Left to right, OC coach David Lynn and sophomore Mateo Pulcini exchange a high-five as Pulcini exits No. 18 green on Thursday after Pulcini’s match against a Central Missouri opponent.
DETROIT (May 19, 2022) – At the start of each golf season, Oklahoma Christian coach David Lynn talks with his players about their dreams of competing for a national championship, emphasizing the amount of hard work it will take to put themselves into a position for such an opportunity.
With that hard work as their base, the Eagles took advantage of their chance on Thursday in the NCAA Division II Championship. OC beat No. 25 Missouri-St. Louis 4-0-1 in a quarterfinal match and No. 11 Central Missouri 3-1-1 in a semifinal match at TPC Michigan to move within a step of what would be the program’s fourth national championship.
No. 7-ranked OC will face No. 3 Lee (Tenn.) at 9 a.m. Eastern (8 a.m. Central) in the title match, seeking what would be OC’s first team title in the university’s NCAA Division II era. OC’s previous national golf titles came in the NAIA (2009, 2011) and National Christian College Athletic Association (fall 2012).
“What a day! I could not be more proud of our team – the way they fought, the way they scratched and ultimately the way they stepped on some necks coming down the stretch,” Lynn said. “They showed so much heart today. I’m almost speechless (about) how impressive they were and how gutsy the performance was.”
OC’s postseason journey this year has been a grind. The Eagles qualified for match play in the Lone Star Conference Championship tournament by a mere stroke. At the Division II South Central-West Super Regional, the Eagles squeezed into fourth place – and earned their trip to the national tournament – by just one stroke.
The Eagles finished fourth in the stroke-play portion of the Division II Championship, but only three shots ahead of the ninth-place team that didn’t qualify for match play. By comparison, their margin of victory on Thursday in both matches were comfortable.
Against UMSL, the Eagles fell behind over the first few holes, trailing in three matches, but OC quickly turned the tide against the Tritons. By No. 16 – the sixth hole in the match – freshman Oskari Nikku moved ahead in his match against Ian McCrary and freshman Exequiel Rodriguez did the same against UMSL’s Juan Antonio Padilla. Nikku and McCrary eventually tied with each posting a 79, while Rodriguez (1-under-par 71) rolled past Padilla (80).
Senior Andres Brictson only trailed for one hole in his match against Reilly Ahearn and took the lead for good with a par on the par-4 No. 5. Brictson held that one-shot edge the rest of the way, finishing with a 74 to Ahearn’s 75. OC sophomore Mateo Pulcini (72) led by as many as six shots against Nick Hedberg (76).
Junior Alejandro Armijo recorded an improbable comeback in his match against the tournament medalist, Joel Sylven. Sylven led by six shots just seven holes into the round and still was up by two shots with four holes left, but Sylven hit two tee shots into the water on the par-3 No. 6 and recorded a quadruple bogey, allowing Armijo took the lead with a bogey on the hole. Armijo never trailed again, finishing with a 79 while Sylven posted an 80.
Next up was a semifinal match against Central Missouri, which rallied to beat defending Division II champion Arkansas Tech 3-2 in the quarterfinals. OC took a quick lead in three matches – those involving Nikku, Brictson and Rodriguez – against the Mules and never looked back.
Nikku posted a 76 and never trailed against Central Missouri’s Alex Gentry (79). Rodriguez (71) led by as many as six shots against Nick Westrich. Brictson’s match against Thomas Henson remained close throughout – it was tied with three holes left – but Brictson never trailed. On the par-4 No. 16, Brictson posted a birdie while Henson had a double bogey. Brictson finished with a 72, Henson a 73.
Pulcini rallied from an early four-shot deficit to tie Sam Parrott, with each shooting a 73. OC’s only loss came when Armijo (77) fell to Matt Hoemann (74).
“To have the opportunity to play for (a national championship) tomorrow is fantastic,” Lynn said. “It’s hard to put into words, but it’s going to be amazing. … I can’t tell you how excited I am for my golfers to have this opportunity to play for a national championship. So few people get to do that in their careers, especially with the match play making it so much more difficult.”
As for Friday’s title match, OC and Lee have faced off once this season, in West Florida’s Argonaut Invitational in Pensacola, Fla. Lee finished second in a power-packed 17-team field, one shot ahead of third-place OC.