As Oklahoma men’s golf coach Ryan Hybl turned in a 2-under 69 at Oak Tree National on May 6, he wasn’t thinking about advancing to U.S. Open sectional qualifying or even about his glory days as a professional golfer.
Hybl’s mind quickly turned to Oklahoma’s chances at the NCAA Championship, when he saw that one of his players, senior Abraham Ancer, had posted 66 that day.
“When I got in the scoring tent and they told me Abe shot a 66, I was more excited about that than I was about me shooting a 69 because he’s one of those guys that can really elevate us to a chance to make it through to nationals,” Hybl said.
In addition to Hybl, Illinois head coach Mike Small and Oregon’s Casey Martin advanced out of their respective local qualifying stages for the 2013 U.S. Open. It’s merely an afterthought as NCAA postseason approaches.
“I’m going to a sectional qualifier Monday [June 3] after hopefully standing for six days on my feet, watching my guys play and not practicing,” Small said. “Last year, I couldn’t prepare as much because we were at the national championship, and I’d rather be at the national championship watching my guys compete for a national title than sitting at the U.S. Open qualifier.”
Small’s Illinois team will be competing in the regional at Fayetteville, Ark. Oklahoma and Oregon will play in Tallahassee, Fla., beginning on Thursday.
“The biggest thing is getting my team ready, and that’s my priority,” Martin said. “I’m focused on my team getting through Tallahassee, so my mind will be off my game and that’s probably what’s best.
“If we didn’t make it to nationals, I’d have plenty of time to screw myself up.”
The NCAA Championship will be played May 28-June 2 at The Capital Club’s Crabapple Course near Atlanta. That seemingly sets up a major scheduling conflict for the coaches that will be playing in their sectional qualifiers June 3, but Hybl sees his time on the course as an afterthought.
“I’m way more worried about regionals,” Hybl said. “My playing is purely secondary for me because my job is to be a golf coach at Oklahoma.”
And that job has helped him knock off the rust in more ways than one.
“The perspective changes for me because I’m watching my guys so much,” Hybl said. “I get that much better watching golf because I’m seeing great shots, bad shots, things you should and shouldn’t be doing. I’m still constantly learning on the golf course even though I’m not swinging the club.”
Small relished the chance to compete on the same level as some of his Fighting Illini, including sophomore Alex Burge and senior Mason Jacobs.
“They were following me and supporting me and I was following them, that’s what’s cool about it,” he said. “This is their time of the year, not mine. The focus should be on those guys, but I need to try and qualify for these things because I believe if you’re an American player, you need to try and play the U.S. Open.”
The thought of playing in a fourth U.S. Open is appealing for Small, who spent time on the PGA and Web.com tours.
“I’ve played Merion once before and I loved it,” Small said of this year’s U.S. Open site. “I love old-school golf. I’m not really into this new-age golf. That would be a treat to go there and do that.”
For these three coaches, beating their players can bring the ultimate bragging rights, but sometimes losing is a good thing.
“I tell my guys a lot, ‘You still can’t beat me,’ but the better our program has gotten, the more I get beat,” Hybl said with a laugh.
Said Martin: “It’s kind of how I coach. I talk a lot of trash and tell the guys, ‘Come beat me.’ A lot of times they do, which is good, but sometimes they don’t.”