NORMAN, Okla. —
NORMAN — It’s good to be Talor Gooch.
Twenty years old, the best player on Oklahoma State’s golf team last spring and headed Friday to the U.S. Amateur, which begins Monday at Cherry Hills Country Club in suburban Denver.
And, oh yeah, he’s coming off the best 54 holes of his golfing life, all of it culminating in Wednesday’s victory at the Oklahoma Golf Association State Stroke Play.
Also, simply saying Gooch won is like saying Hank Aaron hit a few home runs.
Gooch left the field in his wake at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club, firing an amazing 9-under par 62 in the final round to go with a Monday 63 and a Tuesday 68.
His 20-under par 193 total was 12 strokes better than second-place Hunter Sparks, who closed with a 66, and 14 strokes better than Michael Hampton and Stephen Carney, who closed in 64 and 71, respectively.
“This is unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” Gooch said. “It’s pretty cool to have three rounds where you really don’t do anything wrong.”
Over the course of the tournament, Gooch made three bogeys, all in the second round, 17 birdies and three eagles.
Wednesday, it was his eagle blast out of a greenside bunker on the short par 4 10th hole that sent his round into overdrive. He followed with five birdies over the next eight holes to shoot 29 over his last nine holes.
“I was wanting to get to 20-under par,” Gooch said. “I’d never gotten there before.”
In his memory, he’d never been lower than 13- or 14-under over three rounds. So, not only did Gooch lap the field, he also lapped his previous best.
He had a little help from a very familiar face. Former OU golfer Kelsey Cline, omnipresent on the Norman golf scene since his 1996 arrival in then-coach Gregg Grost’s Sooner program, was on Gooch’s bag.
The Bedlam partnership had worked before. When Cline last caddied for Gooch, also at the OU course for the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier, the Carl Albert High School product fired off twin 68s to win by eight strokes. Cline will be on the bag again Monday when Gooch tees off for what both hope will be a long U.S. Amateur run.
“I’ve known him since he was 10. He’s like the little brother I never had,” Cline said. “I met him in the bunker at one of (former OU course head pro Stan) Ball’s junior clinics.”
About the only mystery surrounding Gooch’s dominance is how to place it in course-record historical terms.
Primarily, the OGA field was playing from the 7,089-yard I set of tees, but not the 7,387-yard championship tees, which were used for the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 2009 and the NCAA regional tournament played last May. Also, the eighth hole, rather than playing as a 583-yard par 5, was playing as a 393-yard par 4.
Still, the lowest competitive round ever shot at the course prior to Gooch’s arrival on Monday was Texas freshman Jordan Spieth’s 6-under 66, carded May 12.
Gooch, however, was two strokes better than Spieth in relation to par on Monday, and three strokes better in relation to par on Wednesday.
He enjoyed a strong sophomore season in the OSU program, but he’s become a better player since.
“If you look at where I was at the beginning of the (summer) and where I am now,” he said, “I think I’ve made a lot of improvement.”
Just in time for Cherry Hills.
“I want to win,” Gooch said.
Clay Horning is sports editor for The Norman Transcript.
NORMAN, Okla. —
NORMAN — It’s good to be Talor Gooch.
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