By Murray Evans
OKLAHOMA CITY (June 14, 2019) – Blessed with the rare opportunity to win an Oklahoma Golf Association title on his home course, Blake Gibson admittedly tightened up down the stretch Friday morning at The Greens Country Club.
But just in time, Gibson found his mojo, drilling an approach shot on No. 18 within three feet of the flagstick and securing a 2-up win over Don Cochran of Norman in the championship match of the OGA Senior State Amateur.
The OGA title was the first for Gibson, a 53-year-old Yukon resident who’s the president of Trake Window Cleaning Inc. and was the runner-up in last year’s OGA Senior Stroke Play tournament at Oak Tree Country Club in Edmond. By the end of the match, numerous friends of Gibson from The Greens showed up to form somewhat of a gallery to cheer him on.
“It was definitely a home-course advantage at The Greens,” Gibson said. “I know The Greens like the back of my hand. You like to represent your home course and your back yard, per se, so it feels really good to win here.
“I knew I had to stay patient and hit the greens. As fast as they are, a mistake is easily made. I stayed patient, hit a couple of good shots and capitalized on those.”
Playing in hang-on-to-your-hat wind – measured between 20 mph and 37 mph during the match – the second-seeded Gibson needed every bit of home-course knowledge to fend off Cochran, the No. 17 seed who had ousted defending champion Scott Adams in the second round and hadn’t had to go the distance in any of his four matches leading into the final.
The match was all square through eight holes before Cochran seized the lead with a par at No. 9 and a birdie on the par-5 No. 10, courtesy of a chip shot that left him a two-foot putt. That put him 2-up and seemingly in control of the match.
“You have to keep hitting shots,” Cochran said. “You can’t leave things out there and Blake doesn’t leave things out there. Blake hits greens and hits shots.”
That’s exactly what Gibson did while putting together an impressive rally, winning the next three holes. He two-putted for par on No. 11, while Cochran hit an approach shot over the green, then sent a chip shot over the green, resulting in a bogey.
Gibson hit an eight-foot birdie putt on the par-3 No. 12 and his approach shot on the par-4 No. 13 landed 20 feet from the pin, allowing him an easy two-putt for par. Meanwhile, Cochran again hit an approach shot over the green on No. 13 while posting a bogey.
Cochran left his tee shot just short of the green on the tricky par-3 No. 15 and again bogeyed, while Gibson carefully two-putted from 45 feet to put himself 2-up with three holes to play.
With an eight-foot par putt to close out the match on No. 16, Gibson rushed and pushed it past the hole. Cochran hit a bump-and-run putt from about 30 feet to within six feet on No. 17, sank the par putt and won the hole as Gibson – needing only to halve the hole – missed his six-footer for par.
“The hole gets little when the pressure is on,” Gibson said. “I had to get away from the outcome and think of the moment. That’s hard to do.”
Cochran’s tee shot sailed into the left rough on No. 18 while Gibson’s settled into the middle of the fairway – but down in a deep divot. Even so, Gibson – battling what at that point was a crosswind – nailed his shot while Cochran hit into a greenside bunker. When Cochran failed to hole out from there, he conceded the hole and the match.
Gibson said his approach shot “was the best shot of the whole tournament for me … I dug it out and hit a good shot.”