SUGAR GROVE, Ill. (AP) – Oregon and Oklahoma will play for the NCAA men’s golf title, two teams that at times had every reason to think they wouldn’t be there.
The Sooners trailed in all five of their matches through 10 holes of their quarterfinal match against Baylor on Tuesday morning at Rich Harvest Farms until they rallied, with Brad Dalke finishing off the Bears with a par on the 19th hole.
The Ducks were outside the top eight teams trying to qualify Monday for match play when Ryan Gronlund closed with four straight birdies that allowed Oregon to advance. The Ducks took it from there, beating Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals and riding the clutch play of Sulman Raza in the afternoon.
In the fifth and decisive match against top-seeded Vanderbilt, Raza protected his 1-up lead on the par-5 18th hole with a 6-iron onto the back of the green. Matthias Schwab, the Commodores’ top player, went left of the green, chipped well past the hole and made par, and he conceded to Raza.
That gives the Ducks a chance to join Alabama and Augusta State as the only back-to-back winners since the match-play era began in 2009.
“I guess there is something to never quitting,” Oregon coach Casey Martin said. “I told the guys that, and they bought in. I kept telling them the weather is tough, but never quit. Hang in there somehow. And we got it done in match play. It will be a great match tomorrow and I’m really stoked that we get a chance to defend.”
Oregon won last year at Eugene Country Club, its home course.
The Sooners will go for their first NCAA title since 1989, when they won at Oak Tree in stroke play by 40 shots over Texas.
Grant Hirschman never led in his quarterfinal match until he won the final hole for a 1-up victory that kept the Sooners alive. Rylee Reinertson took the lead with a birdie on the 17th in a 1-up victory, and then Dalke added to the suspense. He lost the last two holes to Matthew Perrine of Baylor, but won with a par on the first extra hole.
Oklahoma had a much easier time in a 3-1-1 victory over Illinois, which earlier had eliminated Southern California.
“Unlike this morning, we got off to a great start this afternoon,” Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl said. “We had some Sooner magic this morning and built off of that this afternoon.”
Vanderbilt had a tough time in the morning, beating UNLV when Patrick Martin holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole and Theo Humphrey outlasted Justin Kim for a 3-2 victory. The Commodores weren’t so fortunate in the afternoon.
They were down to the Ducks until freshman John Augenstein made a 30-foot birdie putt from just off the green to win his match in 19 holes. That gave Vanderbilt hope, but only as long as it took Raza to close out his match over Schwab.
The championship match is Wednesday.
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