Zach Bauchou was chasing history, and chasing numbers. Now, he’s chasing lunch.
The Oklahoma State University junior recently examined his team’s place among one of college golf’s richest traditions and boldly decided he liked what he saw.
“I remember talking to Coach (Mike) Holder after we lost the Big 12 (tournament),” Bauchou said this afternoon, “and I said, ‘Coach, we’re still the best team Oklahoma State has ever had.’ He said, ‘No, you’re not.’ But I told him, ‘Hey, after we win the national championship, we’ll go out to have lunch and we’ll talk about it.”
Bauchou and the Cowboys staked their claim among O-State’s elite — and now the legendary coach who serves his alma mater as athletic director is buying.
OSU swept Alabama 5-0 in a match-play showdown Wednesday at Stillwater’s Karsten Creek Golf Course, winning the program’s 11th national championship and first since 2006.
After a raucous celebration in front of thousands of orange clad Cowboy fans, Bauchou clarified what he meant by “best.”
“I think for me, the 10 national championships that have come before us, one of our goals for the year has been to win more tournaments that they have done,” Bauchou said. “And this week was — I’m counting the stroke play — our 11th win (of the 2017-18 season), and I don’t think any other Oklahoma State team has ever done that.”
Bauchou went last, teeing off against Alabama’s Jonathan Hardee, after his teammates but finished first when he ended the match 8 & 7 (up by eight holes with just seven holes to play, a dominant victory in the match play format.
Sophomore Viktor Hovland was next, defeating Lee Hodges 4 & 3, and then freshman Matthew Wolff clinched it by beating Davis Riley 4 & 3. Senior Kristoffer Ventura also outlasted Wilson Furr 3 & 2, and freshman Austin Eckroat outlasted Davis Shore 1-up (Eckroat was ahead by a stroke when the team championship was clinched).
Alan Bratton has been OSU’s coach since 2011-12, and the Cowboys hadn’t won a golf national championship since 2006. Bratton was an assistant coach under Mike McGraw on that ‘06 team, and was a senior on Holder’s 1995 team that won beat Stanford in a playoff for the national title.
Twelve years is a long time for one of the game’s elite programs to go without winning it all.
“Well, that’s the goal at the start of every year, and I talked about the goals we had this week,” Bratton said. “We had four of them, and we got all four done. Again, it’s about these guys up here and the work that they’ve put in every day, pushing each other. So all the credit goes to these guys sitting up here and the other guys, other five guys that were out there, as well.”
At Karsten, OSU had a decided home-course advantage. Bratton said his team’s biggest edge was in knowing the greens. But the gallery, fueled by national coverage on the Golf Channel and plenty of former Cowboy greats, may have been just as important.
“It’s hard not to get emotional when you’ve got all these people pulling for you,” Bratton said. “We talked with our team a lot about how many people care about what goes on here at Oklahoma State golf, and you get evidence — you get reminders of that from time to time, and today was another one of those big reminders from the former players, the hole donors, all the text messages we got from all those players.
“I sent a text message this morning to every former player that I had their phone number, and I got a response from every single one of them, and a lot of them were out there today. It’s great to see that manifest itself and all those people out there. I don’t know how many were there, but wow, was that really cool, and these guys delivered.
“This sport has grown a ton, and it was exciting to have all the cameras and see that the world can see Karsten Creek for the first time and Cowboy Nation,” Bratton said. “You get into coaching, and you come to play college golf to have a chance to win a national championship, and I think that’s why you want to coach, to give kids an opportunity like that. Our kids had that today, and this day was all about them and all the people that came before them.
“They’ll never forget how they stepped up on that stage, and this will be a big catalyst for all the things they’ll do in the future.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Catch him throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.