OU men's golf: Seeking another national title, Sooners could face both Texas, OSU today

Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press

Oklahoma's Patrick Welch chips from off the back off the green on the ninth hole at Blessings Golf Club during Monday's final round of stroke play competition at the NCAA championships in Fayetteville, Ark.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Oklahoma seniors Brad Dalke and Blaine Hale will become the only players ever to compete in four straight match play brackets at the NCAA men's golf championships when the fifth-ranked Sooners tee off against Texas at 7:50 this morning in a quarterfinal match at The Blessings Golf Club.

Also, if OU is to have a chance to win a second national championship in three years, it may be expecting freshman Patrick Welch to come through in a big, big way.

To the extent that any single player paced the Sooners to their 72-hole fifth-place stroke-play finish of 28-over-par 1,180, that player has been Welch, a Providence, Rhode Island, product, who finished two strokes and one spot out of the individual top-10 after rounds of 75-69-72-75.

The very rare player to play all of his shots cross-handed — the left hand below the right hand on the club — Welch carried the Sooners’ fourth-best stroke average into the national tournament (70.61) — but has been their best in it thus far by four strokes over teammate Blaine Hale.

Perhaps a sign of better things still to come, two veteran Sooners, Dalke and redshirt junior Quade Cummins, have struggled.

Cummins’ 79 was the score OU kicked out of its opening-round 305 total and Dalke’s last score to count was Saturday’s 74. His Sunday 81 and Monday 78 have, fortunately for the Sooners, not been needed.

Welch, though, is giving the veterans lots of credit for having the success he’s enjoying.

“It’s been pretty relaxing,” is the way Welch described his first NCAA tournament. “We’ve been grinding and practicing every day. We’ve all tried to get to this point and knowing that we’re here, the experience the old guys have, makes it a lot more calming.”

Sooner coach Ryan Hybl knows his team appears vulnerable in the face of Dalke’s struggles, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like Dalke’s chances beginning this morning, calling him, “one of the best match play players that we’ve ever had.”

Should OU win two matches today and reach Wednesday’s national championship match, it may feel like the undercard to what the Sooners would have already done.

This morning it’s their Red River rival Longhorns, ranked No. 6, who began Monday in second place, but fell two positions after a final stroke-play round of 303.

Should OU win that one, it will most likely get defending national champion and Bedlam rival and top-ranked Oklahoma State in the afternoon semifinal.

The Cowboys, who face SMU this morning, earned the match-play bracket’s top seed with a dominant 16-under-par 1,136 total, 31 strokes better than second-place Vanderbilt.

OSU, led by individual national champion Matthew Wolff’s 10-under-par 278 total, has posted the low team score — 290-276-286-284 — each day since the championship began.

After the Pokes and Commodores, Wake Forest qualified for the match play in the third spot at 1,167. Texas and OU both finished at 1,180. Stanford was next at 1,189, followed by Texas A&M and SMU at 1,192 and 1,196.

Clemson also finished at 1,196, but the Mustangs bested the Tigers in a late-evening playoff to advance.

OU’s Monday 300 was the fourth best score of the day behind OSU’s 284, Vanderbilt’s 285, Wake Forest’s 291 and 10th-place Cal’s 298.

In addition to Welch’s 75 and Dalke’s 78, the Sooners got 74s from both Garrett Reband and Cummins, and a 77 from Hale.

“The dominoes have to fall just right for you to get through this whole thing,” Hybl said.

Two years ago, in Sugar Grove, Illinois, they fell just the right way for the Sooners.

Dalke and Cummins were a part of it. If they can find their games today, and Welch can keep it going, OU might have a chance to do it again.

“We’ve got a chance now,” Hybl said.

NCAA Men’s Golf Championships

Blessings Golf Club

Fayetteville, Ark.

7,550 yards, Par 72

Stroke Play

Note: top eight teams begin match play Tuesday morning

Team Standings

Oklahoma State 290 276 286 284-1136

Vanderbilt 207 288 287 285-1167

Wake Forest 296 297 288 291-1172

Texas 298 290 289 303-1180

Oklahoma 305 287 288 300-1180

Stanford 291 287 299 312-1189

Texas A&M 296 287 301 308-1192

SMU* 308 293 292 303-1196

Clemson 302 292 298 304-1196

Pepperdine 312 291 293 303-1199

Auburn 292 294 312 302-1200

Ohio State 297 296 302 306-1201

Cal 292 301 306 298-1197

Southern Cal 304 304 292 302-1202

TCU 311 295 288 311-1205

* wins playoff, advances to match play

Top 10 Individuals

Matthew Wolff, OSU 73 66 70 69-278

Steven Fisk, Ga. So. 76 68 68 71-283

Chun An Yu, ASU 69 74 70 72-285

Lee Detmer, WF 72 74 71 69-286

Justin Suh, USC 71 75 68 72-286

Isaiah Salinda, Stan 70 70 74 74-288

Collin Morikawa, Cal 67 72 76 73-288

Trent Phillips, Ga. 73 71 77 68-289

Zach Bauchou, OSU 73 71 70 75-289

Austin Eckroat, OSU 69 69 73 78-289

Oklahoma Individuals

Patrick Welch 75 69 72 75-291; Blaine Hale 76 70 72 77-295; Garrett Reband 78 76 69 74-297; Quade Cummins 79 74 75 74-302; Brad Dalke 76 74 81 78-309