FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Garett Reband, who has another year in the program, may think about the long iron he probably shouldn’t have hit when he could have hit so much less club instead.
Brad Dalke, who along with senior teammate Blaine Hale became the first to ever compete in the match play portion of four straight NCAA championships, can remember that on his last day, though his team lost, he won. Patrick Welch, the Sooner freshman, may recall it as the day he learned it’s not enough to have the game, nor can you ever relax.
Ryan Hybl, the coach who has made Oklahoma one of the nation’s best men’s golf programs, will just keep doing what he’s been doing, tending to the process that’s propelled the program to what it’s become.
It may not have delivered a victory Tuesday morning, when Texas topped Oklahoma 3-2 in a quarterfinal match at the NCAA championships at The Blessings Golf Club. On the other hand, the Sooners keep returning to the national tourney and keep finishing in the top eight after 72 holes of stroke-play competition, the requirement to enter match play and compete for a championship.
Tuesday morning’s Red River rivalry match wasn’t over until Reband conceded a 2-foot bogey putt to Parker Coody, giving the Longhorn freshman a 1-up victory that secured Texas’ triumph.
Prior to Reband and Cody approaching the final green — the ninth, having begun their match on No. 10 — Dalke had defeated Spencer Soosman 3 and 1 and Quade Cummins had delivered, too, beating Pierceson Coody, Parker’s twin brother, 2 and 1. Welch fell to Cole Hammer 7 and 5 and Hale succumbed to Texas’ Steven Chervony 4 and 3.
“I always have confidence in Brad in match play,” Hybl said. “He’s a big-time match-play player, and he’s proven that and today was just that much more proof.”
Dalke, whose family makes Norman its home, lost the first and third holes of his match, but a birdie on the par-3 13th evened things and birdie at the par-4 14th put him up for good.
Welch was facing perhaps the most dominant collegiate golfer in the nation in Hammer, who won three different tournaments this year individually, including the NCAA’s Austin Regional.
Even losing two holes, Hammer made the turn 4-up on Welch.
“Patrick gave up too many easy holes, and you can’t do that against good players,” Hybl said. “You’ve got to make every single thing tough for them, and he didn’t do that.”
Reband may be the Sooner who will struggle the most to let go of the round. He was 1-up through 14 holes approaching the short par-4 sixth that was playing downwind and about 300 yards.
Reband hit a 2-iron too far and too far right. Though barely out of the fairway, on a hole he could have hit two wedges into, he was forced to take an unplayable lie from the gunchy native grass that’s everywhere at The Blessings and lost the hole.
He then missed a 5-foot par putt on No. 7 that would have given him back the lead and fell behind to Parker Coody’s birdie at the par-3 17th.
On No. 9, after Coody approached to the back of the green 60 feet beyond the pin, Reband’s approach reached the green’s left front, only to roll back down the hill guarding it 40 yards.
A few minutes later, facing a 5-foot bogey putt, Reband conceded a 2-foot bogey putt facing Coody.
That was it.
Hybl’s process that is the floor beneath the Sooner program calls for pressure and competition, perhaps more of it between tournaments than during them.
“Every single week is very, very difficult. No different than if you’re on the PGA Tour or the Web.com Tour,” he said. “Whether you have to go Monday qualify or Thursday, Friday is a qualifier to make the cut. ... That’s what we do every single week in the program.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but over the long haul, for four years, it works, I promise you.”
A moment later Hybl lamented that despite that, his team’s still been bounced on the first day of match play in three of the past four NCAA tourneys.
Hybl did not, in that moment, recall that no other program had been to the past four match plays, nor that his program had reached nine straight national tournaments overall.
It has, though.
“You’re not playing against chumps,” he said.