re here and I’ve never been to nationals so it’s a huge deal for me. It’s hard to get through regionals, especially because we didn’t have our best stuff.”
It’s the seventh top-10 finish of Brightwell’s season but the first time as the runner-up. His approach on No. 18 put him about 40 feet from the pin, and he two-putted for birdie, sending the Sooners to Scottsdale and sending his teammates into a frenzy.
“The guys swarming me on 18 is a feeling that I’ll never forget,” Brightwell added. “These guys mean everything to me and so for me to deliver and help the team out is really special.”