STILLWATER, Okla. – Seven years after winning it all here as a team, and Augusta is still producing national champions at Karsten Creek.
This time it was an individual title, as senior Broc Everett fired a closing 1-under 71 Monday for a 7-under total to come from three back and reach a playoff with Auburn’s Brandon Mancheno. In a rare duel of the lefties, Everett then sealed the 2018 NCAA Championship individual title when he drained a 15-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole (Karsten Creek’s par-5 18th).
“To see that one go in, it was perfect,” said Jack O’Keefe, Augusta’s head coach.
Perfect is really, well, the perfect word. This was the final event of Everett’s Augusta career and he had never won a college tournament. He ranked 153rd in the country. He was the former walk-on who never got a sniff from colleges in Iowa, his home state.
“Iowa I guess kind of blew it,” his mother Mary said, laughing.
Then again, Augusta itself appeared it might join that list.
Everett, 23, was recruited by Kevin McPherson, then Augusta’s head coach, but O’Keefe arrived midway through his freshman year after McPherson took Coastal Carolina’s head coaching gig. Everett had played four sports for much of high school and was known as an athletic specimen, but a coach at the school informed O’Keefe that Everett might not be a good enough player to keep around for long.
O’Keefe did suggest Everett redshirt to hone his game before competing in college golf.
“I told him, ‘Broc, I promise you, you will be better at 23 than you will be at 19,’ ” O’Keefe said.
Everett indeed took the redshirt, and the process worked.
Everett hadn’t gotten totally serious about golf until late in high school thanks to his dabbles in baseball, basketball and track. But full-time work on his game in college sent his play soaring. By his redshirt junior year, he was a top-60 player in the country.
His senior season was more of a grind, as Everett put pressure on himself after that strong 2016-17 campaign. But deep down, the confidence hadn’t faded.
“I learned about a year and a half ago that I could compete with everybody out here,” Everett said. “I knew there wasn’t much of a difference.”
He got to working on his wedge game with coaches, focusing more on controlling trajectory and spin and adding a high, soft shot to his arsenal. At regionals, Everett hit eight wedges inside three feet on his way to a runner-up showing.
Fittingly, he had wedge in on the playoff hole after a poor drive necessitated a layup. He hit a beauty to within striking range before burying the clinching putt.
It was a well-scripted end on an otherwise peculiar road.
When Everett was young and getting into the game, his parents planned to give him hand-me-down right-handed clubs. But they were so impressed by his natural motion from the other side, that they got him a lefty set.
“His swing was so pure and just beautiful that we couldn’t switch it over,” Mary said.
While Everett is left-handed in most areas, he can masquerade as a righty. In high school, Everett only had 13 clubs in his bag. So he added in a right-handed 7-iron for his 14th.
He kept it that way for years. One time in a tournament when he was stymied against a tree as a lefty, he took out his righty 7-iron instead and knocked it to 15 feet. His confused playing competitor wondered if that was legal.
The switch most certainly was.
“It came in handy a couple times,” Everett said.
He shelved the club for college, but Everett still puts his righty swing to work. Over the last few years, Everett and PGA Tour winner Wesley Bryan, who will often practice at Augusta’s facilities, have annually played one round using the other player’s clubs: Everett goes righty, Bryan goes lefty.
The Augusta senior has beaten his counterpart every time, the latest of which came last November at Forest Hills Golf Club when Bryan posted in the 90s and Everett played the final nine in 2-under 34 to shoot 79.
Everett also kept his multi-sport twinge up for a bit in college. Early in his Augusta career, he considered trying to pitch for the baseball team in addition to playing on the golf squad. He even threw for the baseball team for a week to test the waters.
He soon realized, though, that all the waiting around in a dugout wasn’t for him.
Everett will embark on the Mackenzie Tour this summer, and he’ll do so finally a winner on the college level. It was an arduous process that waited until the very end, but he got the job done.
And the victory means another source of bragging rights over Bryan.
“I think Broc can fire back now and say, ‘Hey man, you never won an NCAA Championship,’ ” O’Keefe said, smiling.
Indeed, he can.