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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.

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