Oklahoma aiming to 'make this run special' at men's NCAA Championship

Josh Gateley/OU Athletics

Oklahoma aiming to 'make this run special' at men's NCAA Championship

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Oklahoma aiming to 'make this run special' at men's NCAA Championship

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What a difference a year makes.

Heading into the national championship last year, Oklahoma was speeding down the highway from Norman to Stillwater. Coming in hot.

“My guys were so amped up last year because they wanted to beat those guys so bad on their golf course,” said Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl. “Now, we don’t have that.”

Those guys being Oklahoma State.

A year ago, the Sooners were the defending NCAA champions winning the previous year at Rich Harvest Farms. They were fresh off a Big 12 Conference win where they beat Oklahoma State by nine shots. They followed that up with a victory in NCAA regional play.

Hybl’s group continued to play, well finishing fourth in stroke-play qualifying – missing the No. 2 seed by just four shots. Oklahoma’s season came to sudden stop, losing in the first round of match play to Auburn.

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Here this week at the Blessings Golf Club, all of that is gone.

“Last year there was a lot of distractions and a lot more pressure with the television show that was going on and that we were playing such good golf coming down the stretch,” said Hybl, who is in his 10th year at Oklahoma. “We are for sure more free flowing now and there is not as much chatter.”

Through three rounds here on the demanding par 72, 7,550-yard layout Oklahoma is just three shots shy of second place on the scoreboard in fourth place. Patrick Welch has led the way with rounds 75-69-72 to sit at even-par 216. Welch, a freshman from Providence, R.I., did not experience last year.

“This is so fun,” said Welch. “I have not really been part of team like this. It’s been awesome and I want to make this run special.”

There is still work to be done. The ultimate goal is to win this week, but there is a process in doing that.

“We have a chance tomorrow (Monday),” said Hybl. “We talk about it all year long, we always want a chance to win the golf tournament coming down the stretch and winning the golf tournament at this point is making sure you have a slot in the final eight.”

The focus for the Sooners in the final round of stroke play is going out and finding its way into the final eight.

Oklahoma has advanced to match play in each of the last three years. No other team has done that. A tee time on Tuesday for the opening round of head-to-head competition would be the Sooners’ fourth consecutive trip to NCAA match play.

“Performance wise if we go execute we will be fine,” said Hybl. “That’s just kind of where we are at.”

And where they are is quietly going about their business without the distractions and chatter.

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