NORMAN, Okla. The University of Oklahoma men’s golf team saved its best performance of the season for its most important tournament thus far, capturing OU’s first-ever Big 12 Conference title, and first team title since 2001, at famed Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa on Tuesday.
The Sooners, seeded sixth in the event, posted a tournament-best 284 (+4) team total in the final round to beat the University of Texas by four shots. OU had been conference runner-up in 2004 and 2005.
“I’m obviously very proud of this team,” head coach Jim Ragan said. “There are some very good teams in the Big 12 and for us to come out on top is a great accomplishment. I’m really proud that it was such a team effort. We needed each and every person on the team and everyone really contributed. That’s what it’s all about.”
The victory also marked Oklahoma’s first since winning three team titles in 2001, including a three-way tie at the NCAA Central Regional at Karsten Creek in Stillwater.
Oklahoma got career-best performances from three players, including seniors Brodie Flanders and Shawn LaFontaine who both posted top-10 finishes for the first time in their OU careers. All five Sooners finished in the top-15 individually.
“Every guy on this team is talented and capable of playing really good golf,” Ragan said. “Eventually it was going to happen for each of them. They’ve all been close closer than people might think. They’ve played some great rounds in practice and they put it together this week in competition. It came at a good time.”
Flanders, whose previous career-high finish was a tie for 13th at the 2006 Morris Williams Intercollegiate (April 3-4), was runner-up to Texas’ Matthew Rosenfeld. Flanders recorded rounds of 69, 72 and 71 to finish 2-over-par for the tournament.
“This is my first team title and I'm a senior, so it's been awhile and it feels really good,” Flanders said.
LaFontaine, who was tied for second place with Flanders after his own opening-round 69, carded a 75 in round three to earn his first top-10 finish as a Sooner, tying for ninth overall.
Sophomore Phillip Bryan was OU’s most consistent player down the stretch, recording a pair of one-over 71s in the final two rounds. Bryan played the back nine in two-under fashion Tuesday afternoon, finishing in a tie for 11th, also a career best.
Senior Justin Fraley, who tied for fifth at last season’s Big 12 Championships, finished in a tie for 14th place at 219 (+9).
Reigning Big 12 Champion Anthony Kim, who admittedly struggled in the first two rounds while battling a sore ankle, recovered nicely on the final 18, getting his round to 3-under-par before a double bogey on the final hole left him with a one-under 69. Kim, who led the Sooners in four of seven tournaments this season, including victories at the Ashworth Invitational (Feb. 27-28) and the Hall of Fame Invitational (March 17-19), finished in 13th place overall.
“It was a struggle for sure,” Kim said. “It was just one of those things where I was having some ankle problems and I couldn’t swing. I just wasn’t healthy. Our trainer, Alex Brown, did some work with me after the first four holes this morning and my ankle felt great and I obviously played a little better down the stretch.”
Despite five career individual titles, Kim had yet to experience a team victory at OU.
“To be honest it feels better to win as a team than if I had won by myself,” Kim said. “Everyone is obviously playing for themselves out there, but ultimately I’m playing for the University of Oklahoma. This is a program that hasn’t won a Big 12 title and we just played awesome this week.”
Oklahoma has won 12 conference golf titles in its history, but Tuesday’s victory marked the first since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996. OU also won a Big Eight championship in 1992.
Prior to this week’s event, the Sooners had collected top-10 team finishes in their last five outings, including top-fives at the Ashworth, Hall of Fame and Morris Williams.
“We’ve been working hard all spring and playing well,” Ragan said. “We’ve been close at times and it hasn’t quite gone our way. The guys have put in the effort and they were rewarded this week with a championship.”
The Sooners will look to continue their winning ways at the 15th annual Perry Maxwell Intercollegiate Invitational at Dornick Hills in Ardmore, Okla., May 13-14. The Maxwell will be the team’s final tune-up before NCAA Regionals, May 18-20.