Oklahoma among teams to score breakthrough win
It was a big win, an impressive win, and maybe most of all a meaningful win.
That would be Oklahoma’s victory this past weekend at the Desert Shootout.
The Sooners shot a take-notice 48-under 816 and out-distanced Iowa State by 22 strokes in the 15-team field. Not only was it their first win of the season, but it was the first for the Sooners since capturing the Kansas Invitational in the September of 2009.
It meant a lot to second-season Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl and his Sooners as they dedicated the triumph to the memory of Kyle Lewis.
Lewis, a senior last year at Bethel (Okla.) High School who had signed a national letter of intent to play for Oklahoma beginning this season, died in an automobile accident last July while returning from a tournament in Broken Arrow, Okla.
“One thing we wanted to do with this victory is dedicate it to the family of Kyle Lewis,” Hybl said. “He was in our thoughts. This is not only a big win for us, but a very special one as well.”
The victory also provided a solid indication that the golfing Sooners are booming once again.
With the win, Oklahoma climbed to No. 26 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. Now I’m not positive, but I have to believe the last time the Sooners were ranked this high I didn’t have any gray hair and Hybl actually had hair.
It certainly puts Oklahoma on track to land its first NCAA postseason invitation since 2008 and maybe even advance to the NCAA finals for the first time since 2006 when it finished seventh (back then, the top 10 teams moved on to the national championship) at the Central Region.
“I’m incredibly proud of the team,” said Hybl, a former All-American during his playing days at Georgia. “They guys were really dominant. I think it showed the depth we have in our lineup.”
No question about that. The Sooners shot a final-round, 16-under 272 at the par-72 Palm Valley Golf Course in Goodyear, Ariz., to close the deal. Their 54-hole total was one stroke shy of the school record.
Sophomore Abraham Ancer, who has eight top-25 showings this season, led the assault with a most impressive 21-under 195 performance to easily capture medalist honors. That shattered the previous school record of 203 shot by Anthony Kim in 2005.
Sophomore Will Kropp, who has three top 10s this season, also topped Kim’s mark in finishing second at 15-under 201 as all five Sooners placed in the top 20 individually.
The depth Hybl mentioned was definitely evident. Senior Ryan Sirman notched his fifth top 25 and freshman Eduardo Castiello his third as they placed among the top six.
Also this season, Hybl had gotten solid performances from junior Riley Pumphrey, freshman Michael Schoolcraft, junior Ben Klaus and senior Liam Logan.
The bottom line is that during his less than two seasons at the Sooner helm, Hybl has revived this program (one that captured the 1989 NCAA Championship) and returned it to a prominent place among the nation’s best.
Expect the Sooners to return to the NCAA postseason come May and I certainly would not be surprised to see them making that short drive north from Norman to Stillwater for the NCAA finals May 31-June 5 at Oklahoma State’s Karsten Creek Golf Club.
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Speaking of first wins of the season, Oklahoma was not alone this past week.
• Tulsa fired a final-round 5-under 283 and won the Don Puckett National Invitational Tournament at the Tucson Omni Resort, which will host one of six regional championships this spring.
Coach Bill Brogden’s crew finished at 3-over 867, seven strokes better than SMU and nine lower than host Arizona in the 15-team field. Stephen Carney led the way for the Hurricane, finishing second with a 5-under 211, one stroke behind winner Jonathan Khan of Arizona.
Not only was it Tulsa’s first victory this season, it was the first outright win since the 2007 Central Region Championship (Tulsa did share first place but lost in a tiebreaker in the fall of 2007 at the Landfall Invitational).
• The Blue Devils of Duke also notched their first victory of the season – and first since the 2008-09 campaign when they won twice – with an impressive showing at the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship at Hawks Ridge Golf Club just outside Atlanta.
Duke, No. 22 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, secured the title with a solid 4-1 triumph over No. 8 Illinois. Prior to that, Duke, seeded 10th in the 16-team bracket, defeated Texas, East Tennessee State and USC.
The Blue Devils posted a record of 16-3-1 in its individual matches with Brinson Paolini and Julian Suri going 4-0-0 and Austin Cody coming in at 3-0-1.
“There are no easy wins out here,” Duke head coach Jamie Green said. “I think that says a lot about our guys because they did play hard, they played well, had great practice rounds, terrific notes and they were ready for anything. I think we’ve built some confidence and now the guys know what they can do.”
It certainly shows that, when it comes to athletics, Duke is not just a basketball school.