Ping/Golfweek Preview: OK State Showdown
When: Sept. 26-28
Where: Karsten Creek Golf Club, Stillwater, Okla. (Oklahoma State host)
Format: 54 holes of stroke play; 18 holes each day
Defending champion: Team: Oklahoma State, 2-under 862; individual: Peter Uihlein, 5-under, 211.
Of note:The Ping/Golfweek Preview is held each fall and normally at the site of the following spring’s NCAA Championship. It’s been held at a different twice in the past 22 years, including last year. The Honors Course declined to host the fall event, and the tournament took place at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash.
The Course: Karsten Creek is a par-72, 7,408-yard layout. It hosted the 2009 NCAA South Central Regional Championship, as well as the 2002 Preview and 2003 NCAA Championship. Augusta State won the ’02 Preview, while Clemson edged host Oklahoma State by two strokes to capture the 2003 NCAA title.
What the rankings say: The 15-team field features 14 teams in the 2010-11 Golfweek top 30 preseason rankings, including seven of the top 10 and four of the top five. All 15 teams finished last season with a Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking of 22 or better. Leading the way is the host school, Oklahoma State, which ended last season No. 1 and starts the new season in the same position. Also in the mix are preseason Nos. 2-4 – reigning NCAA champion Augusta State, Georgia and UCLA, respectively. Other preseason top 10 programs include Oregon (6), Texas A&M (8) and Arizona State (9). Rounding out the field are Texas, Georgia Tech, USC, TCU, Virginia, UNLV, Texas Tech and Clemson, which won the NCAA title in 2003 on this Karsten Creek course.
Top individuals: There are plenty to go around, that’s for sure. Twenty-two players finished last season ranked among the Golfweek/Sagarin top 50, with an equal amount gaining some sort of preseason Golfweek All-America nomination. Once again it’s Oklahoma State leading the way, with a trio of players ranked in the top 10 (first team) -- Peter Uihlein (1), Kevin Tway (5) and Morgan Hoffmann (6). Uihlein, who last month won the U.S. Amateur title and is fresh off a victory last week at Olympia Fields, and Hoffmann helped lead the U.S. to victory in the 2009 Walker Cup, while Tway won the Players Amateur this summer and tied for 11th at Olympia Fields. Georgia also has a respectable trio in Russell Henley, last season’s Golfweek Player of the Year and preseason No. 3, Harris English and Hudson Swafford, who were preseason second team. Augusta State, which has all five starters returning from its NCAA title-winning squad, is led by first-team preseason No. 9 Patrick Reed, who tied for third at Olympia Fields and was winner of the Jones Cup earlier this year, and second-team pick Henrik Norlader. Oregon, also with all five starters back from its NCAA semifinal team, is paced by Eugene Wong, the Golf Coaches Association of America’s Jack Nicklaus Award winner as Division I Player of the Year.
The scoop: The big question going in: Can anyone beat the host Cowboys on their own course? Karsten Creek is one of those layouts where course knowledge is as equally important as one’s shotmaking. And no one knows this course better than the Cowboys. In 2009, the NCAA South Central Regional was held at Karsten Creek. Oklahoma State lapped the field with a 22-shot victory over Arkansas. All five Cowboys finished among the top 25 individually, including the current Big Three: Tway (1st), Uihlein (2nd) and Hoffmann (T-13). Yes, it’s their home course, but the Cowboys better bring their A-games.
Picks: Team win: Oklahoma State; place: Augusta State; show: Texas A&M. Individiual win: Kevin Tway, Oklahoma State; place: Patrick Reed, Augusta State; show: Peter Uihlein, Oklahoma State.
Short shots: Karsten Creek, the dream of former Oklahoma State men’s golf coach and currently the school’s athletic director Mike Holder, opened in 1994. It was named in honor of the late Karsten Solheim, founder of Karsten Manufacturing (Ping) and longtime OSU supporter. The course’s signature lake, Lake Louise, honors Solheim’s wife. ... The course hosted its first college event in 1996, the Karsten Creek Collegiate, and was venue for the 2001 NCAA Central Regional. Interestingly enough, Oklahoma State did not win either of those, in fact, it finished sixth in that regional. ... If you’ve never been to Karsten Creek and are attending this year’s Preview or next year’s NCAA, a slow walk through the clubhouse is a must. It’s like walking through a museum of history for the OSU golf programs. ... Scott Davies of Cheshire, England, is the Director of Instruction/Head Golf Professional at Karsten Creek. During his career he has worked with some of the world’s top pro players, including Nick Price, Mark McNulty, Peter Baker and Silvia Cavalieri. He began his professional career in 1991 at age 20 and is one of the few people to receive the coveted Trainee of the Year award from his Royal Highness, the Duke of York. ... Oklahoma State is the only program that has competed in all 22 Preview competitions.