Notebook: McGraw keeps Cowboys moving forward

Oklahoma State won the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate for its first victory since the 2011 NCAA Colorado Regional.

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Oklahoma State coach Mike McGraw is not a man who likes to spend a lot of time thinking about the past, especially when those thoughts have a negative ring to them.

Thus, when the 2012-13 season was about to get underway, McGraw’s team meetings didn’t dwell much on the Cowboys’ previous season. That’s when, after second- and third-place finishes in its first two starts, OSU had only one other top-5 showing and ended with an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Central Regional. The Cowboys were on the outside looking in during the NCAA National Championship for the first time in the program’s history.

“We didn’t talk about last year almost at all,” McGraw said. “Everyone knows what happened and I feel it doesn’t serve us well to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about it. I just pretty much told our guys you can’t do anything about last year. It’s over, it’s done. But you can do something about this year.”

Of course, it didn’t help when going into the spring season a year ago the Cowboys were without three previous first-team All-Americans. Kevin Tway had graduated, Morgan Hoffmann gave up his senior season by turning pro and Peter Uihlein headed to the pro ranks following the fall season of his senior year.

“We just kind of settled into being an average team last year and I’ll take a lot of responsibility for that,” McGraw said. “Obviously, I didn’t do a very good job. Last year we were not nearly tough enough. Coming into this year, our only expectations were to be competitive in every tournament.”

For the most part, Oklahoma State has done just that this fall, even if some of the final results might indicate otherwise.

The Cowboys opened against a strong lineup of teams at Olympia Fields and finished eighth, shooting a final-round 16-over 296. They tied for second at the weather-shortened Jack Nicklaus Invitational, but again struggled in the last round, posting 25-over 313 and ending up three strokes behind winner Kent State.

In those two starts, OSU was without the services of its No. 1 player, junior Talor Gooch, who McGraw had benched for breaking a team rule. But for the Cowboys, it was more than just not having Gooch in the lineup.

“The bottom line in those first two starts is we just didn’t finish things off very well,” McGraw said. “Even without Talor, we should not have finished eighth and second. I felt we should have finished fourth and first.”

Gooch returned to the lineup at the U.S. Collegiate Championship at the Golf Club of Georgia, and while he tied for second individually, it was the same old story for the team. The Cowboys were fourth after the first round and tied for third after the second. However, a closing 10-over 298 sent them tumbling into a tie for ninth finish.

Frustrating, to be sure.

This Cowboy team is tough, much more so than a year ago. OSU came back to end the month of October, and its fall season, with a victory at the Royal Oaks Invitational in Dallas. The Cowboys closed with a 283 to finish at 10-under 842 and win by four strokes over New Mexico and Texas Tech.

Junior Ian Davis led the charge and was co-medalist at 7-under 206, while Gooch tied for sixth at 209. Freshman Jordan Niebrugge tied for 29th at 2 over with senior Sean Einhaus finishing at 4 over and tying for 39th. Sophomore Patrick Winther was another shot back in a tie for 44th. Each player contributed at least one score during the three rounds.

For McGraw and the Cowboys, it was the first victory since winning the South Central Regional in 2011. That victory came at the end of a season during which the team won eight times, including the Big 12 Championship, and advanced to the semifinals at the NCAA Championship.

“(Royal Oaks) was a huge win for us,” McGraw said. “It may be our biggest win since the 2006 NCAA (Championship win). We never needed it more. I’m so proud of our guys, they responded nicely.

“This team has been very close and are really bonding together,” he said. “I think this year we started out a lot tougher. Watching these kids mature and grow and now finally putting it all together and getting a win, it’s just great. There’s a different attitude altogether this year. From the start, I believed in this team and I think we might surprise some people.”

With the victory, the Cowboys moved up to 16th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

While McGraw may not have spent a lot of time talking about last season, he knew he really didn’t have to. His players were well aware of what they did, or better yet, what they didn’t do.

“I think everyone, each individual, came in with a little chip on his shoulder because of last year,” said Gooch. “There is no doubt all of us have a lot of motivation right now. Everyone has worked harder than they ever worked between the end of last season and the start of this season.

“This (win) is a great way to end the fall season,” Gooch said. “It will give us a lot of confidence. We all came in at the start of the fall with the feeling we had something to prove.”

The all-important spring season lies ahead. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but one thing is certain: Don’t cut these Cowboys too short.

• • •

JUNIOR HIGHS: After qualifying for the NCAA Championship last season for the first time since 2009, Central Florida entered the fall as a team to watch.

The Knights lost Brad Schneider to graduation last spring, but a strong group of juniors led by Greg Eason have fueled UCF this fall.

Eason led the Knights in four of five events this fall. His 72.5 stroke average is three strokes better than the next best player on the team. He has four finishes of T-6 or better and hasn’t finished worse than T-11 this fall. He won the Adams Cup in September and most recently was sixth at the Stetson/CFSC Invitational on Nov. 6.

Another junior, Ricardo Gouveia, tied for medalist honors at Stetson, which is ranked No. 42 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

As a team, UCF matched its win total from last fall with two team titles (Adams Cup and Stetson/CFSC Invitational) and also notched a pair of fifth-place finishes. A T-11 at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational rounded out a five-event fall schedule.

• • •

SUPER NOVA: Division II’s top-ranked team, Nova Southeastern, closed its fall season with a runner-up finish at the McDonough Cup at Rio Pinar Country Club in Orlando, Fla.

It was the fourth finish inside the top 2 for the Sharks, a team that won its own Guy Harvey Invitational at PGA National in October. Ian Facey(Guy Harvey) and Ben Taylor (CSU-Monterey Bay Otter Invitational) each won individual titles for Nova Southeastern, too.

– Brentley Romine contributed

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