STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma State walked away with the team championship. UCLA sophomore Pontus Widegren headed back to California with the medalist trophy.
But when all was said and done Sept. 28 at the 22nd Ping/Golfweek Preview, the golf course was the big winner.
At Karsten Creek, site of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Championship, players and coaches in the 15-team Preview field got a good indication as to what they might expect come the first week in June. What they no doubt learned is that par will be a premium score and players had better keep it in the fairways.
“This (Karsten Creek) is an awesome place,” said Darren Spease, chairman of the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Committee and senior associate athletics director at Charlotte, who was among a few committee members on hand during the Preview. “It’s a great golf course, and at the end of the day, that’s the ultimate test. I think it’s going to be a great championship.
“(Karsten Creek) certainly will challenge everyone in both the stroke-play and match-play portions of the tournament.”
The 7,407-yard, par-72 Tom Fazio-designed course offered competitors a different set of playing conditions each day. It was cool and extremely windy in Round 1 (scoring average: 77.8); sunny and warm with no wind in Round 2 (75.2); and warm with a slight breeze in Round 3 (76.4).
“For sure, this is a challenging golf course,” said Widegren, the only individual to finish under par, at 2-under 214, two strokes better than Georgia’s Hudson Swafford and Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein. “It’s not how pretty your game is; it’s if you can get it in the right places, and for the most part, I was able to do that.”
OSU’s winning score was 14-over 878, four strokes in front of UCLA, five better than Georgia and nine lower than defending NCAA champion Augusta State and 2009 NCAA winner Texas A&M. Six of the 15 teams finished 50 over par or higher.
“This is a very tough golf course, no matter what,” said OSU coach Mike McGraw. “Sure, it’s our home course, but we know how easy it can be to make a small mistake and end up with a big number.
“Winning always breeds some sort of confidence, and the fact we did it here against a good field should give our guys a boost come next spring.”
One thing is clear after this year’s Preview. Though the Cowboys certainly will have a built-in advantage at Karsten Creek, they still had better bring their A-game to win an NCAA title that has eluded them in the past two seasons after being upset in match play.
This is a course that does not play favorites.