Bedlam comes to NCAA golf – and Oklahoma State, Oklahoma deliver early

Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics

Bedlam comes to NCAA golf – and Oklahoma State, Oklahoma deliver early

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Bedlam comes to NCAA golf – and Oklahoma State, Oklahoma deliver early

STILLWATER, Okla. – Welcome to my house. Play that music too loud.
Show me what you do now…

As Oklahoma State and Oklahoma prepared to begin their seconds rounds Saturday morning at Karsten Creek, Flo Rida’s “My House” blared from the speakers just behind the first tee box.

“It was fitting,” said Oklahoma State freshman Austin Eckroat, who was in the first group off alongside Oklahoma junior Blaine Hale and Texas A&M freshman Walker Lee.

The top-ranked Cowboys welcomed their rivals, the third-ranked Sooners, to Karsten Creek this week for the NCAA Championship, and the two schools played the first two rounds of stroke play alongside each other with second-ranked Texas A&M rounding out the threesome.

As expected it was a sea of orange and black, and crimson and cream, as fans of both programs showed up in hot and steamy conditions to root on their schools. For every “Boomer Sooner!” There was a “Go Pokes!” And each of the five threesomes in the featured trio had easily a couple hundred people following along.

“That was the best part of the day was seeing the crowds lining the fairways. You don’t see that very often,” Oklahoma State head coach Alan Bratton said. “… If you want to get excited and there’s nobody watching, that’s a little bit of a challenge sometimes. That kind of excitement can allow you to do special things.”

Said Oklahoma junior Brad Dalke: “Hearing OU and OSU chants going back and forth, it feels like our own little football game out here.”

Inside the ropes, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma have already traded early blows. The Sooners got the better of their opponent in the opening round, which was suspended because of darkness Friday evening. Oklahoma wrapped up a 3-under 285 early Saturday morning. The Sooners’ Nos. 4 and 5 guys, sophomore Quade Cummins and junior Blaine Hale, shot 4-under 68 and 3-under 69, respectively, in Round 1.

But it was the Cowboys moving past Oklahoma in Round 2, firing a 285 of their own to move to 4 under through 36 holes, six ahead of the Sooners, who followed with a 5-over 293.

Eckroat led the Cowboys for the second straight round, shooting 2-under 70, while junior Zach Bauchou and sophomore Viktor Hovland added 71s.

“You don’t have to come out here guns blazing, but you have to finish well,” Bauchou said. “It looks like we’re just getting better and better.”

Said Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl: “Not a great day, but we’ve got a fighting chance.”

Fans line the 18th hole as Oklahoma State’s Viktor Hovland hits his second shot into the green. (Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics)

The key in this format is to get into the top 8 after 72 holes of stroke play, and both teams are well inside that mark at the midway point of stroke play. Historically, the top seed after stroke play has never won the NCAA title in nine years of match play. But these two teams aren’t worried about perceived curses.

Sure, each of their immediate goals is to make it to Tuesday’s quarterfinals. But these teams also want to finish stroke play on top.

“We came to win,” Cummins said. “We’re not just trying to make the cuts and stuff. We’re trying to go dominate. And I think we kind of fell behind today, but it’s a long golf tournament.”

Said Bauchou: “One of our mantras throughout the year has been just to dominate. … We haven’t done that so far (this week), but we have two more rounds of stroke play and I think we’ll dominate the rest of stroke play.”

Oklahoma State and Oklahoma have faced more attention this season than any other teams, most of it brought on by the Golf Channel series “Driven,” a four-part series documenting both teams. Camera crews have been with each squad since the beginning of the spring season, and both teams have performed in front of the cameras.

The Cowboys won nine times this season, including seven in a row at one point. The Sooners are the defending national champions and are coming off wins at the Big 12 Championship and NCAA Norman Regional.

“We’re defending the national championship in our home state, but at the same time you’ve got to give credit to Oklahoma State,” Hale said. “They’ve played unbelievable all year long, they’re at their home course, they should win, right? Pressure’s on them and that’s fine by me. We’ll let them have the pressure and we’ll go out there and play some good golf.”

With all the hype, it’s easy for everyone – including the players and coaches – to look ahead to a potential final match between the two rivals.

“It’d be the best final they’ve ever had,” Cummins said. “It’d be hard to get better than that.”

But these teams also know how unpredictable match play can be, and are trying to not look ahead.

“At the end of the day, we’re worried about the next day, and I know everybody is wanting us to answer these questions to where we’re going to be butting heads and all that kind of stuff, but it’s true,” Hybl said. “… If we’re lucky enough to have that opportunity to play these guys, it will be pandemonium out there I’m sure, and our guys will be relishing that moment for sure, and we hope that we get that opportunity.”

The rest of college golf agrees: More bedlam, please.

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