By Ken MacLeod
A hot and windy first round of the Gateway First Bank Junior AJGA event at Cedar Ridge Country Club in BrokenArrow was followed by one of the coolest hours many of these young competitors have yet experienced.
Tournament host Maggie Roller, also the director of instruction at Cedar Ridge, put together an all-star panel of collegiate coaches for a post-round Q&A in which they tackled subjects ranging from do’s and don’ts for prospects and their parents to their favorite all-time players.
On the course, Ryder Cowan of Edmond, who last week announced a verbal commitment to the University of Oklahoma, was the only player in the boys division to best par, shooting a 1-under 70, firing a 32 on the back nine after a disappointing opening nine in which he bogeyed both of the par-5s.
Cowan leads Matthew Comegys of Van Alstyne, Texas, and Andre Ramos of Blaine, Minn., by three shots. They each shot 73. Other Oklahomans in the hunt include Ben Stoller of Owasso in fifth at 75, while Parker Sands of Edmond, Drew Mabrey of Tulsa, Cole Luber of Mustang and Mesa Falluer of Muskogee are in a group tied for sixth at 76.
Lauren Pham of Las Vegas leads the girls division with a 73, a shot better than Audrey Rischer of Columbia, Mo., Olivia Coit of Edmond and Maelynn Kim of Katy, Texas, each at 75.
Jenni Roller of Jenks is in a group tied for seventh at 77 and Raychel Nelke of Pocola is tied for 10th at 78.
Participating in the question and answer session were Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl, Baylor coach Mike McGraw, current University of Tulsa coach Annie Young, former Tulsa All-American and coach and current Auburn coach Melissa Luellen and her mother Dale McNamara, the legendary first and four-time national championship coach at Tulsa.
The session was moderated by former Tulsa All-American Michael Boyd, who also played professionally including a season on the PGA Tour.
For the parents in the session, all the coaches reminded them how important their attitudes and body language can be to their still developing players.
Hybl related how when he was playing tournaments his father carried a portable chair which he would tap on the cart path as he walked, louder if Hybl was playing poorly.
“That drove me crazy,” he said.
“Kids are hyper sensitive to body language,” Luellen said. “My mom was my coach, and she thought she was not reacting at all, but if I hit a bad shot and she looked to the ground, I was thinking “oh geez, she’s disappointed in me.’ Keep your eyes at eye level and cheer for good shots. One thing I don’t see much of in junior golf is applause for good shots.”
Asked for their favorite traits in golfers, the coaches centered on how they treat others.
“The first turnoff for coaches to see is for anybody to treat their parents poorly,” Hybl said.
“I like fighters, someone who competes hard to the very end,” Young said. “But I also look for how you treat other people. If you don’t treat your parents well, you’re probably not going to treat your coaches well.
“I like to watch how you play bad golf,” McGraw said. “Nobody likes to play bad golf, but most of your rounds you are not going to be happy with, and it’s how you handle that and limit the damage that tells us a lot. “
Asked for the best player they have coached, it was an easy answer for McNamara with Nancy Lopez while McGraw went with Rickie Fowler. Hybl named both Max McGreevy and Abraham Ancer, while Young named former OSU NCAA champion Caroline Hedwall. Luellen selected Azahara Munoz, whom she coached to the NCAA championship at Arizona State in 2009.
Cowan, going into his senior season at Oklahoma Christian, said his choice between OU and OSU was extremely tough, with family ties to OSU and much respect for Alan Bratton and the golf program. In the end, he said that OU’s move to the Southeastern Conference was a positive as he’s a huge football fan, and that his relationship with Hybl and with all the other Soooner players, many of whom are Oklahomans, was the deciding factor.