Dalke, 13, stands by early commitment to OU

At the age of 12, Brad Dalke made headlines in 2010 when he made a verbal commitment to play college golf at Oklahoma – in 2016.

At the age of 12, Brad Dalke made headlines in 2010 when he made a verbal commitment to play college golf at Oklahoma – in 2016.

Boys Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Scott Scheffler2014TX67.26
2Zecheng Dou2015CA67.76
3Andy Zhang2016FL68.34
4Austin Connelly2015TX68.42
5Brad Dalke2016OK68.46

REUNION, Fla. – A small crimson Oklahoma towel hangs from Brad Dalke’s golf bag, the lone sign of his future allegiance. It’s a stark contrast to the boldness with which he made the decision.

Three months ago, Dalke, of McKinney, Texas, ambitiously gave a verbal commitment to the Sooners – at the age of 12. Not surprisingly, the move elicited plenty of reaction, from whether a kid so unproven should make such a leap of faith, to whether it was a publicity stunt, to the ethics of college recruiting. All healthy debate, sure, but it overlooked one significant distinction:

This was no ordinary seventh-grader.

• • •

Brad Dalke is 5-8, 180 pounds, the son of a former Oklahoma linebacker. His wrists are too thick for a bracelet, his glove size an XL. He doesn’t play like a pre-teen, either, routinely hitting tee shots over 280 yards and displaying the kind of on-course discipline needed to handle the rigors of 36 holes on a championship-caliber layout. Perhaps more impressive is his demeanor – no sulking, feet-dragging or club-tossing, an embarrassing epidemic that, alas, has become increasingly prevalent among the junior ranks.

And yes, Dalke’s swing looks flawless, too, his angles are perfect, and he surely possesses all the tools to make a significant impact, at this level and beyond. He stumbled down the stretch Saturday on his way to a 76 during the first round of the Golfweek Junior Invitational on a day when the wind blew and unseasonably cool temperatures made club selection a chore at the Independence Course at Reunion Resort.

“I wish I’d finished better,” said Dalke, six shots back of co-leaders Sepp Straka and Sean Kelly entering the final round, “but it was a tough day for scoring.”

With bold proclamations come heightened expectations, and Dalke, to his credit, recognizes that. His decision to commit so early sparked debate not about the school to which Dalke committed, but rather the timeliness of his commitment. He won’t set foot on a college campus for six more years (fall 2016), leaving many to wonder what the future may hold:

What if, in three years, powerhouses like Oklahoma State or Georgia or USC begin inquiring?

What if, in five years, another university better suits his academic interests?

What if his body changes, or his swing gets off track, or he loses the competitive fire needed to compete at the next level?

Reader poll

Should a 12-year-old give a verbal college commitment?

  • Yes 18%
  • No 79%
  • Undecided 3%

457 total votes.

“Will he change his mind?” Brad’s mother, Kay Dalke, asked rhetorically. “One-hundred percent no.”

Because connections to the Sooner State run deep. Brad’s mother played college golf at Oklahoma; his father, Bill, played on the football team; in Brad’s room there is an Oklahoma football helmet, an Oklahoma banner, piles of clothes with Oklahoma’s logo emblazoned on the front, including Oklahoma pajamas.

“It’s the only place I’ve wanted to go,” said Dalke, the No. 1-ranked player in the 2016 class (and No. 479 overall) in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings. “I’m really firmly set. If I had even a little doubt, I wouldn’t have done it.”

When Ryan Hybl was hired by Oklahoma in June 2009, Dalke researched the new coach and promptly e-mailed him, expressing his interest in some day playing for the Sooners. A few months later, Dalke attended an Oklahoma football game as his first unofficial visit, and called Hybl periodically to keep him apprised of how his game was progressing. That winter, when news broke that a 13-year-old quarterback from Delaware had given a verbal commitment to play football at USC, Dalke phoned Hybl again.

“Coach said he’d seen that, and that he wanted to meet up because there was something he wanted to talk about,” Dalke recalled. “That was kind of foreshadowing.”

Sure enough, he made it official during a February visit to Norman. When Golfweek first reported Dalke’s commitment, in August, the message boards exploded, with many online readers questioning how a 12-year-old, who hadn’t yet begun his first day of seventh grade, already had verbaled to a college.

So, why now? Why not wait?

“Oklahoma had been struggling as a team the last few years, and I knew that it would make me a little famous for a month or however long,” Dalke said. “I like the spotlight. I thought it’d be good for both of us.”

The response from Dalke’s peers was mixed, too. Some applauded his decision. Others wondered if he was abiding by NCAA regulations. And a few, not surprisingly, said he was making a huge mistake.

“If you don’t have the generations of Oklahoma ties like we do, you don’t understand it,” Kay Dalke said. “We expected (that response). The people that Brad plays with, the friends we’ve acquired, none of them were surprised. It’s an OU loyalty, and they can tell Brad has the game to play at that next level.

“So why do it early? Because it’s the only place he wanted to go.”

And now, for the first time in months, the focus finally can return to his golf. Yes, his future.

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