During the past four years, there has been no shortage of star power in Stillwater, Okla.
But while Ben Hogan Award winner Peter Uihlein is still around for his senior year, such stars as Rickie Fowler, Morgan Hoffmann and Kevin Tway have moved on to the pro ranks, leaving a new cast of players to carry the nation’s most distinguished golf program.
Though OSU’s 2011-12 players might seem like a collection of unknowns, coach Mike McGraw is confident in his team – a confidence that was reinforced by a tie for second against a loaded field in the season-opening Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club.
“You signed up for it, and you were recruited to come to Oklahoma State,” McGraw said. “Your junior record doesn’t have anything to do with what kind of college or amateur player you can be, just like your college record has nothing to do with what kind of professional you’re going to be.
What: Golfweek Conference Challenge
Who: Big 12 – Oklahoma State; ACC – Georgia Tech; Big Ten – Iowa; Pac-10 – California; SEC – Arkansas; Sun Belt – North Texas; C-USA – Tulsa; Southland – SE Louisiana; SoCon – Chattanooga; WAC – New Mexico State; MWC – New Mexico; A-Sun – Kennesaw State; A-10 – Xavier; MAC – Ball State; Big West – UC Irvine
When: Sunday-Tuesday, Sept. 24-27
Where: Spirit Hollow Golf Course, Burlington, Iowa
“I don’t look at them as second-class just because they don’t have the junior golf resume. I think you just have to say, ‘Hey, guys: This is your chance. Go out there and be a leader.’ It’s time for them to get in there and play the kind of golf they told me they were going to play when they got here.”
Here’s a look at the players that will be joining Uihlein in the starting five this year:
Sean Einhaus, Borken, Germany
Last season: Four top 10s in eight starts, including a T-4 showing at the NCAA South Central Regional.
Olympia Fields: T-15 (71-70-76)
McGraw’s take: “Sean has one of the better short games that I’ve ever coached. He was very, very technical when he first got to college. He was always working on his golf swing and always changing his golf swing and bouncing from one swing thought to the next. But he’s made a commitment to learning how to play golf again; playing the game and enjoying the artistic side of the game.”
Challenges: “He’s been inhibited by the technical changes he was trying to make in his golf swing and all the different things he was trying to do. I think his best golf is in front of him.”
Highlight: “The putt he made against Carter Newman at last year’s national championship. He made a 20-footer – a left-to-righter that probably broke 2 feet. He had to have it to extend to a playoff. I think that was a big turning point in Sean’s career, to know that he could stand up and make one when he needed to. It really meant a lot to him.”
• • •
Talor Gooch, Midwest City, Okla.
2010-11 Ranking: 101
Last season: Seven top-25 finishes in 13 starts, including a third-place finish at the South Central Regional.
Olympia Fields: T-25 (72-74-74)
McGraw’s take: “He’s a kid I’ve known since he was in seventh grade. I think he’s got the potential to be a great player. He seems to be gaining confidence as time goes by – with each week and each tournament. He played very well in the last three tournaments last year, especially in match play at the national championship.”
Challenges: “Learning how to step up and be a leader. He’s going to have to learn how to do that. I think he’s got it in him, but we’ll see.”
Highlight: “Those two matches he played at the national championship (a 4-and-2 win over Alex Redfield of Ohio State and a 7-and-6 win over Augusta State’s Olle Bengtsson). He was very, very dominant in those two. The way he played that week was a great highlight for him.”
• • •
Drew Page, Waynesville, N.C.
2010-11 Ranking: 93
Last season: Four top-25s in six starts, highlighted by a T-10 finish at the Ameri Ari Invitational.
Olympia Fields: T-5 (69-73-72)
McGraw’s take: “He didn’t get to play at all his freshman year after walking on from North Carolina. Last year, he played in the (Golfweek/Ping) Preview and was in fifth place with two holes to go and made a couple bogeys coming in. He played great in Hawaii, and this fall he’s already off to a good start.
“What I like about Drew is that he’s an athlete and a competitor. I think he remembers his days of playing other sports when he was a kid. I think he thinks there’s a direct relationship between the way he competed in those sports and playing competitive golf.”
Challenges: “I don’t think he’s afraid of stepping up on a stage. He may be now that he’s had a few good finishes and is going to be looked at a little differently. That may be a bit of a challenge for him, but he did a great job stepping up in our first event.”
Highlight: “That would have to be last week at Olympia Fields. That was his best college finish, and he looked great. He also birdied the final hole at Augusta State when we needed him, and we won by one shot. He hit a wedge in there to 2 feet.”
• • •
Kevin Dougherty, Murrieta, Calif.
2010-11 Ranking: N/R
Last season: Two top-20s in four starts, including a fourth-place finish as an individual at the ORU Shootout.
Olympia Fields: T-33 (70-79-73)
McGraw’s take: “He’s a player that’s played in two U.S. Amateurs already, and he’s played some really good golf. He’s got a homemade golf swing, which I love because it’s really ‘him.’ He’s the longest player on the team. He hits it farther than Peter Uihlein, which is kind of hard to believe that he can do that at 140 pounds.
Challenges: “He doesn’t have a ton or real highlights yet; he’s just trying to establish himself as a member of the team and find a place in the top five.”