By Murray Evans
EDMOND – For Blaine Hale and Max McGreevy, their back nine on Saturday in the Oklahoma Open on Oak Tree Country Club’s East Course felt a lot like a qualifying day at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, circa 2018.
The former Oklahoma teammates, who led the Sooners to the NCAA Division I championship that season, staged a thrilling duel in the final round of the 109th edition of the Open, with a victor not decided until Hale rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18, moments after McGreevy had left a 15-foot try agonizingly short.
Hale’s final-round 6-under-par 64 put him at 16-under 194 for the tournament, one shot ahead of McGreevy, a PGA Tour player from Edmond who was seeking his third Oklahoma Open title. Longtime Oklahoma Golf Association staff members couldn’t immediately recall a lower winning score in the tournament’s history.
Hale, who’s now competing on smaller professional tours, picked up the $10,750 winners’ check, one of the largest of his pro career. McGreevy won $6,800 while former Southern Methodist standout Brian Dwyer closed fast with a 64 to finish third at 14-under and earn $4,200.
“Having no status (on well-known pro tours), winning a tournament like this keeps you going for a little bit longer,” Hale said. “It’s definitely a lot of help and I’m excited to get to (Korn Ferry Tour) Q-School and see what happens.
“Anytime you shoot a really low number it’s normally off the putter. I putted well, kept the ball in front of me, didn’t really ever give myself much trouble and went from there.”
Hale’s win capped a wild three-day stretch at Oak Tree, in which numerous amateurs made appearances on the leaderboard, Edmond North High School senior Parker Sands shot a course-record 59 and former University of Denver star Carson Griggs of Sand Springs posted two aces – on No. 8 on Friday and No. 6 on Saturday. Griggs tied for sixth at 11-under while Sands tied for eighth at 10-under.
McGreevy, Hale and Oral Roberts University junior Presten Richardson entered the final round tied at 10-under and were among a half-dozen golfers who held a share of the lead at some point on Saturday. On a couple of occasions, there was a five-way tie for the lead.
But on the back nine, McGreevy and Hale began pulling away. Hale hit a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 No. 11 to earn a share of the lead with Richardson and went ahead on the next hole, a par-5, chipping out of a greenside bunker before rolling in a six-foot birdie putt. He made it three straight birdies at the par-4 No. 13 with another 10-foot putt to go to 14-under.
McGreevy matched Hale with birdies on all those holes and tied him with a birdie on the par-4 No. 15, with Hale escaping with a par after his tee shot went well right into a greenside bunker. Both birdied the par-4 No. 16 and parred the par-3 No. 17. On No. 18, both had similar tee shots and approach shots before Hale made his winning putt.
“It was just like qualifying (at OU), fighting for that last spot to go to a tournament,” Hale said. “It felt very similar to that.
“Max and I have played together more times than I can count, so it’s a lot of fun. There’s definitely a comfortability to it. I knew where Max’s strengths were and I knew, even if I hit a good shot, Max was going to one-up me every single time. That’s how it went that whole back nine. Either I’d hit a good shot, or Max would hit a good shot, and we’d cover each other up. It was a really good back-and-forth battle.”
Hale and McGreevy scored the first two points in OU’s 3-1-1 title-match win over Oregon in 2018. McGreevy also spoke about how enjoyable it was to compete against his friend and former teammate.
“We have played a lot of grudge matches together, but it was a lot of fun today,” McGreevy said. “It’s always fun when we’re paired together, We’ve always kind of fed off of each other that way. It’s cool that it ended up like that. … If I had to lose, at least it wasn’t to a Poke, it was to another Sooner. I am glad to see him win. He’s been playing some really good golf, so I am glad to see him get it done.”
McGreevy wasn’t the only PGA Tour pro who returned home for the Oklahoma Open, as Austin Eckroat of Edmond tied for 11th at 9-under.
“It’s 10-15 minutes from home,” McGreevy said. “I’m excited that it worked out (to come back) and I’m glad that we got a lot of Edmond guys to play as well.”
Also in the final group on Saturday was Richardson, who held the solo lead at 12-under after a six-foot birdie putt on No. 10. He held a share of the lead through No. 12, and while he ultimately couldn’t keep up with Hale and McGreevy, he did finish at 13-under, in fourth place, to earn low-amateur honors. Richardson, from Mount Vernon, Mo., closed with a bogey-free 67.
