“I wasn’t too worried,” Oklahoma State sophomore Peter Uihlein told Golfweek Sunday evening, not too long after his Cowboys ran away with a 13-shot victory at the Big 12 Championship at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas.
It was Oklahoma State’s 53rd conference championship, Uihlein, who has long been a student of such statistics, reminded via text message later.
It was also the Cowboy’s fourth Big 12 title in a row, making it a league-best eight titles since the formation of the conference in 1996. It also was OSU’s third conference title at Whispering Pines, which has hosted just those three Big 12 championships.
“We might not have had the best spring, but you have to think about when you want to peak,” Uihlein said, the Cowboys having just ended what some people figured to be a spring slump despite a victory last month at the Linger Longer Invitational and their current No. 1 position in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Tournament finishes of 11th, ninth and fifth this spring had left some questions marks.
“We had such a good fall (wins at the Ping/Golfweek Invitational, Isleworth-UCF Invitational and an individual title for Uihlein at the Corde Valle Invitational) that we obviously showed we were one of the top teams in the country,” Uihlein said. “But we’ve been working on and tweaking some things this spring and you just want to finish strong. It’d be nice to win every went, but we’re just trying to get better as a team and we’re getting there.”
Uihlein, who ended the fall as Golfweek’s top-ranked individual but started this week at No. 27, shot four rounds of even par or better to finish runner-up and lead the Oklahoma State attack.
OSU shot a Sunday-best 7-under 282 to finish at 19-under 1,133, a tournament record, 13 shots better than second-ranked Texas A&M and 15 better than seventh-ranked Texas. Texas Tech, ranked 17th, finished in fourth, 19 back. set
Last week, Oklahoma State finished second by 21 shots to Texas A&M at the Aggies’ home event, which is played under a 6-count-5 format.
This week, OSU placed four players in the top 10 and all five in the top 22. Uihlein said it’s that kind of consistency throughout the lineup that will help most this postseason, especially come the NCAA Championship where the Cowboys made and early exit last year in the first round of match play.
“We came out firing and it was pretty nice to separate ourselves early,” said Uihlein, whose final-round 72 put him at 7-under 281 for the event, two behind individual champion Chris Ward of Texas Tech. “That was nice to see.”
OSU redshirt freshman Sean Einhaus, who has stepped up his game for the Cowboys after a tough fall, birdied his first three holes out of the gate, three of their 11 front-nine birdies. Uihlein said he could tell his team was starting to pull away after catching a glimpse of a leaderboard on the ninth hole.
So he decided to punctuate things, playing his next five holes in 4 under. He hit a wedge to 7 feet for birdie on 10, two-putted for birdie on the par-5 12th, hit 5-iron to 7 feet for birdie on 13 and lob wedge to 3 feet for birdie on 14.
“I wasn’t really too concerned about the individual title, I was just trying to make birdies,” Uihlein said. “Of course, then I decided to go bogey-double the next two holes, but I birdied 18.”
Uihlein blamed that latter stretch to two bad swings, which in the end probably cost him the individual title, marking the first time OSU hasn’t had an individual conference champion since 2006. Pablo Martin (2007), Rickie Fowler (2008) and Morgan Hoffmann (2009) won the last three.
Ward was the first Texas Tech golfer to win an individual conference title since 1996.