HINTON — Luther's Ryan Stults had just completed the best round of the Class 2A boys golf tournament on Tuesday — an even-par 71 on Sugar Creek Canyon — then had to wait in clubhouse and hope leader Justin Strathe of Rejoice Christian would stumble.
“I knew that probably wasn't good enough to win,” said Stults, who trailed Strathe by two strokes at the top of the day.
He was right. Strathe matched Stults' round with a 71 of his own and claimed the 2A state golf championship. Those two strokes also proved to be the difference in the team race, as Rejoice Christian edged Hinton by two strokes, overcoming a four-stroke deficit after 36 holes on Monday.
“It's huge,” said Rejoice Christian golf coach Joyce Deason of her school's first state championship.
The private school in Owasso had won golf state titles in the Oklahoma Christian Schools Athletic Association before, but the Eagles were competing for the first time in the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association.
Rejoice Christian had entered the Class 2A state golf tournament as the favorite but was pushed by Hinton on the Comets' home course.
“We just about didn't do it, but we did in the end,” Deason said. “Hinton kind of snuck up on us. They played great.”
Hinton golf coach Greg George thought this was going to be the Comets' year when three-time defending state champion Oklahoma Christian School was bumped to Class 3A this season. Then he received the news that Rejoice Christian was joining the OSSAA in Class 2A.
“We knew coming in we were probably playing for runner-up,” George said. “To be leading after a couple of rounds, we actually had a chance. To lose by two strokes is a hard pill to swallow because every kid can think of a couple of strokes they left out there over three rounds. We came very close. I am proud of my kids.”
Hinton finished as the Class 2A runner-up for the second time in three years.
Strathe's victory gave Rejoice Christian both of Class 2A's individual state champions in golf. Katie-Lee Wilson of Rejoice Christian won the 2A girls title last week.
Strathe had won the OCSAA state championship the past two years, but said this title means the most.
“The last two years are like nothing compared to this,” he said. “This is a lot bigger, a lot more players. Everyone had to qualify just to get here.”
The junior at Rejoice Christian entered Tuesday's final round tied with Tishomingo's Preston Lovett for the lead and two strokes ahead of Stults.
Lovett, a sophomore, shot a 75 on Tuesday — his highest round of the tourney — to finish third.
But it was Stults that Strathe was most worried about on Tuesday. He said he knew Stults was capable of shooting a low score because the Luther senior had shot a 65 at the regional qualifier.
“I knew there were a lot of really good players right on my tail,” he said. “I knew I had to really watch (Stults), but I didn't worry about anyone else and played my game. I started off good and got a rhythm and kept it going.”
Strathe said he played Tuesday's final round more conservatively than he normally would.
“I didn't want to blow up on any holes and make a big number,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stults would like to have a mulligan for his first round Monday, when he shot a 77. He bounced back with scores of 73 and 71 over the next 36 holes but couldn't overcome the opening round of 6 over par.
Strathe didn't have a score higher than 74 in his three rounds.
“I'm a little disappointed I didn't start better,” Stults said. “The wind was up and I just didn't hit the ball as well or putt well. But I played well the last two rounds.”