NORMAN – The No. 12 Oklahoma men’s golf team dropped a hard fought semifinal match against Illinois, 3-2, in the first round of match play at the third annual East Lake Cup Tuesday in Atlanta.
“It’s fun getting back in the flow of match play. Nothing gets our guys more excited than that one-on-one match, and I just was excited to see them get back in that competitive spirit and fight today,” Oklahoma men’s golf head coach Ryan Hybl said. “We didn’t do very well in a couple of our matches, but overall I thought our guys fought hard. I think some guys grew up today, and it’s always a learning process for us, so if we can continue to figure out how to get better from this, then it’s all going to be good.”
After Illinois claimed the first point with a 3&2 victory, sophomore Garrett Reband caught fire late to even the score at 1-1, winning three of the final seven holes to notch his own 3&2 win.
“It was a bit of a struggle out there. I started out well, got a couple of birdies out there fast, but then I struggled through the back part of the front nine,” Reband said. “I turned at one down, and then I really got it going at hole 12 and 13 before finishing it off strong.”
In the lone rematch from last year’s NCAA semifinal match play, senior Grant Hirschman was bested by Illinois’ Nick Hardy in a 6&4 finish, but sophomore Riley Casey evened the score at 2-2 with a comeback win. The Abilene, Texas, never led in his match until the 17th hole, sinking a birdie putt to go 1 up before closing out his match on the final hole.
“I was playing solid all day. I might have thrown away a few shots at first, but we both played pretty solid; we made a few mistakes here and there, but overall, we both played well,” Casey said. “I was able to just keep on staying in there. I made a big putt on No. 15 to halve the match, and after that, I just tried to stay in the moment and get one shot back at a time.”
With Casey’s point in hand, the winner would be decided in the final pairing of the day between OU’s Brad Dalke and Illinois’ Michael Feagles. Feagles held a 3-up lead with four holes to go, but Dalke snagged a birdie on No. 16 to continue the match.
Feagles would cease the drama one hole later, however, as both golfers carded a four on No. 17, giving Illinois the 2&1 victory and the decisive match point.
Illinois will face Vanderbilt in Wednesday’s East Lake Cup finals, while Oklahoma duels with Oregon, who fell to Vanderbilt 4-1 in Tuesday’s other semifinal matchup. Wednesday’s consolation matchup will be a rematch of the 2017 NCAA Championship final, which the Sooners won 3-1-1.
Live scoring is available on GolfStat.com. The matches will be broadcast live on Golf Channel from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. CT.
Tee time for the Sooners begin at 10:15 a.m. CT Wednesday on the first tee. Pairings for the finals are below.
No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Oregon
East Lake Cup – Consolation Match
1. Garrett Reband (OU) vs. Ryan Gronlund (ORE)
2. Riley Casey (OU) vs. Edwin Yi (ORE)
3. Blaine Hale (OU) vs. Norman Xiong (ORE)
4. Brad Dalke (OU) vs. Donald Kay (ORE)
5. G. Hirschman (OU) vs. Thomas Mulligan (ORE)