Photo: The Owasso boys golf team; Class 6A State Championship winners.
By Ken MacLeod
Each of the five Owasso starters missed the fairway on the par-5 18th closing hole of the Class 6A state championship at Rose Creek Golf Club in Edmond.
That was a good thing.
Owasso coach Corey Burd played a hunch that driving left into the adjoining 10th fairway would provide a better angle of attack into the green on the dogleg left which wraps around a large pond. His players were then faced with a shot of 160 to 180 yards directly over the pond and into the wind, but he liked those odds better then the traditional route from the 18th fairway, a shot that requires a draw that can easily find the pond.
The Rams played the hole in 4-under par, capped by freshman Ben Stoller’s closing eagle, to edge both Edmond North and Stillwater by four shots, 897-901. Edmond North won a one-hole playoff to take second, as individual champion Jordan Wilson made a spectacular birdie from a fairway bunker to provide the difference.
Wilson, a sophomore, shot rounds of 69-70-75 for a 3-under 213 total for a four-shot victory over Cooper Wilguess of Edmond Memorial (72-70-75). Tied for third at 218 were Charlie Jackson of Norman North (72-75-71) and Kyle Peterson of Bixby (74-74-70).
Owasso is the only team besides powerhouse Edmond North to win the title in the past 15 years, having won now in 2015 and 2019 and finished second to the Huskies the other three years.
With the Huskies starting three sophomores, other schools sensed a potential opening, as Stillwater, Edmond Memorial and Owasso all came in with championship aspirations and the lead fluctuated all afternoon as players battled a strong south wind.
Owasso’s No. 4 and 5 players Braden Lang and Antonio Gilestra shot 78 and 79 respectively to get the Rams off to a solid start. Brett Wilcoxen and Stoller each came in with a solid 76.
Minutes after Wilcoxen made a nice up-and-down for birdie from behind the 18th green, the freshman Stoller ripped a 6-iron from 184 yards to about 12 feet and drained the eagle putt, much to the delight of his teammates and the Rams contingent of fans.
“I wanted to use a 5-iron, but coach said no, hit the 6,” Stoller said. “I said okay, I’ll trust you coach. Six is my favorite club to hit. I was a little shaky when coach told me the yardage, but decided on the 6 and it was the right choice. “
Stoller made key putts all day to save par and bogey before the huge eagle putt on 17.
“This feels great,” he said. “It’s such a good feeling. My brother was a sophomore on the last Owasso team that won and they came up just short in his junior and senior years.”
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Wilcoxen added. “I was really nervous when I came in, not knowing exactly how we stood. I was more nervous when I came in than I was on the first tee. But it’s just a great feeling knowing we can do it, and we don’t have any seniors so we can do it again next year.”
The Rams played 18 the conventional way in the first two rounds Monday, but Burd checked with tournament officials after to make sure there was no issue with driving into the 10th fairway for the final round.
“I knew it was tight and I knew we had to play 18 well,” Burd said. “For Ben to pull off that shot as a freshman, what an amazing shot.”
“It’s always nice to beat Edmond North in Edmond,” Burd said. “They are synonymous with excellence in high school golf in Oklahoma. I think we’re starting to be recognized as well.”
Wilson led the Class 6A state championship through two rounds as a freshman in 2018 before fading on the final day, but his teammates prevailed for the state title. It was the other way this year, with Wilson running away with the individual title in impressive fashion.
“It was a little bittersweet, because I really wanted to win it as a team,” he said. “We have two seniors and this was their last chance, but we have three sophomore and we will be good next year.”
Tuesday’s breezy conditions were not ideal for scoring, but Wilson demonstrated his touch with several nifty chips and pitches, none more so than after hitting over the 18th green in two and being short-sided to the back pin, he nipped a lob just over a series of sprinkler heads that nearly went in. He followed that in the playoff with a shot from 150 yards out in a fairway bunker to 8 feet for the birdie that helped clinch the playoff over Stillwater.