DETROIT (May 18, 2022) – On a miserable day for golf, Oklahoma Christian’s players persevered and did what was necessary to send the program to a place it’s never been before – the NCAA Division II quarterfinals.
Overcoming temperatures in the 50s and a steady rain at TPC Michigan, the Eagles posted a team score of 298 on Wednesday in the third and final round of stroke play in the NCAA Division II Championships. That gave No. 7-ranked OC an overall score of 894, good for fourth place in the 20-team field. The top eight teams advanced to the match-play portion of the tournament to determine the team champion.
It was close – the Eagles finished only three shots ahead of the ninth-place team, Indianapolis (Ind.), and their quarterfinal berth wasn’t secured until Mateo Pulcini grinded out a bogey on No. 18 that secured himself a top-10 individual finish in the 108-man field. But the Eagles, in only their second appearance in the Division II national tournament, will face fifth-seeded Missouri-St. Louis at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
The quarterfinal winners will meet in the semifinals on Thursday at 1:30 p.m., with the title match set for Friday at 9 a.m. The OC-UMSL winner will play top-seeded Central Missouri or eighth-seeded Arkansas Tech in the semifinals.
“I feel the emotions pouring out of me right now,” OC coach David Lynn. “It’s been an extremely stressful day. It rained on us the whole time. I couldn’t be more proud of my five guys and the way that they battled in the conditions today. They way that they played under that pressure, in those conditions, I will never forget.”
The top 10 teams entered Wednesday within eight shots of each other and there was much jockeying for position throughout the round. As OC played, it moved as high as sixth and as low as 10th, with the Eagles being three shots below the cut line at one point. Birdies were at an absolute premium, with the Eagles’ quintet combining for only 12.
Five of those came from senior stalwart Andres Brictson of Merida, Mexico, who overcame two double bogeys to post a 2-over-par 74 on the 7,056-yard course. That helped him move up the leaderboard into 18th place at 223 (7-over).
Exequiel Rodriguez of Buenos Aires, Argentina, named earlier Wednesday to the Golf Coaches Association of America’s All-Freshman teamfor Division II, turned in OC’s top scorecard, a 73 that included two birdies. Perhaps most importantly, he finished with five straight pars that helped keep the Eagles above the cut line. He tied for 24th overall at 225.
Junior Alejandro Armijo of Rio Rancho, N.M., also had his struggles – four bogeys and a double bogey at No. 10 – but he came up with a nifty par safe after hitting into nasty rough in front of the green on No. 11, then hit his tee shot on the par-3 No. 12 close enough for a tap-in birdie. He had two other birdies on the front nine and finished with a 75. He tied for 65th individually at 232.
Pulcini, a sophomore from Rio Cuarto, Argentina, anchored the Eagles’ lineup. He entered the round just one shot out of the lead, but a double bogey on the par-4 No. 5 effectively took him out of medalist contention. Over his last 11 holes, though, he was only 1-over despite the difficult playing conditions and his 76 left him at 219 (3-over), in a tie for seventh. It was his seventh top-10 tournament finish this season. After the round, he learned he’d been named to the GCAA’s All-America first-team list.
OC freshman Oskari Nikku posted a final-round 81 and tied for 70th at 234.
Once the Eagles were finished, they sat and watched teams that started later than they did falter, one by one, and slide down the standings. As that happened, OC moved up to sixth, than fifth, and finally landed in fourth place. Only Central Missouri (890), Colorado State-Pueblo (893) and Lee (Tenn.) (893) finished ahead of the Eagles.
“I am beyond proud of them, the way that they stepped up in that moment on the last few holes there, when they knew what they needed to do in order to be successful to make the match-play, which was our goal coming in,” Lynn said. “I’m excited. We’re starting fresh with eight teams here tomorrow morning. You can’t be more excited than to have the opportunity to play for a national championship.”
UMSL’s Joel Sylven won a one-hole playoff with Keegan Bronnenberg of Indianapolis for medalist honors after both players tied at 214 (2-under).
The other quarterfinal pairings on Thursday will feature Colorado State-Pueblo vs. seventh-seeded Georgia Southwestern and Lee vs. sixth-seeded Barry (Fla.).