by Ron Balicki
OOLTEWAH, Tenn. (June 6, 2010) – In its own fashion, Augusta State followed the script from Watty Piper’s famous children’s book “The Little Engine That Could” to perfection.
When the little school from Augusta, Ga. – enrollment just over 7,000 – defeated No. 1 Oklahoma State 3-1-1 Sunday afternoon at The Honors Course to claim its first NCAA Championship, it became the poster child for the book’s most quotable set of lines: “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.”
Behind the dominant play of junior Henrik Norlander and sophomore Patrick Reed, who defeated Oklahoma State’s two heralded Walker Cup players, and gutsy performances by junior Mitchell Krywulycz and Taylor Floyd, Augusta State showed that it, in fact, can.
“This is truly a dream come true,” said eighth-year head coach Josh Gregory. “This is something I’ve been saying since I got to Augusta State. College golf has a great meaning in Augusta, Ga. And I will guarantee you there is no university in America that truly appreciates this more than we do.”
Added Reed, who transferred after his freshman season at Georgia: “This is huge for our school, huge for our program, huge for Josh, huge for all the guys. Right now, I don’t know how I feel. It’s all just starting to soak in.”
Norlander put the Jaguars’ first point on the board when he cruised past Morgan Hoffmann, 5 and 4, and Reed made it 2-0 when he disposed of Peter Uihlein, 4 and 2.
Hoffmann and Uihlein led Team USA to victory at the Walker Cup last fall.
Oklahoma State got its first point as Sean Einhaus edged Carter Newman, 2 and 1.
Krywulycz provided the clincher, overcoming a 4-down deficit to defeat Kevin Tway with a par on the 19th hole (No. 1).
With the team title decided, the match between Floyd and Trent Whitekiller, which was all square through 16 holes, was declared halved with the two players on the 17th green.
|Congratulatory hug for Augusta State's Mitch Krywulycz
It was a mighty effort from Taylor, who came down with a stomach virus Friday night. His match Sunday with Whitekiller was scheduled as the second of the day, but it was pushed to the last spot as Taylor was receiving an IV treatment in the locker room.
“There was no way I was not going to play,” said Taylor, who took constant bathroom breaks throughout the match. “This is the national championship. This is what you play for all year. I was going to play even if I had to crawl.”
Norlander went birdie-par to win the first two holes and never looked back against Hoffmann. He went 5-up by winning Nos. 4-6 and added a birdie to win No. 8. Hoffmann won his only hole at the 10th, with a birdie. After both players matched scores from Nos. 11-14, it was over.
Uihlein won the first hole with a birdie, but it was Reed’s show after that. The 2008 U.S. Amateur semifinalist won Nos. 2-3 with birdies and No. 4 with a par to go 2 up. After 12 holes, he was 5 up, but Uihlein won No. 15 with a birdie to go 3 down with three to play. But Uihlein’s tee shot on the par-3 16th found the water. Reed, adrenaline flowing, hit a 9-iron shot some 200 yards, far behind the green. He made a stellar up-and-down – one of many on the day – and won the match with a par.
Einhaus took his first lead over Newman with a par on the seventh hole, then won the next two to go 3 up. Newman won the 11th and they halved the next six holes.
Tway looked as though he would make it an early runaway. He won the first four holes and was 4 up through 11. But Krywulycz, who had not won a match all week, dug deep. The junior from Australia won Nos. 13-15 with birdies to square the match. Both players parred in to force extra holes.
On the 19th hole, the first hole at The Honors Course, Krywulycz left his 20-foot birdie putt inches short, and it was conceded. Tway then rolled his 18-footer four feet past the hole and missed his comeback effort, providing Krywulycz with the decisive match point.
“I’ve waited 21 years of my life for something like this, so now to have it end this way is pretty sickening to my stomach,” said Tway, fighting back tears.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Oklahoma State coach Mike McGraw said. “This team has come a long way this year. We just didn’t play well today. We got behind the 8-ball from the start. But in the end, we didn’t hit the shots to win a national championship. I give a ton of credit to Augusta State. They came out ready to play and got the job done. I have all the respect in the world for them.”
The feeling was mutual for Gregory about Oklahoma State.
|Oklahoma State sophomore Peter Uihlein reacts after missing a putt on No. 4
“To beat the best team in the country and a program with such a storied history, I think really says something,” Gregory said. “You always dream about winning (a national championship), but never dream about what it’s going to feel like when it actually happens. Right now, it definitely hasn’t all sunk in yet.”
From the start of this six-day golfing marathon, the Augusta State engine kept pushing forward. The Jaguars gained a spot in match play by finishing sixth in the 54-hole stroke-play competition
I think I can.
They followed by defeating in-state rival Georgia Tech in the opening round of match play, 3 and 2.
I think I can.
They advanced to the title match by beating Florida State, 4 and 1.
I think I can.
And they capped it off with their biggest victory against the best team in the country.
I know I can.
Augusta State. The Little Engine That Could. The little engine that is now the 2010 NCAA champions.
* Illinois junior Scott Langley won Medalist honors and took the individual title.