It all began a year earlier.
When Oklahoma's Doug Martin, Matthew Lane and Jeff Lee received their second-place trophies at the 1988 NCAA Championships, they had a hollow feeling. Yes, they were proud to have helped Oklahoma to its best NCAA finish ever, but the team had faltered down the stretch and finished second in a tournament they could -- and probably should -- have won. Martin, Lane and Lee would be back, and they knew they did not want to experience that feeling again.
Three hundred and seventy-eight days later, on a day expected to produce heavy rains, the sun broke through the clouds and shined brightly on Gregg Grost's Sooners as they pulled away from the field to claim Oklahoma's first-ever national championship in golf.
The celebration that ensued on the 18th gree at Oak Tree Country Club on June 10, 1989, was the culmination of a mission, one that began back on May 28, 1988, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. During those 378 days, Oklahoma barnstormed the collegiate golfing world.
As a team, the Sooners won five tournaments during the 1989 regular season and had three different golfers earn medalist honors.
Then came the postseason.
The Big Eight Tournament, hosted by OU at the Golf Club of Oklahoma in Tulsa, began an unlikely chain of events that had Sooner emotions on a roller coaster ride for the next several weeks.
After being told they had lost by a stroke, and after a team meeting and interviews, the Sooners learned that in actuality they were tied with Oklahoma State. With no provisions for a tie, coaches and officials decided a playoff was in order and the teams headed back to the first tee. OSU won the title on that first hole, adding another stake to OU's recent near-misses.
Eleven days later in McKinney, Texas, the Sooners found themselves in an identical situation at the first-ever NCAA Regionals. After 54 holes, OU and OSU were deadlocked again, each shooting 880 in the heat, wind and rain that plagued the field. As a qualifying event (the top 10 teams advanced to NCAAs), there was no playoff, leaving the Bedlam battle a stalemate in round two.
The second tie set up a high-stakes rubber match -- a winner-take-all national championship shootout between the co-hosts and co-favorites on some familiar terrain, the Oak Tree Country Club in nearby Edmond.
On the strength of their postseason performance, the Sooners topped the final coaches' poll, another first for Oklahoma golf. But as prestigious as the poll is, the Sooners were still not a clear-cut favorite heading into the 92nd national championship. The tournament committee seeded OU fourth and Golfweek tabbed the Sooners third behind Arizona State and Oklahoma State.
But Grost and his troops knew if history had anything to do with the '89 outcome, it would be an orange and black mountain the Sooners would have to club to reach their desired summit.
After play was suspended on the opening day due to weather, Arizona's Robert Gamez set a course and NCAA-record with an eight-under 62 in the first round to lead his Wildcats to an early lead. Lee carried the Sooners on day one with a four-under 66, but in what became OU's them for the week, it was a team effort. Bell posted an even-par 70, Tripp Davis added a 71 and Martin chipped in 72.
Lee continued his strong charge Friday with a second-round 71 to put him at 137, one stroke behind second-round leader Phil Mickelson of Arizona State. Bell and Davis each shot 72 and Martin and Lane had 74s, which left OU and ASU tied for the lead at the halfway point.
With a day lost to rain and a forecast for more, the tournament committee decided to make every effort to complete the championship with 36 holes on Saturday. The teams played back-to-back, 18-hole rounds without a break, so third-round results were sketchy and late for all interested parties. But one thing was clear -- Oklahoma was making its move and only the strongest teams in the field had a chance to move with them.
The Sooners shot 283 for the best score in the third round. They did so on the strength of 69s by Bell and Lane, a 72 from Martin and a 73 from Davis. Heading into the final round, the stage was set.
As the final round began, the Sooners, a perfect blend of two seniors, a junior and two sophomores, some experienced in this pressure cooker and some not, stood where several of Grost's teams in the past stood, with a chance to win the national championship. One second- and two third-place finishes in the last three years exemplified OU's problems down the stretch. But not on this day.
The Sooners blitzed the field, firing a 288 for the best score in the final round, and made the back nine -- where OU had struggled in the past -- a literal walk in the park. Oklahoma won by 19 strokes, the highest victory margin in 14 years. Individually, Martin, who would be named first team All-America the following day, led the way with a 67 to finish tied for second along with teammate Bell. Davis, a senior who waited so long to get his chance, had played in the Sooners' most historic event, closing with a 72 to tie for 12th. Sophomores Lane and Lee tied for 24th and 27th, respectively.
When Lee tapped in on the 72nd hold, the years of frustration and pain were swept away. For Martin, Lane, Lee and Grost, it was a moment they had waited 12 months for. Others had waited 50 years since OU first played in the NCAA tournament in 1939. But on a day when the sun was not supposed to shine, it did so brightly on a joyous group of crimson-shirted heroes. Oklahoma was national champion!
- Story first appeared in the 1990 Oklahoma men's golf media guide and was written by Larry McAlister.