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Alabama beats Oklahoma State in match play final at Prairie Dunes

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at 9:44 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, May 29, 2014, at 7:15 a.m.

Photos

— Two chants echoed across the rolling hills of Prairie Dunes Country Club as the NCAA Golf Championship came to an end Wednesday.

Back-to-back!

Roll Tide!

The Alabama golf team and its supporters shouted those five words over and over after the Crimson Tide defeated Oklahoma State 4-1 to win its second straight national championship. Trey Mullinax clinched the victory with a 15-foot eagle putt on the 17th hole, setting off a wild celebration that is becoming a regular occurrence on college golf’s biggest stage.

“Dynasty,” Mullinax said, “that doesn’t sound too bad.”

“This is their legacy,” Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. “They wanted to play for their legacy and be known as one of the greatest college golf teams in history. They weren’t going to be beat.”

That much was obvious from the start when Bobby Wyatt, taking on Oklahoma State senior Talor Gooch in the opening pairing, hit a hole-in-one on the par 3 second. Wyatt lofted the ball high and right of the hole with a gap wedge and watched as it trickled downhill into the cup.

He went on to defeat Gooch 3&2, and the Crimson Tide parlayed that early point into a decisive victory. Freshman Robby Shelton defeated Zachary Olsen in the second pairing with some of the best golf of the entire tournament.

Olsen shot a 64 and jumped out to an early lead, but Shelton birdied six of his last seven holes for a 63. He won the match on the final hole with a 15-foot putt that gave Alabama a 2-0 lead.

“What he did this week to win all those matches, he really is our hero this week,” Wyatt said. “Zach played awesome. He shot 7 under and won 1 up. To go against someone who was playing so well and come out with a victory was huge.”

Oklahoma State kept things interesting when Wyndham Clark defeated Tom Lovelady 3&1, with OSU’s Ian Davis and Jordan Niebrugge extending their matches to No. 17. But Alabama was too strong. Cory Whitsett and Mullinax both won 2&1.

Alabama has played in three straight championship matches, winning the last two. The runner-up finish came in 2012 against Texas. That disappointing result helped push Alabama this season.

“A lot of people after a national title take it easy,” Mullinax said. “We wanted to win another one. We had a bull’s-eye on our back all year and worked hard to make it happen. I think we showed them today how good we really are.”

Alabama is the first team to win back-to-back national championships since Augusta State in 2010 and 2011. The only other modern repeat came in the 1980s.

It was a difficult journey. At times, it didn’t look like it would happen. Midway through the year, Alabama slumped under the pressure that came with defending a championship.

Seawell struggled with it until the end, breaking into tears three times before the start of the championship match.

“It’s there and you feel it,” Seawell said. “You can talk about not feeling it but you feel it. You have to learn to deal with it. I think it eventually wore on us and our play hurt things a little bit. It made it even bigger. We just had to learn from it, which was good. We learned how to handle it. We were starting to feel that target and the weight of it. We learned to embrace it and run with that as our motto.”

They carried an us-against-the-world attitude into the final. A large contingent of Oklahoma State fans were in attendance and Alabama golfers had to walk past the Cowboys’ mascot on their way to the first tee.

Alabama felt like the road team, quieting the opposing crowd with every birdie.

Oklahoma State was unable to feed off the environment. Some of its players struggled. That was most evident with Gooch. A day after making clutch putt after clutch putt to advance his team to the final, he failed to record a birdie. He lost his match with a four-putt.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have my A-game today,” Gooch said. “I just didn’t have my stuff.”

Alabama did for the second year in a row.

“Back-to-back is an amazing feeling,” Wyatt said. “I’m not sure why, but I wanted this one so much more. I thought that wouldn’t be the case already having one, but I was so much more nervous than I have ever been coming down the back nine.… To win in this format, unlike stroke play when the best team is probably going to win, you really have to gut it out. That makes it special.”

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.

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