HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Alabama had never won an NCAA men’s golf championship before last season.
Now, the Crimson Tide will try to make it two straight.
Alabama advanced to the match-play finale against Oklahoma State on Tuesday by beating SMU in the quarterfinals and then rolling to a 4-1 victory over LSU at venerable Prairie Dunes.
“It’s pretty incredible just to see how far the program has come along since I’ve set foot here,” said Cory Whitsett, one of three seniors on the Crimson Tide squad. “I mean, to have the success that we’ve had the last three years has been pretty cool for us.”
The Cowboys advanced to Wednesday’s final match by routing Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals, and then upsetting top-seeded Stanford 3-2 in a match that came down to the wire.
The Crimson Tide have actually reached the championship match three straight years. Alabama lost a thrilling match 3-2 to Texas in 2012 at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles, and routed Illinois 4-1 in last year’s final at the Capital City Club in Atlanta.
“I know our guys will embrace it,” Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. “We’ve experienced what it feels like to win and what it doesn’t. So we will appreciate it, and it will make us more ready to be our best and to be focused, because one does feel a little better than the other.”
Whitsett, Robby Shelton and Bobby Wyatt each won their matches during the morning competition against SMU, and Shelton and Wyatt finished off a perfect day by winning their matches against LSU.
Tom Lovelady and Trey Mullinax also won to send the Crimson Tide into the finals.
“It’s a big moment, the biggest stage in college golf,” Wyatt said, “and to be able to come back to it for a third time is something we’re very proud and excited about.”
Oklahoma State qualified fourth among the eight teams advancing through stroke play to the match-play competition, and rolled over the Yellow Jackets in the quarterfinals.
The Cowboys won four of the matches while the fifth, between Oklahoma State’s Ian Davis and individual runner-up Ollie Schniederjans of Georgia Tech, finished all-square.
In the semifinals, individual medalist Cameron Wilson gave Stanford an early lead when he beat Davis 4 and 2. But the Cowboys evened the match when Talor Gooch, who was 1 up on Maverick McNealy heading to the par-4 18th, bounced back from a bogey to win the match on the third extra hole.
Zachary Olsen dispatched Stanford’s David Boote 3 and 2, and Oklahoma State’s Wyndham Clark put things away when he matched a par by Viraat Badhwar on the 18th to win their match 1-up.
Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers beat Jordan Niebrugge 2 and 1 in a match that was rendered moot.
The Cowboys have won 10 national titles in their decorated history, but their last came in 2006. That means they haven’t won it since the tournament changed from an exclusively stroke-play format to a match-play setup for the 2009 championship.
Oklahoma State lost in the 2010 finals to Augusta State.
“It starts all over so it’s more of the same, and your goal is to have putts to win the hole so your opponent doesn’t dictate anything that you’re doing and take the momentum in the match,” Oklahoma State coach Alan Bratton said. “We get a fresh start, it’s a brand new day and we just have to keep fighting.”
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