From tragedy to triumph, Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl's gritty team wins NCAA title

The Associated Press

From tragedy to triumph, Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl's gritty team wins NCAA title

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From tragedy to triumph, Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl's gritty team wins NCAA title

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SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl’s 9-year-old daughter, Ady, spoke for many in the Sooner crew when she announced near the 17th green that she’s “not gonna sleep tonight.” Hybl’s wife and daughters were on a 5:45 a.m. flight out of Norman, Okla., bound for a sweet finish in a small town called Sugar Grove.

Hybl took over an Oklahoma program in 2009 that finished 10th in the Big 12 Championship. The Sooners won their first tournament with Hybl at the helm, and in eight short years led OU to the school’s second NCAA Championship title.

“He was a gritty kid who would just fight you tooth and nail,” said Georgia coach Chris Haack, who recruited the top-ranked Hybl to Athens, Ga., and then hired him on as an assistant after an elbow injury ended Hybl’s playing career.

Both Brad Dalke and Max McGreevy used the word “gritty” in their post-round interviews. It’s one trait Hybl demands of his players, and the emphasis was on full display at Rich Harvest Farms, where the close-knit Sooner squad defeated Oregon in the championship match.

“A lot of these kids have talent,” said Hybl, “but some of these kids are not willing to genuinely dig in for that one extra shot.”

The 11th-ranked Sooners dug deep all season.

Clockwise from left: Cheryl Hybl, Ryan Hybl, Tom Hybl, Becca Hybl, Harper Hybl and Ady Hybl

In September, the bond grew especially tight when tragedy struck the Hybl family. Dalke remembers well the day he found out the Hybls were expecting their first son. He also remembers the day he drove out to practice for a qualifying round and saw an emotional Hybl climb back into his truck.

“I think we just lost the baby,” Hybl told them.

The group of young men standing before him welled up with tears.

Becca Hybl was 18 weeks pregnant when they lost Tucker Jackson Hybl. The team left for the Gopher Invitational in Minnesota with strong purpose as Hybl looked after Becca – his high school sweetheart – in the hospital. The team attached blue and white ribbons with the initials T.J.H. on their golf bags that week. They wore checkered ribbons on their hats.

“We weren’t going there to just play well or just win to win,” said Dalke. “We wanted to go to win for coach.”

Hybl posted a photograph of the team trophy and ribbons on Instagram and called it the proudest moment of his coaching career.

“It was such a wonderful, beautiful thing how the guys rallied,” said Becca, “and they wanted so bad to win for him. If he coaches 50 years, that will probably be the most meaningful moment he’s had.”

Bill Dalke coaches high school football, and his youngest son committed to play for Hybl at age 12. Dalke appreciates that Hybl understands what it takes for his players to reach a high level, calling him a man of character and integrity.

“He sets high standards for the kids as far as work ethic,” said Bill Dalke, “and the way they conduct themselves as men.”

A first-team All-American at Georgia, Hybl earned the Joel Eaves Award for having the highest grade point average among all male student-athletes. Hybl had only one mode, Haack said: hard work.

Because of that, it took him a while as an assistant coach to come to terms with the fact that not every player possesses that same level of drive. But if Hybl could get players to buy into his kind of tenacity, Hack said, they would be better for it.

Georgia head coach Chris Haack and Ryan Hybl (John Kelley)

Nothing on Hybl’s team is a given. Back home in Oklahoma, he expects players to give it all on every shot, on every day.

“Otherwise, you don’t get a chance to play for us,” he said.

McGreevy, he said, almost didn’t make it to Georgia Tech’s tournament in the fall and had to qualify. He went on to the win the tournament. The same was true for Grant Hirschman in Las Vegas.

The Sooners bought into Hybl’s way of doing things. But more than that, they fought for each other. It was a beautiful mixture of toughness and compassion.

A journey they won’t forget.

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