Playing with Hale and McGreevy, “it was hard to not get intimidated, but I just settled in and accepted the pressure of having those two big guys out there and knowing I had to play. It was a great learning experience,” Richardson said.
Richardson was the second straight ORU player to earn low-amateur honors at the Open, following Lane Wallace, who did so last year.
Hale said he’ll play in the Mac Haik and Lincoln Victoria Open, an All Pro Tour event in Victoria, Texas, from Sept. 12-15, then start preparing for the first stage of Q-School, which will run from Oct. 10-13 at Muskogee Country Club.
109th OGA Oklahoma Open
Thursday, August 24, 2023 – Saturday, August 26, 2023
Oak Tree CC (East)
Blaine Hale Dallas, TX – 66-64-64 — 194
Max McGreevy Edmond, OK – 65-65-65 — 195
Brian Dwyer Southlake, TX – 70-64-62 — 196
Presten Richardson (a), Mount Vernon, MO – 64-67-66 — 197
Tyler Collet Vero Beach, FL – 68-65-65 — 198
Rob Hudson Fayetteville, AR – 66-64-69 — 199
Carson Griggs Sand Springs, OK – 65-65-69 — 199
Jonathan Brightwell Edmond, OK – 66-64-70 — 200
Zach James Sherman, TX – 65-69-66 — 200
Parker Sands (a), Edmond, OK – 59-69-72 — 200
Preston Stanley Katy, TX – 68-68-65 — 201
Trey Winstead Baton Rouge, LA – 68-68-65 — 201
Austin Eckroat Edmond, OK – 67-68-66 — 201
Philip Barbaree Shreveport, LA – 69-68-64 — 201
James Ross Spring, TX – 66-70-65 — 201
Matt Echelmeier Columbia, MO – 63-66-73 — 202
Charlie Saxon Tulsa, OK – 68-66-69 — 203
Adam House Rockwall, TX – 69-67-67 — 203
Theodore Humphrey Dallas, TX – 69-68-66 — 203
Luke Long Fayetteville, AR – 68-69-66 — 203
Matt Mabrey Sand Springs, OK – 68-69-67 — 204
Phillip Bryan (a), Mustang, OK – 71-68-66 — 205
Alejandro Armijo Rio Rancho, NM – 67-69-69 — 205
Blake Lorenz (a), Norman, OK – 68-71-66 — 205
Christian Jalomo Richmond, TX – 65-71-69 — 205
Brian Choe Farmers Branch, TX – 67-73-65 — 205
Jared Strathe Owasso, OK – 68-68-70 — 206
Jack Ireland Spring, TX – 70-68-68 — 206
Brandon Hoff Austin, TX – 70-69-67 — 206
Andrew Beckler Topeka, KS – 65-69-72 — 206
Andrew Presley Fort Worth, TX – 69-72-65 — 206
Tanner Gore Farmers Branch, TX – 65-74-67 — 206
Skyler Finnell Rancho Santa Fe, CA – 68-69-70 — 207
Jackson Drake (a), Lubbock, TX – 68-70-69 — 207
Matthew Braley Broken Arrow, OK – 70-71-66 — 207
Wil Gibson Jonesboro, AR – 69-71-67 — 207
Callum Mcneill Hockley, TX – 69-70-69 — 208
Hayden Wood Edmond, OK – 71-70-67 — 208
Evan Knight Novato, CA – 73-70-65 — 208
Alejandro Santibanez San Antonio, TX – 65-71-72 — 208
Austin Schmidt (a), Bixby, OK – 70-72-66 — 208
Junho Won Dallas, TX – 69-71-69 — 209
Connor Black Houston, TX – 70-71-68 — 209
Matt Gilchrest Grapevine, TX – 67-74-68 — 209
Caleb Hicks Arlington, TX – 72-74-65 — 211
Lane Wallace Yukon, OK – 68-74-70 — 212
Blake Abercrombie Dallas, TX – 69-75-68 — 212
Josh Fosdick Edmond, OK – 67-76-69 — 212