By Ken MacLeod
EDMOND – Where does the record 59 shot by Edmond North senior Parker Sands Friday on the Oak Tree Country Club East Course in the Oklahoma Open rank in the long, proud history of achievements by Oklahoma high school golfers?
Right at the top, according to players, media and coaches.
“I would rank that right there with Austin Eckroat winning Class 6A as a freshman,” said Sam Humphreys, host of the 73rd Hole Podcast and 73rd Hole Radio Show on The Sports Animal. “We’re talking about a long line of great players but that is amazing.”
Oklahoma golf historian and Baylor golf coach Mike McGraw, while not permitted to comment specifically about Sands due to NCAA rules, said for a high school player to shoot 59 in a tournament with professionals “is stunning.”
“Breaking 60, even for professionals, is a really daunting barrier,” he said. “Hence, the obligatory “we’re on 59 watch…” comments anytime a player is 9 under through 12 holes…
“But, Tour players have seen other Tour players do it numerous times, so it seems more plausible. Junior golfers haven’t seen other juniors do it (or at least they don’t know of instances where it has happened), so it seems much more unlikely. Shooting a 59 as a junior golfer, in a tournament with professionals, is a stunning accomplishment.”
Eckroat, in the midst of a successful rookie season on the PGA Tour, shot rounds of 67-68-66 to finish tied for 11th at 9-under despite not making many of the makeable birdie opportunities his sharp ball striking provided, said he was extremely impressed by what Sands accomplished.
“That is very impressive,” said Eckroat, who himself set a scoring record of 61 across the street at the difficult Oak Tree National, where both he and Sands are members. “I’ve never shot 59 and look at all the pros who have played this course in the history of this event. You have to play some great golf and it’s a mental test as well. You’re 9 under and you’ve still got to go make those last two birdies. To be able to do it is impressive, even if you’re on fire.”
Sands was certainly aflame. Starting on the back nine, he was 4-under through four holes after a birdie-par-eagle-birdie start when the thought of 59 first flashed through his mind.
“I told myself not to get ahead of myself, just stay in the moment and try to do the best I can on each shot,” Sands said.
After making the turn at 6-under, Sands chipped in for eagle on the par-5 fourth hole, breaking a string of five consecutive pars and moving him to 8-under on the par-70 course.
“It checked up right before the hole and rolled in like a putt,” Sands said. “After that 59 popped into my head again. I was like I can actually do this.”
Sands didn’t waste time after that, making birdies on holes 5, 6 and 7 to reach 11-under with two holes to play. He was able to “coast” in for his 59, at least by not finishing his round as he did in Thursday’s opening 72 where he ruined a 3-under score with a triple bogey and double bogey on the final two holes.
“That gave me a little fuel to take it deep,” Sands said. “But I really can’t put it into words. I just got in this mode and went unconscious, really. The putter gets locked in. Today (a final-round 69 to finish tied for eighth), I couldn’t get a putt to the hole.”
The 59 broke the Oklahoma Open record of 61 shot by John Bizik in 1997 and matched by Max McGreevy in 2017. It bettered Sands’ previous best round of 62 shot at Lake Hefner in an Oklahoma Junior Golf Tour event in 2021 during which he made eight birdies and an eagle. Sands also shot rounds of 64-64 to set an OJGT scoring record of 16-under for two rounds at the Lake Hefner event in 2022.
“That’s very impressive,” said touring pro Hayden Wood of Edmond after taking time to congratulate Sands on his round. “When I was in high school I was trying to shoot 69, not ten shots better.”
Following his senior season at Edmond North, Sands plans to be shooting those low scores for the University of Florida, to whom he has given a verbal commitment. He said the reaction to the 59 from family and friends has been a joy.
“It’s been amazing the love and support I’ve received,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for any better”
Eckroat enjoying rookie season on PGA Tour
For Edmond natives and current PGA Tour players Eckroat and Max McGreevy, playing in the Oklahoma Open continues a long tradition of participation by local PGA Tour members.
Eckroat, who missed eight of nine cuts last spring before rebounding with seven made cuts that include five top-30 finishes and a tie for second at the AT&T Byron Nelson, narrowly missed making it to the FedEx Cup playoffs, entering the final week prior at the cutoff number of 70 and dropping to 74 after missing the cut at the Wyndham Championship. He will play four or five events this fall to try to move into the top 60, but is guaranteed of keeping his PGA Tour card for 2024.
Following his final round he was busy signing hats and giving away balls to young fans, part of what makes golf in Edmond so special.
“When I was growing up I looked up to Kevin Tway or Robert Streb and it’s good to see the next generation looking up to me and hopefully following in my footsteps,” he said. “It’s part of what makes Edmond golf so good. I wanted to be like Nick (Heinen) and Hayden (Wood), they wanted to be like Kevin and Will Kropp. Now there’s a generation below me and a generation below them.”
Eckroat said he could hardly have gotten less out of his three rounds of solid ball striking. But battling his putting is not new and he said he has put at least 15 different putters into play this year in a search for one that feels just right.
“It’s not really an issue, I’m not missing short putts or anything,” he said. “It’s just trying to get one that I feel great over. I felt good over the putts all week here but just misread the greens and didn’t make a damn thing. You would think I would be better at reading these greens after having played here my whole life.”