By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
After failing to advance to the NCAA championships for the first time in program history, the Oklahoma State men’s golf team will look to return to its former glory when the season tees off Sunday at the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields Country Club in Chicago.
It’s a unique situation for the Cowboy golfers and coaches, looking to improve and get back to the NCAA championships — as opposed to being favorites to win the title as it had been in years past.
“You like to see how you’re going to respond any time you have a disappointing year, a disappointing season, you want to see how they are going to respond,” OSU coach Mike McGraw said. “I think the same could be said for the coaching staff, how are we going to respond with what happened last year because obviously its something we’ve never experienced and no OSU team has ever experienced.
“We've got to get better, obviously. We’ve got to perform better than we did last year and I expect us to.”
There will be plenty of old faces on this year’s squad. Returning is senior Sean Einhaus and junior Talor Gooch, who McGraw expects to be leaders for this team.
“They are obviously going to be leaders on the golf course for sure,” McGraw said. “Sean has played three full years for us and Talor has played two full years, so they have the most experience of anybody playing. So you definitely look at them for a little bit of leadership for sure.”
While there are plenty of golfers who have been on the team the past few years, there are also two freshman coming into the program with solid pedigrees.
McGraw said he’s never afraid to go with a freshman golfer if they prove to be talented enough to make the five-man team.
“We’ve basically played freshmen in the lineup every year since I’ve been the head coach,” McGraw said. “So I have no problem playing freshmen, ever. It’s the guys who shoot the lowest that will get to play.”
And that will be the case this week as his only two freshman on scholarship, Wyndham Clark and Jordan Niebrugge, will both be playing in the Fighting Illini Invitational.
Clark, a native of Denver, comes in as one of four recipients of the 2012 Byron Nelson International Junior Golf Award, the 2012 Denver Athletic Club Male Athlete of the Year and the National High School Scholastic Coaches Association Male Athlete of the Year. As a senior at Valor Christian High School, Clark won his second state title by eight strokes. In his freshman and junior years he finished as the state runner-up.
Niebrugge, who hails from Mequon, Wis., won the Wisconsin Boys State Championship in his senior season. In 2011, he became the youngest-ever winner of the Wisconsin State Open. Niebrugge was named an honorable mention AJGA All-American in 2011.
Einhaus and sophomores Tanner Kesterson and Patrick Winthers will also be competing this week to make up the five-man team for the Cowboys.