PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The way Brad Dalke has played through two rounds of the Junior Players Championship, it wouldn’t be a surprise if every college coach in the country were after him.
The only problem for most coaches walking the grounds at TPC Sawgrass this weekend is that they won’t see Dalke’s game helping their team in the future.
That’s because the 15-year-old, a high school freshman from McKinney, Texas, has already committed to Oklahoma. In fact, he did it when he was 12.
“That’s the only place I wanted to go,” said Dalke, who is 4 under after a 3-under 67 Saturday on the Dye’s Valley Course, just one shot back of leaders Jim Liu and Robby Shelton heading into the final round.
“I knew I was going there from the beginning. I wasn’t going to go anywhere else.”
Dalke’s commitment should come as no shock. His dad, Bill, was a starting linebacker at Oklahoma when the Sooners won the 1975 national championship. His mother, Kay, played golf at the school. His grandfather, Ken Pryor, was a basketball player there and helped the Sooners reach the national championship game in 1947.
Dalke is the youngest of seven brothers and sisters – all of them root for the Sooners. His brother Tommy traveled with him to the Junior Players.
“It’s in the blood,” said Dalke, wearing an Oklahoma hat.
Even though he’s still four years away from graduating high school, Dalke is well on his way to adding to that family tradition at Oklahoma. He finished second at the Rolex Tournament of Champions last June, made match play at the U.S. Junior Amateur in July and was T-4 at the Junior PGA Championship last month.
Dalke often plays in junior tournaments against kids who are two and three years older than him. He’s gotten used to it and his ability to not get rattled helped out early on Saturday.
While his playing competitors, Liu and Shelton, each recorded three birdies in their first five holes, Dalke had yet to break even for the round.
“It was rough,” Dalke said. “I was still even, but I felt like I wasn’t doing very good because they were all making putts.”
What Dalke gives up in age, he more than makes up for it off the tee, and that’s what helped him keep the leaders close.
He consistently drove the ball past Liu and Shelton. At the 323-yard, par-4 seventh hole, Dalke nearly drove the green and made birdie. He then reached the green at the par-5 16th in two, and just missed his eagle putt.
It was a solid performance that included four birdies and just one bogey, and it kept him in the hunt heading into the final round on the Stadium Course.
The key to winning for Dalke will be to stay patient. He’s already proven twice this weekend that he can finish strong.
A little rest might do him some good, too. But with Oklahoma opening its football season against UTEP at 10:30 p.m. ET, that might not be so easy.
“If they’re blowing them out, then I might go to bed,” Dalke said. “But if it’s close, I’ll be up supporting.”
After all, it’s in his blood.