HUTCHINSON, Kan. — There's a reason Oklahoma State golf coach Alan Bratton always chooses Talor Gooch for the first round of team match play.
Gooch tends to get the Cowboys off to a good start.
But Gooch did much more than that on Tuesday at Prairie Dunes Country Club. The Oklahoma State senior made one clutch putt after another near the end of his match with Maverick McNealy, eliminating a one-hole deficit and forcing a sudden-death playoff. By the time it was over, he was no longer starting the match, he was finishing it with a birdie putt from 35 feet that gave the Cowboys a 3-2 victory over Stanford.
“I had pressure from the beginning, but that is what I wanted,” Gooch said. “That is why Coach sent me out first. He expected me to go out there and take the lead and get some confidence in the boys behind me, knowing that I was going to get them a point. It took a little longer than I wanted it to, but I was glad I was able to get out there and get the win.”
The victory advances the Cowboys into the final match of the NCAA Golf Championship on Wednesday. Wyndham Clark, Zachary Olsen and Gooch all defeated their Stanford counterparts to make it happen.
Oklahoma State will face Alabama for a national championship at 2:10 p.m. The match will be televised live by the Golf Channel.
“This is exciting,” Bratton said. “That’s what you play for is an opportunity like that. It took all five of our guys. That has been the strength of our team all year, the depth. Everybody up here got a point in one of the matches and some of the guys got two. It is awesome to see them step up on a big stage.”
The Crimson Tide won the tournament last year and finished second in 2012. So the Cowboys face a difficult task.
But motivation won’t be a problem.
There’s a familiar face on the Alabama coaching staff — former OSU coach Mike McGraw, who was the Cowboys’ head coach for eight years before being fired after the 2013 season.
And the Cowboys have a long history of championship success, winning 10 titles from 1963-2006. They are used to hoisting a trophy every five years, but they haven’t done so in eight seasons.
They are ready for that streak to end.
“You come to college wanting to win a national championship,” Gooch said. “That is why you come to Oklahoma State, because Oklahoma State wins national championships … If you don’t win a national championship in four years at Oklahoma State it is a disappointment. We want to make sure we are not a disappointment.”