After a slow start to the NCAA Men’s Golf Regional at Karsten Creek, Oklahoma State left little doubt to the question of which was the best program in Stillwater this week.
The Cowboys, who were actually in fourth after Monday morning’s first round, rolled to a 14-stroke victory as they were the only team to finish under-par in the final round Tuesday.
It marked the fifth-straight regional title for the Cowboys and brought the program total to 15 regional championships.
“The kids took care of business, and put on a good show,” Oklahoma State men’s golf coach Alan Bratton said. “Those last two rounds were very, very good. So pleased with the week, and now it’s on to the big goal.”
Getting to the end of the 54-hole tournament that was condensed down to two days due to threat of weather, did have some experience with the unpredictable Oklahoma weather.
A rogue thunderstorm rolled through during the first nine holes that caused a two-hour delay to play. Though it didn’t bring much rain to the course – with just a brief shower – the lingering lightning in the area dictated the lengthy delay.
Oklahoma State’s Bo Jin, who started the round in third-place on the leaderboard, had completed just one hole before the weather moved in.
“We were ready for a massive delay. We had an Xbox hooked up, so we were prepared,” Bratton said. “We weren’t messing around. But it really didn’t seem that long … we were out on the course most of the time.”
The delay was no bother to the Cowboys, but especially Jin.
The Cowboy freshman, who said he had a putt attempt awaiting him on the second hole once play resumed, came out and carded a clean final round – with birdies on Nos. 7 and 14, and an eagle on the par-5 ninth – to finish second at 9-under.
“I’m just proud to be representing my school to get this (regional) championship done,” Jin said. “Now we’re looking forward to Nationals.”
Brian Stark, who started the tournament as Oklahoma State’s alternate, carried over his impressive performance in the second round. He followed Monday’s 65 with a 4-under, 68, which tied with Jin and SMU’s Noah Goodwin – who won medalist honors with a three-round score of 15-under – for the best round of the day.
He finished his two rounds at 11-under, however, since he did not compete in the first round, was not eligible for the competition for medalist honors.
“Seeing Brian come in and shoot 11-under in two rounds, shoot, he was the only guy that had any chance of beating Noah Goodwin this week, clearly,” Cowboy junior Austin Eckroat said. “It’s just really impressive.”
Eckroat, himself, carded another 1-under, 71 to close out his final competitive round at Karsten Creek with a seventh-place finish at 4-under.
Eckroat told the News Press prior to the regional that he would be turning professional at the conclusion of the NCAA postseason.
And he got plenty of support in his final trip around the course in which he won a state golf championship as a freshman in high school. A large gallery followed him – as well as the other OSU golfers – and among the gaggle following the Edmond North product was his former teammate, now PGA Tour regular Matthew Wolff.
“I was honestly very surprised (with the turnout),” Eckroat said. “I thought it came out well. … You never see that in college. Even though it wasn’t anything like the national championship in 2018, you never see this in college golf. There was probably 50 people at times with the groups. It’s just fun to play in front of people.”
Finishing just ahead of Eckroat on the day and for the tournament was Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra.
The Wake Forest transfer shot a 2-under, 70 to finish the tournament tied for third at 4-under.
The score Oklahoma State tossed out in the final round would have been used by every other team on the course Tuesday. Aman Gupta signed for a 1-over, 73 to close out his tournament tied for 14th at 1-over.
“Everybody contributed – one through six, and even beyond that,” Bratton said. “Pleased for all of them, and can’t wait for Scottsdale.”
For most of the Cowboy golfers, they will travel to Dallas over the weekend to compete in the U.S. Open sectional qualifier at the Dallas Athletic Club on Monday, before turning their attention to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf National Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona. The national tournament, which will be played at Grayhawk Golf Club, will run May 28 through June 2.