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Monday, March 27, 2023

2022 Southern Highlands Collegiate: It’s a Sooner sweep in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — With Red River rival Texas lurking seven shots back, the University of Oklahoma men’s golf team fended off both the Longhorns and a late charge from Pepperdine to secure its third consecutive win.

As an added bonus, senior Patrick Welch will return to Las Vegas to make his PGA Tour debut in October.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had this feeling,” said Welch, who will be in the field at the Shriners Children’s Open after earning a special exemption with his individual victory Tuesday. “Ever since I started golfing, I’ve always wanted to make it to the PGA Tour. To have this opportunity means the world.”

After tapping in at the par-5 18th to post 67, putting him three clear of a five-way tie for second place, his teammates hastened onto the green to douse him with bottled waters.

“As soon as I finished out and they surprised me with the water, I’ve never had that experience before,” Welch said. “I’m at a loss for words. It was a really good feeling.”

Oklahoma’s lead waxed and waned throughout the day. Pepperdine, whose deficit was 9 shots on the first tee, made a huge move with a blistering 14 under front nine. Senior Derek Hitchner’s 30 featured six birdies in his first seven holes before he went on to card 67. Fellow senior Joe Highsmith’s 65 paced the Waves, who had an outside chance of catching the Sooners but combined to go three over from 16 into the clubhouse. They finished seven back of the champions.

As for the rivalry? For Welch and coach Ryan Hybl, it was business as usual.

“I think every win feels the same,” Welch said. “Ever since last year we’ve been neck-and-neck. They’re a really good team and I know they aren’t 100 percent healthy, but this week they competed hard.

“To win over them, it’s nice. But it’s just another win.”

Texas would finish third, piloted by top-10 performances from juniors Mason Nome and Travis Vick and senior Cole Hammer. Hammer birdied four of his last six to jump into a tie for second place individually with Highsmith, Sooner freshman Drew Goodman, Georgia Tech sophomore Christo Lamprecht and Florida junior Fred Biondi.

Returning to competitive play for the first time since breaking his right arm was Texas senior Parker Coody, who was disappointed in his opening-round 73 but was certainly happy to be back representing the Longhorns.

“Mentally, I was pretty eager to get going,” Coody said after wrapping up a post-round driving range session. “Afterwards though I’m pretty frustrated. I just made mistakes that I usually don’t make and little things that add up to not a great score on a perfect day.”

Parker’s twin Pierceson, the 10th-ranked amateur in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Rankings, broke his arm in the same incident back in early December but didn’t travel with the team to Las Vegas.

“The doctor said he’s a couple of weeks behind me,” Coody said. “His fracture was a little bit worse than mine. Maybe he’ll be in Tucson [Arizona] in a couple of weeks.”

Coody would go on to sign for a 1-under 215, two years after claiming individual honors at Southern Highlands and earning the tournament’s inaugural PGA Tour exemption.


World Nation News Desk
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