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ATLANTA – The Oklahoma men lost their three best players from last season.
Duke’s women may lose their star in a month.
Still, both teams are proving themselves resilient. The Sooners and Blue Devils each advanced to Wednesday’s final matches of the East Lake Cup after gritty semifinal victories on a windy day at the home of the Tour Championship.
Oklahoma got its revenge on Pepperdine, which denied them in the final at last season’s NCAA Championship, winning 3-1-1 to earn a date with Big 12 rival Oklahoma State. Duke dispatched the reigning national champions, as well, topping Ole Miss, 4-1, to move on to the final against Oklahoma State.
“We have good players on this team, so there is an impact when you’re missing someone like Gina, who is a great player,” Duke head coach Dan Brooks said, “but everybody stepped up and I was very impressed.”
Kim advanced out of Stage II of LPGA Q-School on Sunday and before she prepares for Q-Series in early December, Kim drove up I-95 to watch her team compete at East Lake. They put on a show, as junior Megan Furtney and sophomore Phoebe Brinker and Anne Chen all closed out their matches before the 17th hole. Junior Erica Shepherd, who is on the latest Annika Award Watch List and could be counted on to lead the team if Kim earns her LPGA card and turns pro this winter, had the other point as her anchor match against Chiara Tamburlini was halted with Shepherd leading, 1 up.
The Blue Devils now face an undefeated Cowgirls squad that us adapting well to losing their star, Maja Stark, to the pros this summer.
“I see a lot of promise for tomorrow,” Brooks added.
Hybl’s squad quickly went from preseason No. 14 in GolfChannel.com’s rankings to again one of the NCAA title favorites. The Sooners entered the week ranked No. 1 in Golfstat thanks to a big victory at Maridoe and two other runner-up finishes. Rutgers grad transfer Chris Gotterup, who actually chose to enroll at Oklahoma over Pepperdine this summer, and the emergence of senior Logan McAllister as an elite player have helped ease the losses of All-Americans Quade Cummins, Garett Reband and Jonathan Brightwell.
But on Tuesday, it was the Sooners’ supporting cast that got the job done. Redshirt freshman Stephen Campbell Jr. and Jaxon Dowell won matches, with Campbell taking down All-American William Mouw, 3 and 1, and Dowell beating Joey Vrzich, 4 and 2. True freshman Drew Goodman, who hasn’t missed a tournament yet this fall, then earned the clinching point with a 4-and-3 victory over Derek Hitchner. McAllister tied the red-hot Joe Highsmith while Gotterup fell to Dylan Menante on No. 18.
“This is something that we’ve struggled with in the last three or four years: We felt like we kind of needed to be perfect with a few guys, and today we were not perfect with our better players, and what people would think is the bottom end of our lineup won matches for us today,” Hybl said. “We finally won us a match where our big guns didn’t actually go out and produce for us, which is huge for us, that’s showing our depth and some grit and determination on their part.”
Next up for the reloaded Sooners: Another chapter of golf’s version of Bedlam. Oklahoma State is considered one of the deepest teams in the men’s game, if not the deepest. But Oklahoma has suddenly shown that they are pretty deep as well.
And at the end of the day, Hybl maintained, “good golf wins.”