Oklahoma’s roster got a big boost over the summer. In fact, you might say no other team came out on the other side of last spring’s COVID cancellations in quite as good shape as the Sooners.
Given that, it hasn’t been all that surprising that Oklahoma has collected a win, two other top-3 finishes and now the No. 1 seed at the East Lake Cup, a limited-field college match-play event at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
The Sooners went 10 under in 18 holes in Monday’s stroke-play qualifying round and finished seven shots ahead of Pepperdine. Now, Oklahoma will take on Big 12 rival Texas in the first round of match play. Pepperdine will face Texas Tech.
Oklahoma has three fifth-year seniors in the lineup this week. Quade Cummins and Garett Reband offer a big boost of familiarity, but head coach Ryan Hybl also brought another senior into the fold. After four years at North Carolina-Greensboro, All-American Jonathan Brightwell joined the roster.
Leaderboard: East Lake Cup
Cummins and Brightwell offered rounds of 69 and 70, respectively, on Monday, but junior Patrick Welch stole the show. The junior with the cross-handed grip threw out eight birdies, including one on the final hole, for a 67 that left him with medalist honors. He was two shots ahead of Cummins in that race.
As he stood on the 14th tee at 3 under, Welch learned where he fell on the leaderboard – and that Cummins was right up there with him.
“I’m always rooting for my teammates,” Welch told Golf Channel. “We’re all a team and we’re all trying to win individually. There’s no hard feelings if he won or I won or whoever. We’re just trying to beat each other but at the same time, we’re always going to be cool at the end of the day.”
The win was a confidence booster for Welch, who has never claimed an individual title in a college event.
As for the team component? Welch expects Hybl to tell his men this evening that today is done and it’s time to take care of business on the bracket.
“Match play is a totally different animal,” he said. “You can shoot 80 one day and then play match play and be 10 under. I think we’re going to reset from today. It was nice that we won but tomorrow, match play, you gotta beat the guy.”
Oklahoma already ran up against Texas earlier this month in Big 12 match play, and Welch’s halve against star Longhorn junior Cole Hammer sealed it. Welch didn’t lose at that event, winning his first three matches and halving his last two, and his 30 birdies led the field.
“They’re a great team,” Welch said of Texas, “and we’re going to have to play our best to beat them.”
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