Oklahoma State holds off UCLA, wins Preview
STILLWATER, Okla. – Most figured it was going to be an easy victory. After all, you had top-ranked Oklahoma State playing at its home course, Karsten Creek Golf Club, a par-72, 7,407-yard layout where course knowledge is a major and valuable asset.
Well, it wasn’t easy. But in the end, it was a victory.
After struggling down the stretch and watching a 10-shot lead dwindle to three at one point, the Cowboys closed with a 6-over 294 Tuesday to capture the 22nd Ping/Golfweek Preview.
Oklahoma State finished at 14-over 878, four strokes better than UCLA, which closed with a 295. Georgia, making a run throughout most of the day, shot 298 and was 19-over 883, while defending NCAA champion Augusta State (295) and 2009 national champion Texas A&M (296) tied for fourth in the 15 team field at 23-over 887.
Individually, UCLA’s Pontus Widegren shot 3-under 69 – the only sub-70 round of the day – and captured medalist honors at 2-under 214. He was the only player among the 90 starters to finish under par. No one in the field was able to put together three sub-par rounds.
The Cowboys built a nine-stoke lead after an opening round even-par 288 in cold and windy conditions, but an 8-over 296 the following day left the hosts with a mere one-shot edge over Georgia and Georgia Tech.
On the back nine Tuesday, Oklahoma State appeared in total control, leading by 10 shots over Georgia and 12 better than UCLA.
But the Cowboys played the final three holes in 7 over among their four counters. They led by only three with two groups to finish. But a remarkable birdie by senior Kevin Tway at the par-5 18th, and a two-putt par by junior Peter Uihlein right behind him, secured the victory.
“We played well in spots,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike McGraw. “But on this golf course, if you let up or have a mis-step, you’re going to pay for it.
“It got close at the end, but the bottom line is we set one of our goals to win this golf tournament and we did that, so I have to be happy,” McGraw said. “Anytime you win, and especially when you win against a strong field like we had here, it can’t be bad.”
College Weekly: Ping/GW Preview recap
Karsten Creek will host the NCAA Championship next spring, and even with the home-course edge, McGraw felt the victory at the Preview is an added plus.
“Winning on your home course is a good feeling because you’re playing in front of your own fans,” he said. “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.”
Going into the final round, Widegren, at 1-over 145, trailed leader Hudson Swafford of Georgia by two shots.
He got things going quickly with birdies at Nos. 3 and 4, where he rolled in a 25-footer. He added another birdie at the ninth to take the lead, but made bogey at the 10th. He birdied the 12th and added another with a long putt at the 15th to go 3 under for the tournament and grab the lead. A bogey at 17 kept things close, as both Uihlein and Swafford were just a shot behind.
However, Uihlein made bogey at 17 and Swafford followed suit at 18 to provide the two-shot victory cushion.
“For sure this is a challenging golf course,” Widegren said. “The greens are fast and there are a lot of slopes. It tests your whole game.
“It’s a great win against a great field. I’m proud of the way I hung in there. I was 5 over after 13 holes the first round, but just told myself to finish as strong as I could. I’m happy with the way I handled my emotions all week.
“The thing about this golf course, it’s not how pretty your game is; it’s if you can get it in the right places and make the putts, and after those first 13 holes, I was able to do that,” Widegren said.
For the tournament, Karsten Creek played to a scoring average of 76.44. The cold, north winds the first day left the field with a 77.78 norm, and when the temperatures rose and the wind took a break the final two rounds, it played to 75.12 and 76.42, respectively.