Brad Dalke (Photo by Rod Commons)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Brad Dalke has been part of the Oklahoma golf story for roughly a decade. His college ride has played out so much longer than that of his peers because he started it so much earlier. Dalke committed to be a Sooner in 2010, when he was 12.
No matter what happens this week at the NCAA Championship, this is where the road ends for Dalke and the Sooners. He and senior Blaine Hale will bookend Oklahoma’s quarterfinal match-up against Texas, the No. 3 team in the country, on Tuesday. Dalke will go out first.
Oklahoma has now made it to four consecutive national-championship match-play brackets. Dalke and Hale have played in every one, becoming the first two players in NCAA history to earn that distinction.
When Oklahoma won the national title in 2017, Dalke holed the winning putt. It was like a novel playing out.
“His career at OU was exactly how the script should be written out,” head coach Ryan Hybl said.
While the big milestones have been there, the final chapter has been wrought with struggle. As Dalke battled his swing during his senior season, there were times when he wasn’t sure he’d be at the national championship.
Dalke spent the first three tournaments of the spring season at home. Hale, a good friend, was there for two of them. It weighed heavily on them.
“We didn’t want it to end like this,” Dalke said, who also admitted to feeling as if he wasn’t doing enough to contribute to the team effort as a senior.
Dalke felt his junior season was the best of his career. His began struggling with ballstriking toward the end of that season. At the 2018 NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., Dalke left driver in his bag but didn’t hit it once that week. He still finished 11th. He didn’t even carry the club at the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach two months later.
“Didn’t even want to tempt myself to hit it,” said Dalke, who made match play but fell in the first round that week. He was sacrificing 15-25 yards off the tee by using his 3-wood instead.
When Dalke went back to Pebble Beach for the Carmel Cup in September, Oklahoma’s season-opening event, he had rounds of 76-69-72 for a top-20 finish.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Dalke learned to lean on his short game as he worked to get his ballstriking back to normal.
“He really worked his tail off this past year to figure out what’s going on,” Hybl said. “It’s not perfect, we know that. Back home, he’s been doing much, much better.”
As the national championship creeped closer, Dalke knew that Hybl wasn’t just going to plug him in to the lineup. He needed to get his game in order, and he needed to earn it. By the beginning of March, Dalke had gone five months without a competitive start. Hybl sent him to the Sonoran Showdown in Arizona as an individual. Dalke opened with 5-under 65, followed with rounds of 68-67 and at 10 under for the week, finished third.
They were “three really solid rounds” that seemed to bring Dalke back to life. Dalke played the rest of the season in the Sooner lineup.
“He’s the ultimate fighter, he’s a warrior,” Hyb said. “I’d go to war with him for sure – with anything that we do.”
And, like in the quarterfinals, let Dalke lead the troops.