Another strong Oklahoma State week stops short
HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Match play has not been too kind to the Oklahoma State Cowboys since it was established in 2009. The team lost in the quarterfinals in 2009, the finals in '10, and the semifinals in '11.
Add another year to the list – 2014.
On Wednesday, the Cowboys lost to Alabama, 4-1, in the NCAA Championship match at Prairie Dunes Country Club.
“Obviously we got to the match that we wanted and didn't get the result that we wanted,” Oklahoma State head coach Alan Bratton said. “These kind of losses are never easy. The season always comes to an abrupt end.”
For most of the day, the matches stayed deadlocked at 2-2-1, but when Alabama’s Bobby Wyatt put the first point on the board, the momentum seemed to shift in the Tide’s favor. Multiple Cowboys, however, insisted they felt no shift in momentum on the course.
It started in the all-freshman matchup between Zachary Olsen and Robby Shelton.
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Olsen, a Cordova, Tenn., native, was 2 up on the back nine with Shelton. But Shelton, named the 2014 Phil Mickelson Award winner just hours earlier, birdied nine of his last 13 holes to put the second point on the board for the Tide.
“Wow. That's all you can say,” Bratton said. “It was a great match. They didn't miss … If you were out there watching that, that was a great stage.”
Olsen added: “We both played really well, which is probably an understatement. I think he shot 63 and I shot 64 (in stroke play). It was a birdie fest. We were just firing at pins all day. It was exciting to be a part of but pretty disappointing to lose, especially (after) being up in the match.”
That meant two points were on the board for the NCAA defending champions.
Before the clinching point was sealed, Big 12 player of the year Wyndham Clark added the only point on the day for the Cowboys.
After finishing up their rounds, seniors Talor Gooch, Olsen and Clark rounded back with the last match of the day, which was on the 17th fairway at the time, between OSU’s Jordan Niebrugge and Alabama’s Cory Whitsett. They were there to will their teammate along and hope for the best in turning the anchor match in the Cowboys' favor.
That wasn’t the case. Mullinax closed out his match and the Cowboys. The disappointment abruptly came over the Cowboys’ faces and they turned to walk away, not wanting to see the Crimson Tide celebrate their second consecutive championship.
“It sucks,” Niebrugge said. “I won’t forget this feeling. It’s cool to see us get this far and to get this opportunity to play for a national championship, but right now it’s hard.”
This was Oklahoma State’s 17th runner-up finish at an NCAA Championship, and the 27th time in 67 NCAA appearances the Cowboys have finished first or second.
The team graduates four seniors, two of whom were in the starting five this week. The Cowboys will bring back seven players, with four more coming in, in the fall.
The plan for next season is to be back in the same position.
“We've got a great nucleus coming back going forward, so I'm excited about the future,” Bratton added.
“After we get over the hurt of not quite climbing that last hurdle, I know our guys will look back on this year and be proud of what they've accomplished. We've got nothing to hang our heads about, and I'm really pleased with the way the year went.”