OU Sooners with local assistant Garren ready for NCAA championship match
The Oklahoma Sooners men’s golf team with assistant coach Jim Garren of Cartersville had to rally on the back nine to edge Baylor 3-2 Tuesday in the NCAA quarterfinals, but took care of business in style Tuesday afternoon to down Illinois 3-1 in the national semifinals.
The two match play wins put Oklahoma in the NCAA national championship match Wednesday against defending national champion Oregon.
The 2017 NCAA Golf Championships are being played on the 7,300-yard par-72 Rich Harvest Farms Golf Club in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
PHOTO: Garren, Hirschman watch as Reinertson's tap-in send OU to the national championship match.
The Sooners finished second in 72 holes of stroke play this past Friday through Monday to earn a spot in the match play portion of the championship. The top eight teams qualified for match play to determine the national championship.
In the morning quarterinals Tuesday, OU fell behind 7th-seeded Baylor and at one point trailed in all five matches. The Sooners rallied on the homeward nine, however, with Riley Reinertson, Grant Hirschman, and Brad Dalke all winning 1-up for a team 3-2 victory.
The Dalke win went to an extra hole where he won with a par.
"Today was incredible," said an excited Garren. "We were down in every match on the back nine in the quarterfinals. Then some "Sooner Magic" kicked in. No words can describe that comeback. We got so many big time golf shots on the biggest stage. It was probably the most exciting day in Sooner golf history."
In the afternoon semifinal match against Illinois, Oklahoma took control early with the first three Sooners on the course bringing home wins. OU’s only senior — Max McGreevy took his match 2&1 while sophomore Blaine Hill won 4&3. When junior Reinertson closed out his match 3&1, the Sooners were in the finals.
Hirschman, a junior, was all square through hole 16 when Reinertson closed things out on the green in front of him. OU sophomore Dalke narrowly lost his semifinal match 1-up.
"We had an hour break and the boys had to try and calm their bodies down," noted assistant coach Garren. "We got them fed and relaxed a bit before a quick warm up. Illinois had huge crowds and they were loud. It was a Ryder Cup type atmosphere. We told the guys one thing, if you make birdies they will shut up. We got off to a perfect start. Our first three guys got big leads and the crowd wasn't much of a factor until the end. Illinois made a nice run at us and their fans got super loud, but luckily we had some big leads." Those large early leads certainly helped the Sooners hold off the late charge by the Illini. "Our guys closed strong," said Garren. "Even Brad and Hirsch got back in it down the stretch. This afternoon we showed our strength as a golf team and just need to carry our momentum into the finals tomorrow."
Oregon rallied Monday and moved up eight spots in the final round of stroke play just to qualify for match play.
The Ducks then defeated Oklahoma State in a tight quarterfinal match Tuesday morning before edging top seed Vanderbilt in the semifinals.
MATCH PLAY PAIRINGS / RESULTS
Tuesday, May 30 Quarterfinal Round
(1) Vanderbilt defeated (8) UNLV
(5) Oregon defeated (4) Oklahoma State
(3) Illinois defeated (6) USC
(2) Oklahoma defeated (7) Baylor
Tuesday, May 30
(2) Oklahoma defeated (3) Illinois (5) Oregon defeated (1) Vanderbilt
Wednesday, May 31
Championship Match (2) Oklahoma vs. (5) Oregon -- Golf Channel TV coverage (4-8 p.m. Live)