Oklahoma heating up as top seeds all advance to NCAA semifinals

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It may have been 95 degrees Tuesday afternoon at Grayhawk Golf Club, but Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl wasn’t taking his gray sweater vest off.

That morning he had finally ripped the dry-cleaning tags off the outerwear piece, which he hadn’t worn in four years. The last time Hybl donned the vest was at Rich Harvest Farms, when the Sooners won the 2017 NCAA Championship.

“I wore this that whole week, and it stunk so bad,” Hybl said. “I’ve had it neatly folded for four years, and finally broke it out for today.”

He’ll likely be leaving it on now after fourth-seeded Oklahoma snapped a two-year losing streak in the NCAA quarterfinals, beating Illinois, 3-2, to advance to Tuesday afternoon’s semifinals against top-seeded Arizona State, the hosts who took down North Carolina, 3-1-1.

While the Sooners benched All-American Garett Reband, who had been struggling with the driver, and his replacement, Patrick Welch, lost his match on the 12th hole, two other senior stars stepped up. Jonathan Brightwell lipped out for ace at the par-3 eighth, his penultimate hole, before beating Giovanni Tadiotto, 3 and 1. After sophomore Logan McAllister got a point, Quade Cummins clinched the win with a 2-and-1 victory over Tommy Kuhl.

“We haven’t won a match in this thing since 2017, and we’re just thrilled to be able to keep fighting hard,” Hybl said. “Our guys did a great job of finishing over here and closing out their matches.”

Oklahoma, which adds Reband back in the lineup for the semifinals, will have its hands full with Arizona State. Sun Devils senior Kevin Yu hit a beautiful 3-wood into the short par-4 17th and earned a conceded birdie to beat Austin Hitt. Red-hot Ryggs Johnston, whose putter has been on fire, and Mason Andersen also won their matches for Arizona State.

The other semifinal will match up No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 3 Pepperdine. The Cowboys have won 11 NCAA team titles and are 1-2 in finals in the match-play era. The Waves qualified for match play for the first time this year, though they do own one NCAA team crown, in 1997. That year, Clemson’s Charles Warren won the individual title; this year, the medalist was Turk Pettit … of Clemson.

Junior Joe Highsmith chipped in for birdie on the eighth hole to send the Waves past Florida State, 3-1-1. Joey Vrzich and Clay Feagler also won matches, with Feagler hammering Vincent Norrman, 6 and 4. Oklahoma State got a fight from Vanderbilt, but ultimately pulled away late for a 4-1 win.

The Cowboys have consistently been a national power for decades, most recently winning the stroke-play portion of NCAAs in 2019. Pepperdine, though, is a rising power, ending last season ranked No. 1 before the postseason was canceled. The Waves were coming off the round of the tournament in which they closed stroke play with a 9-under 271.

“No matter how good we are, we’re always going to be looked at as maybe not as good as we are,” Pepperdine head coach Michael Beard, “so we still have that chip on our shoulder.”