Oklahoma wins 2017 NCAA Championship with victory over Oregon

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Oklahoma wins 2017 NCAA Championship with victory over Oregon

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Oklahoma wins 2017 NCAA Championship with victory over Oregon

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SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl told his wife, Rebecca, that he had a good feeling about his team before this week’s NCAA Championship. For the first time all season, he had five players playing their best golf at the same time.

“I told her,” Hybl said, recalling the conversation, “I was hoping that this group was going to continue to shine because I felt like if they had their opportunity this week that they were going to do something crazy good.”

On Wednesday at Rich Harvest Farms, the Sooners made Hybl’s notion a reality, beating Oregon in the final, 3-1-1, to win the program’s second NCAA title, and first since 1989.

“It’s been a long year,” Hybl said. “We start Labor Day weekend out at Pebble Beach, and we make it all the way to right now. It’s been a long season, and it’s very gratifying knowing that we get to hoist the trophy.”

Brad Dalke, a sophomore who committed to Oklahoma at age 12 and arrived in Norman, Okla., a full year early, earned the clinching point for the Sooners. A day earlier, Dalke won his quarterfinal match on the 19th hole to send Oklahoma to the semifinals.

On Wednesday, he took down Oregon senior Sulman Raza, 3 and 1. Dalke was 2 up through eight holes before Raza captured the ninth and 10th holes to square the match back up. He retook the lead with a long birdie make at the par-4 12th, and then went 3 up with three holes to play with par at the par-4 15th. On the next hole, the par-3 16th, Dalke made bogey to let Raza stay alive.

Yet on the next tee box, Raza faded his drive too much and his ball found the tall grass right of the 17th fairway. He had to just pitch out, and his ball ran through the fairway and into the rough. That set the stage for Dalke, who sank a bogey putt to halve the hole and win the NCAA title for the Sooners.

“We knew we had the team to do it,” Dalke said. “We have a lot of depth on our team I feel like, and we’re all super talented, we’re gritty, and we fight until the very last stroke. It’s just been such a cool ride this week, and to be able to have this opportunity today against a great Oregon team, it was just a dream come true.”

Raza, who earned the clinching point for Oregon a year ago in the NCAA final, was 5-0 in his NCAA match play career before losing to Dalke.

Sophomore Blaine Hale got the first point on the board for the Sooners, downing Oregon freshman Norman Xiong, the Phil Mickelson Award winner, 4 and 3. Xiong won the first hole and led 1 up through four holes, but Hale, just as he did in Tuesday’s semifinal match against Illinois’ Edoardo Lipparelli, got the job done in the first match out on the course.

Shortly after, Oklahoma’s lone senior, Max McGreevy, closed out Oregon sophomore Edwin Yi on the par-3 16th hole, 3 and 2. The two halved the first hole, but McGreevy took the lead on the par-5 second hole and never looked back.

“We both are two of the most emotional guys on the team,” McGreevy said of he and Hale. “That’s why coach put us out early.”

With Hale and McGreevy each winning their match, that left their teammates with three collective chances at a third and decisive point. Dalke made good on his chance, adding to his family’s collection of championship rings in the process. (Dalke’s dad, Bill, won the 1975 NCAA title in football as a linebacker at Oklahoma.)

“Can’t wait to get a ring like my dad’s,” Dalke said.

Oregon senior Wyndham Clark ended his college career with a 1-up victory over Oklahoma junior Rylee Reinertson, who lost his first match of the week on Wednesday. Reinertson, deaf since age 2, came alive this spring, especially at Rich Harvest Farms, after cracking the lineup just once in the fall.

Oklahoma was making its seventh straight trip to the NCAA Championship, though made match play for the first time just last season. In Hybl’s words, the Sooners got “smoked” by Texas in the 2016 NCAA quarterfinals.

That defeat left Oklahoma hungry. All this year, to get ready for their possible return to NCAA match play, the Sooners competed in what they called “Optimus Prime” matches.

“We knew that we had the game to get back to it, and we did,” McGreevy said, “and I think doing something like that and knowing how gritty our team is, and when we did those matches like that just back at home, it really set us up and got us in a good frame of mind when we got up here.”

The Sooners’ Twitter hashtag all season has been “OUrtime.” On a near-perfect day near Chicago, it was indeed Oklahoma’s time.

“This is what we dream about,” Hybl said. “This is what we come to work for every day, and that’s why you’ve got to come out and practice every day. This isn’t about me … it’s about what these guys were able to do this week.”

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