FAYETTEVILLE - Back on his May 4 meeting with media, Arkansas Men’s Golf Coach Brad McMakin said the Razorbacks women, of coach Shauna Taylor, winning their first SEC Golf championship inspired his men upon their first day struggle at the SEC Men’s Championship.
McMakin’s men extricated themselves from their first day hole to surge on Day Three, avoiding stroke play elimination and advancing to the match play phase before losing on the final hole to eventual SEC champion Auburn.
“The girls winning the SEC, that carries over to our program, too,” McMakin said. “The kids were really fired up for them and really proud for them. They wanted to follow in their footsteps last week but came up a little short (against Auburn) but definitely a lot of momentum going on with both programs right now. The last nine holes were maybe as good as golf as we played all year. William Buhl shot 30 on the back nine. Mason Overstreet shot 33. Alvaro (Ortiz, named Second-Team All-SEC Thursday and also to the SEC’s All-Community Service team) shot 32. They gained a lot of confidence.”
If McMakin’s men, were inspired by the Arkansas golfing women then, they should really be inspired heading as the third seed into the 14-team Norman Regional from Monday through Wednesday at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Oklahoma.
Taylor’s women needed only to finish fifth at the Austin Regional in Austin, Texas, to advance to the NCAA Women’s Championships May 18 through 23 at the Karsten Creek Country Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
They did far more. They won convincingly, the first NCAA Regional championship in their history.
McMakin would gladly settle for a top five team finish.
But of course, he’d like to win it all and be a champion heading into the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships May 24 through 29 at the same Karsten Creek Course in Stillwater hosting the women May 18 through 23.
McMakin’s men come to Norman as the third seed behind top seed host Oklahoma and No. 2-seeded SEC champ Auburn with Florida State and North Florida seeded fourth and fifth and Pepperdine and Brigham Young sixth and seventh.
The six through 14 seeds in Norman include Pepperdine; Brigham Young; San Diego State; Virginia; San Diego State; Nevada; Sam Houston State; Missouri-Kansas City; Navy and Prairie View A&M.
Ortiz, Buhl, Tyson Reeder, Luis Garza and Mason Overstreet, last year’s national runner-up at the NCAA Tournament, again will represent the Razorbacks.
Overstreet, McMakin said, has been off form until at the SEC Tournament.
“His game’s been a little off this spring and he obviously got back in form in the SEC’s,” McMakin said. “He played well in the final round and really good in the first match about 4 or 5 under. There’s a lot of expectations for Mason this year. He handled it really well in the fall. I think he put a little extra pressure on himself this spring but he knows where we need to be. He’s excited to get back to Stillwater.”
Overstreet, of Kingfisher, and Reeder, of Edmond, both are Oklahomans who have played the courses at Norman and Stillwater.
Ortiz has played in Oklahoma, as well, and all have played in tournaments this season under windy conditions that often occur in Oklahoma but not at Pepperdine in Malibu, California, “where it’s like playing in a dome.”
“It’s a different kind of golf, I can tell you that,” McMakin said. “When it’s blowing 30 you’ve got to do a lot of different things. You’ve got to keep your ball on the ground basically all day long. We get a lot of wind here in the spring so we’re used to it.”
McMakin said Arkansas’ big challenge is avoiding the first day blues dogging the Razorbacks not only at the SEC Tournament but others previously.
“It’s been that way this year for some reason,” McMakin said. “We’ve got to get these guys to be a little more focused the first round. When they bear down, they seem to do a really good job in the final two rounds of every tournament we’ve played in. They are really focused and I think we are going to have a good week next week in Norman.”