NORMAN — Oklahoma made it.
Coach Ryan Hybl’s Sooners, stuck in sixth place after two rounds of the NCAA Norman Regional at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club, climbed the leaderboard one spot in Saturday’s final round to reach the NCAA championship, set to begin at Riviera Country Club, the historic home of the Los Angeles Open, May 29.
The Sooners fired off a final-round 295 on a day no team broke par, making for a 54-hole total of 874.
Also advancing to the national tournament from the Norman Regional will be regional champion Washington (860), second-place Texas (864), and third-place Florida State (871) and Illinois (871).
As it happened, because Georgia Tech struggled to a final round 307, making for an 883 total, OU had nine strokes to play with.
Of course, as is the nature of the college game, it all happened very quickly. In the middle of the round, it wasn’t clear who might finish fourth, fifth or sixth, only that it was Ilinois, Georgia Tech and the Sooners in the running.
One would be left out.
“Maybe a little bit of comfortability of this being our home golf course really helped us down the stretch,” Hybl said. “That’s what I want to believe, and I also want to believe that our guys kind of dug down deep.”
A couple clearly did.
Abraham Ancer, struggling with his putter, three-putted the 14th hole for bogey, then bogeyed the 16th to drop to 4-over par for the day. He came back with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 to shoot 74, helping the Sooner cause immensely.
“Any time you can finish off a round on a positive note, that’s a big thing in golf in general, forget about this week,” Hybl said. “And we really haven’t been able to do that all year.”
The biggest answer, however, was provided by Michael Gellerman for a second straight day. The freshman from Sterling, Kan., who grew up on a nine-hole golf course, and whose next formal golf lesson will be his first, played the last six holes in 4-under par to finish 1-under for the day and give the Sooners all the breathing room they could want.
Gellerman, who opened with a 77 that was discarded Thursday, came back with rounds of 67 and 71 to finish fifth among individuals at 215, six strokes back of Washington’s Chris Williams, who earned medalist honors with rounds of 73-68-68.
Gellerman posted the regional’s best round on Friday and its second-best round on Saturday.
“I felt like when I left yesterday that I was hitting the ball pretty well, so I just tried to come out here and do the same today. And, honestly, the first 12 holes or so, I had nothing … I kind of found a rhythm down the stretch.”
He made bogey on the par 3 12th.
“That did not make me happy,” he said. “It kind of fired me up.”
He came back with a birdie on the next hole, a par 5, then made his best swing of the day, he said, with a 6-iron approach into the 441-yard par 4 14th, playing into the teeth of the wind, to about 12 feet from the hole.
“When I made that putt,” he said, “it got me going.”
Shorter birdie putts followed at Nos. 16 and 18.
“He’s a grinder and he understands competition,” Hybl said of the freshman three-man.
Also for OU, Riley Pumphrey and Michael Schoolcroft both carded 75s. Will Kropp’s 82 was discarded.
“We did what we needed to do to make it happen,” Hybl said.
Next stop, Hogan’s Alley.
NORMAN — Oklahoma made it.
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