(Editor’s note: AmateurGolf.com and Golfweek have teamed up to cover the amateur game from top to bottom.)
Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Athletics
by Julie Williams, Golfweek
is a product of his surroundings, and that’s never been so apparent as it is right now.
Unless you rewind to Pebble Beach in September.
Gotterup, a fifth-year transfer at Oklahoma, had gone on a 30-under scoring spree in seven rounds of fall-season qualifying at OU’s golf course in Norman, Oklahoma. Then the former Rutgers star headed west to Pebble Beach with his new team for the season-opening Carmel Cup. Gotterup, a self-described soft, non-aggressive player, spent the week laying up. A visit with head coach Ryan Hybl followed.
“Me and coach sat in his office and were like, ‘Hey man, you gotta play more aggressive and take advantage of what your strengths are,’” remembered Gotterup, who went 2 under for 54 holes and tied for 14th. “So I kind of just rewired how I thought about playing and that’s really helped me take advantage of what my strengths are.”
Hybl says coaching college golf is about seeing the big picture around a player.
“Part of my job is understanding where these guys come from,” Hybl said. He looks at a guy like Gotterup, who grew up in Little Silver, New Jersey, and competed predominantly in the Northeast, and can see the way that shaped Gotterup’s game.
Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl (l) and Chris Gotterup
Off the tee, Gotterup is among the straightest drivers of the golf ball Hybl has ever seen – a “PGA Tour caliber driver of the golf ball,” in fact. But the great golf courses in the Northeast tend to be smaller and bend. Gotterup grew up hitting a lot of 2-irons off tee boxes.
“He’d always be potentially hitting it through doglegs and playing position golf because he knew that if he goes out, up in the Northeast part of the country, tougher weather at times, if you go do your job and you go shoot around even par or so, you’re going to have a chance to win almost any golf tournament he would have played in.”
Hybl recognized Gotterup’s hesitancy to push it when he got to Pebble Beach. He gave his player the green light to get after it, and Gotterup played the next two events – the Maridoe Collegiate and the Colonial Collegiate (both big Texas golf courses) – in a combined 9 under and finished in the top 3 in both.
By the time Oklahoma opened the spring at the Puerto Rico Classic
last month, Gotterup was a birdie machine. He made a field-leading 22 in a 20-under performance to win the individual title as Oklahoma won the team title at 59 under. Transition complete.
Gotterup describes a setup at Grande Reserve Golf Club that helped in that scoring effort, with many tee boxes moved up to protect the teeing ground for this week’s PGA Tour event there.
“Some of the par 5s were just moved up so if there was ever a week to do what we did as a team, it was that week for sure,” he said. “Perfect storm.”
By winning the college event at Grande Reserve, Gotterup earned a spot in this week’s Puerto Rico Open. He flew straight from the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas to compete.
Back in the fall of 2019, Gotterup won a spot in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Lincoln Land Championship when he won the Notre Dame-hosted Fighting Irish Classic, but Puerto Rico will mark his first Tour start – and it will hopefully be a more normal professional experience.
“It was cool, it was kind of funny because it happened during COVID so it didn’t really feel like a big deal. It was kind of awkward because there was no one out there, it was kind of just us,” he said. “It was cool because you’d see guys you see on TV and I was actually coming off surgery then so I was kind of struggling a bit so it was kind of a weird event for me. Anytime you get to play an event like that it allows you to see what other guys are doing and know what you have to improve on when guys are beating you by 20.”
In a way, transferring to Oklahoma has offered Gotterup something similar. He’s following what you might call the Jonathan Brightwell model. Last year, Brightwell transferred from North Carolina-Greensboro to take advantage of an extra year of COVID eligibility at Oklahoma and ended his career going 3-0 for the Sooners in NCAA match play. His 23 par-or-better rounds led the team for the season.
Disappointed at how COVID affected his senior year, Gotterup sat down with his Rutgers coaches the day of Big Ten finals last spring and broke the news that he was making the move to Oklahoma. Gotterup has nothing but fondness for Rutgers – and maybe some nostalgia. New Jersey was all he knew until Norman.
There are many elements of his new environment that push him, from schedule to a deep team of sparring partners. It speaks highly of the environment Hybl has created at Oklahoma that back-to-back transfers could find such overwhelming success in such short order. Gotterup is not only Oklahoma’s leading scorer but the No. 1 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
The message was very clear to both Brightwell and Gotterup that nothing was promised. Above all else, Hybl promotes a competitive environment within his program.
“If you’re looking for a spot to go play that’s a guarantee,” Hybl explained, “I’m not your guy.”
First impressions are everything, and the one Gotterup gave with his qualifying performance certainly got his teammates’ attention. Gotterup is a guy who knows how to read a room and who has a witty sense of humor, Hybl says, and that helped him fit in immediately.
At Oklahoma, Gotterup has access to everything he needs to prepare for the next step: the PGA Tour. It’s what most players on Power 5 rosters across the country have their eye on, and Gotterup is no different. There are bigger opportunities at the top, like playing for PGA Tour starts.
“Back at Rutgers I loved coach and he pushed me really hard and the same thing here, but we just didn’t have the schedule that I have access to now at Oklahoma,” Gotterup said. “Week in, week out we’re playing the best field you can pretty much put on paper.
“If you play well, you’re going to take advantage of what it offers. If not, it will show pretty quickly.”
In Gotterup’s case, there’s no such weakness to be exposed.