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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Oklahoma shows plenty of grit to claim national championship

   Of the four Big 12 teams that were among the 30 that qualified for the NCAA Championship, Oklahoma was the lowest-ranked by Golfstat at No. 17.
   So maybe it’s just a testament to how strong the conference was that it was the Sooners who were the last ones standing when the NCAA Championship’s Final Match concluded at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. Wednesday.
   Oklahoma earned its first national championship since 1989 with a 3.5-1.5 victory over defending national champion Oregon, ranked ninth.
   It ended with Brad Dalke, a sophomore from Norman, Okla. and the son of a national champion Sooner football player, holing a two-footer for birdie to slay the giant-killer, Oregon’s Sulman Raza, a redshirt senior from Eugene, Ore.
   A year earlier it was Raza making the big putt on the 21st hole on the Ducks’ home course at Eugene Country Club to win the national championship for Oregon. He was at it again in Tuesday’s first two rounds of match play, draining a 10-foot birdie putt for the clinching point that took out No. 3 Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals, and defeating Vanderbilt’s Matthias Schwab, the No. 5 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, 2-up, to eliminate the No. 4 Commodores.
   Raza battled back from an early 2-down deficit to square the match with Dalke, but then Dalke pulled away with wins at 12, 14 and 15 to take a 3-up lead with three to go. Dormie. Raza postponed the inevitable with an improbable par save on 16, but Dalke finished him off at 17 for the third point.
   The Sooners got Oregon down early as Blaine Hale, a sophomore from Dallas, rolled to a 4 and 3 win over Norman Xiang, a freshman from Canyon Lake, Calf., and Max McGreevy, a senior from Edmond, Okla., claimed a 3 and 2 win over Edwin Yi, a sophomore from Beaumont, Calif.
   Rylee Reinertson, a junior from Gibbon, Neb., dropped a 1-up decision to Oregon’s Wyndham Clark, a redshirt senior from Denver who won the Pac-12 individual title. And the match between Oklahoma’s Grant Hirschman, a junior from Collierville, Tenn., and Ryan Gronland, a redshirt sophomore from Pleasanton, Calif., was called a draw with the match all square through 17 holes when Dalke clinched the title for the Sooners.
   “We didn’t have a weak link this week and that’s big because when you’re playing team golf, a lot of times somebody just doesn’t have their game, you know, doesn’t show up,” Ryan Hybl, Oklahoma’s eighth-year coach told Andie Beene of the Oklahoma website. “And all these guys, everybody won a match, at least one match and they all produced in stroke play. It was a great week from start to finish for our guys.”
   They finished fourth in the Stanford Regional, 14 shots behind co-champions Stanford and Big 12 rival Baylor. But there were signs, most notably Dalke blitzing the Stanford Golf Course with a 12-under 198 to claim the individual title.
   They were the only team beside stroke-play medalist Vanderbilt to finish under par at 1-under 1,151 during four rounds of qualifying.
   And after match-play wins over Baylor in the quarterfinals and Illinois in the semifinals, Oklahoma was a little grittier than a very gritty Oregon team. It’s the stuff that national championships are made of and Oklahoma had it all at Rich Harvest Farms.

Turner grabs the big prize in Haverford Philadelphia PGA Classic on his new home course

   Andrew Turner was tantalizingly close to the biggest top prize in any PGA Section tournament in the country when he was the runnerup in the Haverford Philadelphia PGA Classic at Sunnybrook Golf Club in Whitemarsh Township a year ago.
   Turner was an assistant pro at Whitford Country Club at this time last year, but he has since moved into the pro shop at Sunnybrook. So this year he had a little home-course advantage and he used it to fire a 4-under-par 68 Tuesday and claim the whopping top prize of $100,000.
   “I think the biggest check I ever won before this was five or six thousand bucks,” Turner told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Joe Juliano. “So this is a little jump.”
   Turner had eight birdies against four bogeys over the 6,850-yard, par-72 Sunnybrook layout. He was one of the early starters so he had a long day of waiting to see if anyone would challenge his total.
   The challengers came and went with nobody getting closer than Jake Gerney of Trump National Golf Club Philadelphia, who was the runnerup with a 2-under 70.
   Nine players finished in a big logjam tied for third at 1-under 71. The group was led by Radnor Valley Country Club head pro George Forster, who represented the Philadelphia Section PGA at last weekend’s KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Va. Forster, playing in his 12th PGA Tour Champions major championship, missed the cut as he struggled to an 83 in the second round in winds so strong play was halted for 45 minutes at one point.
   Corey McAlarney, who worked in the Sunnybrook pro shop at this time last year but has since relocated to Squires Golf Club, was also in the group at 1-under.
   Also in that group were Dave Quinn of Philmont Country Club, Stu Ingraham, the head of instruction at the M Golf Range in Newtown Square, two players from the Tavistock Country Club pro shot, Hugh Matthis and Greg Matthias, Steve Swartz of Regents’ Glen Country Club, Michael Caldwell of Bidermann Golf Club and Greg Farrow of Deerwood Country Club.
   Six more players matched par at 72 to finish tied for 12th, led by French Creek Golf Club head pro Justin Riegel, who had it to 4-under through 12 holes, but gave four shots back down the stretch to end up at even-par.
   Also at even par were Chris Gray of Rehoboth Beach Country Club, Kevin Kraft of Bumble Bee Hollow Golf Center, Curtis Kirkpatrick of Indian Springs Golf Club, Terry Hertzog of the Country Club of York,  Orist Wells of Pittman Golf Club and Shane Matthews of Huntingdon Valley Country Club.
   Turner, a 33-year-old product of Warwick High who resides in Honeybrook, had another near miss at this time last year when he came up a shot short of earning a spot in the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in sectional qualifying at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J.
   He'll get another shot at this year’s Open at Erin Hills in sectional qualifying Monday after earning co-medalist honors with an even-par 72 in a local qualifier at The Country Club of Scranton.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Oregon, Oklahoma will play for national title at Rich Harvest Farms

