Record-shattering performance lifts UCO to regional title at KickingBird

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EDMOND – Central Oklahoma put together the best postseason performance in school history Saturday and did with impeccable timing for the final round of the 2024 NCAA Division II Central/Midwest Regional Championships at KickingBird Golf Club.

UCO won the team title by one shot, posting a 17-under-par 823 after 54 holes of play at the City of Edmond’s  6,944-yard par-70 golf course. That mark is the second-best 54-hole score in school history and the best ever in a postseason tournament.

The Bronchos started the tournament with a respectable 2-over-par 282 on Thursday, then warmed up with a 6-under 274 on Friday. Central Oklahoma was third in the team standings to start the day, then immediately got to work on a dominant round of golf.

Bennett Baldwin fired a 6-under-par 64, the third lowest round in school history, and finished the tournament second in the individual standings. Baldwin was locked in on Saturday, starting the day with three consecutive pars before sinking four birdies over the next six to turn back to No. 1 4-under. He alternated par-birdie, par-birdie, par-birdie to get to 7-under going to No. 7. That stretch also pulled Baldwin into a tie for the lead.

On No. 7, Baldwin had his only bogey, but finished with two straight pars, the final putt clinching the first regional title for the Bronchos since 2015.

Baldwin’s 10-under par is tied for fourth lowest in a 54-hole tournament, and his 201 strokes to get there this weekend is tied for second fewest in school history.

Baylor Bostick was also dialed in on Saturday for the Bronchos with the freshman from Duncan, Oklahoma firing a 3-under-par 67. Bostick was 1-under after the back nine with two birdies and a bogey. But then he sank three-straight birdies on Nos. 3-4-5 to get to 4-under for the tournament. Bostick had three straight pars after that before a bogey on No. 9 left him at 3-under for the day and 1-over (34th) for his first career regional championship.

Nick Canales and Jordan Wilson were right along with their teammates in putting together a big day for the Bronchos. Canales had a bogey-free round with birdies on the 224-yard Par 3 14th, and the 525-yard Par 5 fourth. Wilson did have a pair of bogeys on the day but had four birdies, with three on the front nine at Nos. 12, 15, and 18, and one more on the front nine with a birdie on the same Par 5 No. 4 that Canales birdied right in front of him.

Kyle Hickey, who posted a team-low 68 on Friday, shot an even-par 70 on Saturday’s final round and was not a counting score. Hickey came out strong and was 1-under through eight before back-to-back bogeys put him 1-over on the front nine. Hickey though responded with birdies on No. 3 and No. 4 to flip his score back. Hickey went double-bogey, birdie on 7 & 8 to end the back and forth finish even par.

The Bronchos’ 267 ties the lowest round by a team in school history. The previous instance happened during the 2005-06 season. That round was a 21-under par finish, which is also a school record. UCO’s regional championship performance on Saturday, a 13-under-par day for the Bronchos, is now second in school history to par behind the other 267.

Central Oklahoma with its fourth regional championship in school history, now advances to the NCAA Division II Men’s Golf National Championships in Florida beginning May 21.

Central will be one of 20 teams competing for a national championship May 21-25 at the Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Garden, Florida. All 20 teams and eight individuals will complete 54 holes of stroke play, which will determine an individual champion and eight teams that advance to match play format to compete for the team title.

The other Oklahoma schools in the field did not advance. RSU finished 10th and Northeastern State placed 14th. However Rogers State’s Elliot-Han Monteremal qualified individually as he finished in a three-way tie for seventh place after shooting 205 (-5) for the tournament, with a 67 (-3) today, and was the top individual on a non-advancing team. He is the first Hillcat since Luke Palmowski in 2021 to advance to the final site.

Monteremal will train and prepare to travel to Winter Garden, Fla. on May 21-25 at Orange County National Golf Club for the NCAA Division II National Championships.

Here are the top five teams from each of the four regional championships:

Atlantic/East: Gannon, Charleston, St. Thomas Aquinas, Indiana, Pa., Post
Central/Midwest: Central Oklahoma, Henderson State, Harding, Grand Valley State, Ferris State
South/Southeast: North Georgia, Coker, Lee, West Florida, Wingate
South Central/West: Western New Mexico, Oklahoma Christian, Colorado Christian, West Texas A&M, Cal State Monteray Bay

UCO’s last trip to nationals was 2016 when the Bronchos finished ninth, just missing the match-play portion of the championships. The Bronchos also won regional titles in 2015, 2011, and 2005.

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Ken MacLeod

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