Photo: OSU coach Alan Bratton, OU coach Ryan Hybl, OSU senior Kristoffer Ventura and Brad Hurlbut, Division I Men’s Golf Committee Chair, Deputy Director of Athletics, Sacred Heart University.
By Ken MacLeod
STILLWATER – While fans on both sides of the Bedlam rivalry would love to see their schools square off in the match play portions of the upcoming NCAA Women’s and Men’s Championships at Karsten Creek, coaches and players made it clear how much work remains to be done before that dream can become a reality.
Speaking at an NCAA Championship press conference Thursday at Karsten Creek, OSU coach Alan Bratton and OU coach Ryan Hybl both conceded that a matchup between the defending champion Sooners and top-ranked Cowboys would be a dream for the players, fans and Golf Channel audience, but right now remains just that.
“It would be phenomenal,” Hybl said.
“This is going to be a great showcase for our program, the university, the community and our state,” Bratton said. “It would be great for us and the University of Oklahoma to be in that match play bracket.”
For that to happen, both teams need to advance through their regionals May 14-16. The Sooners are the top seed at home in Norman at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Course. OSU is the top seed at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, where Bratton and his teammates felled Tiger Woods and Stanford in a playoff to win the 1995 national championship. Bratton birdied his final three holes in regulation that day to pull the Cowboys even, then drained a 35-foot birdie on the playoff hole to help put OSU over the top.
“Obviously a lot of good memories there,” Bratton said. “The course has changed a lot since then, Jack Nicklaus did a major redesign. But for myself and our program we have a lot things have happened at that course.”
For the Sooners, taking care of business at the home regional will give Hybl a chance to erase some less pleasant memories of the two previous national championships at Karsten Creek. An All-American at Georgia, he played in the 2003 championship, but failed to break 80 in four rounds and finished 90th individually He was OU’s coach in 2011 when the Sooners finished 28th of 30 teams. But he has built the Sooners steadily since into a powerhouse.
“Those were both miserable experiences,” Hybl said. “We’re looking for better results.”
Results such as the Sooners experienced last week in the Big 12 Championship at Southern Hills, where they prevailed over OSU and four other ranked teams to win for the third time in the team’s last four tournaments.
“What I saw at Southern Hills was a group of guys that really dug in their heels and kept fighting,” Hybl said. “We were way behind the eight ball after our first nine and we need to get off to a better start at Jimmie Austin.”
Both Hybl and Bratton conceded they were still not completely set on their post-season lineups. NCAA rules now allow a team to take a sixth player and sub him in at the start of any round, so deciding who that man is could be critical.
Bratton, with one of the deepest teams in school history, is having qualifying this week, with the fifth spot occupied by Sam Stevens at the Big 12 up for grabs. Hybl said he was “qualifying/contemplating” who would be the fifth and sixth players for regionals.
Despite one of the coldest springs on record, Karsten Creek will have no issues being ready to test all facets of the best male and female collegians. The rye grass overseed in the roughs is deep and lush. It will be trimmed to just under two inches for the start of the women’s championship then allowed to grow for the men’s. Superintendent Travis Levings said it could easily grow more than an inch in the interval.
The Golf Channel will show 30 hours of live coverage of the men’s and women’s championships and another 30 hours of pre and post round coverage, plus updates on Morning Drive.
Notes: Media saw a preview of the first episode of Driven at media day. College golf fans should set their DVR’s to record the outstanding documentary of the Bedlam rivalry produced by Rickie Fowler and NBC Sports. The first episode airs at Monday at 9 p.m. CT on Golf Channel, followed by episodes May 14 at 9 p.m., May 21 at 7 p.m. and the finale June 16 on NBC.
Hybl’s two seniors – Grant Hirschman and Rylee Reinerts0n – are spending the week at a qualifier for the Mackenzie Tour in Canada with an eye on their professional futures. Through 54 holes of the 72-hole event, Hirschman is in second place at 13-under, just one shot out of the lead. Reinertson is 20th at 6-under. The Mackenzie Tour is operated by the PGA Tour as a feeder for the Web.com Tour and offers five exemptions for the players who finish 1-5 on the money list.
There are 132 players competing this week with hopes of earning Mackenzie Tour membership for the 2018 season. Below is a breakdown of the status available at each of the five Qualifying Tournaments:
|Medalist||Exempt for the 2018 season|
|2nd through 5th (no ties)||Fully exempt for the first eight tournaments and subject to the second re-shuffle|
|6th through 16th (no ties)||Fully exempt for the first four tournaments and subject to the first re-shuffle|
|17th through 40th (plus ties)||Conditionally exempt|