   Maybe they were overshadowed by some of the bigger names in their respective conferences, although it’s kind of hard to overlook the defending national champion.
   But after a long day and two rounds of match play Tuesday at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., it will be Oregon, gunning for a second straight national title, and Oklahoma that will tee off Wednesday in the NCAA Championship’s final match.
   Oregon, No. 9 in the latest Golfstat rankings, won the title a year ago on its home course in Eugene, Ore. The Ducks won the Pac-12 Championship in snowy Boulder, Colo. a month ago. Still, even going into the quarterfinals, they were the second highest-ranked team from the conference behind No. 1 Southern California still left in the final eight.
   No. 17 Oklahoma spent the year trying to keep up with in-state and Big 12 rival Oklahoma State, No. 3 in the country and also a match-play qualifier at Rich Harvest Farms. Heck, the Sooners had to get past another higher-rated Big 12 rival, No. 5 Baylor, in the quarterfinals just to reach Tuesday afternoon’s semifinals.
   But there were the Sooners blitzing No. 8 Illinois, the Big Ten champion, by taking the first three matches on their way to a 3.5-1.5 victory in the one semifinal.
   Then it was Oregon, with Eugene native Sulman Raza coming up big just as he did in the title run a year ago, finishing off the Ducks’ 3-2 victory over No. 4 Vanderbilt, which had dominated the stroke-play qualifying in earning the top seed in match play.
   There will be some grumbling about the two best teams not making it to the final, but match play brings drama and match play identifies toughness and Oregon and Oklahoma were the toughest two teams on the golf course Tuesday. That’s why they’ll play for the national championship Wednesday.
   The Oklahoma-Illinois match was anchored by a wonderful battle between the Sooners’ Brad Dalke, a sophomore from Norman, Okla., and the Illini’s Dylan Meyer, a junior from Evansville, Ind. who is No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR).
   Meyer won the match, 1-up, but Oklahoma’s first three out made sure it didn’t matter.
   Blaine Hale, a sophomore from Dallas, defeated Edoardo Lipparelli, a sophomore from Italy, 4 and 3,  Max McGreevy, a senior from Edmond, Okla., beat Giovanni Tadiotto, a freshman from Belgium, 2 and 1, and Rylee Reinertson, a junior from Gibbon, Neb., downed Michael Feagles, a freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., 3 and 1.
   Grant Hirschman, a junior from Collierville, Tenn., battled Nick Hardy, a junior from Northbrook, Ill. who is No. 12 in the WAGR, to a draw, which is how it ended when the Sooners clinched the match.
   Raza, a redshirt senior, found himself in the anchor match for Oregon pitted against Vanderbilt’s Matthias Schwab, a senior from Austria who is No. 5 in the WAGR.
   But Raza, holding a 1-up lead, calmly reached the par-5 18th in two and finished off a 2-up victory that sent the Ducks into the final again. Earlier in the day, Raza holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to defeat Oklahoma State’s Hayden Wood, a sophomore from Edmond, Okla., 2 and 1, and clinch a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals for the Ducks.
   Oregon also got a 3 and 2 victory from Norman Xiong, a freshman from Canyon Lake, Calif., over Patrick Martin, a sophomore from Birmingham, Ala., and a 4 and 3 victory from Wyndham Clark, a redshirt senior from Denver, over Will Gordon, a sophomore from Davidson, N.C.
   Vanderbilt’s Theo Humphrey, a junior from Greenwich, Conn., cruised to a 5 and 4 victory over Ryan Gronland, a redshirt sophomore from Pleasanton, Calif.
   The Commodores’ John Augenstein, a freshman from Owensboro, Ky., reprised some of his heroics  from Vanderbilt’s match-play run to the Southeast Conference title in pulling out a dramatic win on the 19th hole over Edwin Yi.
   But Raza, who just keeps coming through for Oregon, finished the job.
   Yi and Gronland were winners for the Ducks in the quarterfinal victory over Oklahoma State, but again it was Raza earning the clinching point with his birdie putt.
   Humphrey got the clinching point for Vanderbilt in a hard-fought 3-2 quarterfinal victory over No. 16 UNLV as he edged Justin Kim, a freshman from Fullerton, Calif., 1-up. Martin and Schwab also won their matches for the Commodores.
   Dalke was the hero for Oklahoma in a 3-2 win over a tough Baylor team as he pulled out a victory on the 19th hole over Matthew Perrine, a junior from Austin, Texas. Reinertson and Hirschman also picked up points for the Sooners.
   Probably the most intriguing of the quarterfinal matches saw Illinois send top-ranked Southern Cal home with a 3.5-1.5 victory that couldn’t have been much closer.
   All three of the Illini’s full points came on 1-up victories, highlighted by Hardy’s win over Rico Hoey, a senior from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. who is No. 17 in the WAGR. Matchups of players in the top 20 in the WAGR in the quarterfinals like that is the beauty of match play in the NCAA Championship.
   Lipparelli and Tadiotto also earned full points with 1-up win for the Illini.