STILLWATER, Okla.—I'm not sure what the attendance record for any single day of the NCAA Championship is, but my guess is that it will be broken Saturday at Karsten Creek GC.
And we can thank "The Rematch" for it.
By virtue of their victories Friday during the quarterfinals, Augusta State will face the team it upset a year ago at The Honors Course to claim the NCAA title, Oklahoma State, in the most anticipated head-to-head tilt since match play was added to the championship in 2009.
Suffice it to say, it's the match-up both sides are excited for.
"There isn't anybody else I'd want to play than Oklahoma State," said Augusta State junior Patrick Reed, who fellow first-team All-AmericanJames White, 3 and 2, to help the Jaguars defeat Georgia Tech, 3-2. "If you are you going to play to play for a national championship, you what to take out the best. It's going to be a battle."
"They're the champs until somebody beats them," said Oklahoma State junior Peter Uihlein, who halved his match against Ohio State'sBo Hoag as port of a 3-1-1 Cowboy win over the Buckeyes. "And I think you always want to be able to knock off the champs. … We don't want to run away from anybody and hope they lose to somebody else. I'd rather have us go down fighting and take them out."
It won't be hard to figure out the motives for each team as they square off. Augusta State is trying to become the first national champion to defend its title since Houston did it in 1994-95.
"These kids still have something to prove," Augusta State coach Josh Gregory said. "They want to prove last year wasn't a fluke. We can't wait for tomorrow. We've been dreaming of this match up for a year."
As for Oklahoma State, it's not hard to believe that a bit of revenge will be on the minds of the players, although few were willing to bite on that storyline.
"I don't think it has anything to do with last year," OSU coach Mike McGraw. "We're thinking about this week and how we're playing right now."
OK, so we'll let the Oklahoma State fans—who are expected to number in the thousands Saturday—to carry the payback banner come Saturday.
Both sides did have to put in a solid day's work to set up the semifinal tussle.
For a second straight year, Augusta State drew Georgia Tech in the quarters and for the second straight year it was a tight contest between the in-state rivals. As the matches moved to the back nine, Reed looked as if he had safely wrapped up his point versus White, but Yellow Jacket senior J.T. Griffin was taking care of ASU senior Henrik Norlander. That left the remaining three matches to decide the outcome, all three of which were all square through 16 holes.
Yet also in a repeat showing from a year ago, the Jaguars hung tough down the stretch. ASU's Carter Newman went par/birdie on the 17th and 18th holes to beatPaul Haley 2 up and then Mitch Krywulycz own the 17th hole in his match against Kyle Scott with a par and claimed the clinching final point with a 1-up victory.
"It's just like last year, it came down to the ending," said Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler. "They got it done and we didn't."
Oklahoma State may have had a slightly easier time in fending off Ohio State, thanks to strong starts by its No. 5 and 4 players, Talor Gooch and Sean Einhaus. Gooch took a 4-up lead onAlex Redfield after nine holes en route to a 4-and-2 win. Einhaus was 3 up through 10 holes versus Michael Cress before claiming a 3-and-2 win.
The Cowboys then clinched their third point when Kevin Tway won the 17th hole with a bogey to beat Brad Smith, 2 and 1.
With that, we have ASU/OSU II.
"That was kind of our rallying cry all year, what a sweet opportunity it would be to play them on their home golf course in front of their home fans," Gregory said. "I wish it were the finals, but we'll relish that moment. I don't know how they will play but I can promise you they won't be scared. They've done it once and they can do it again."
We'll find out Saturday.
If Augusta State/Oklahoma State is the main draw Saturday, then the undercard isn't a shabby match up either. Duke takes on Georgia after the two schools pulled off fairly easily victories in their quarterfinal clashes Friday. The Blue Devils defeated top-seeded UCLA, 3-1-1, while the Bulldogs knocked off Illinois by the same 3-1-1 margin.
Duke's victory, with Tim Gornik,Wes Roach and Austin Cody each recording wins and Julian Suri posting a halve, appears to be an upset given they were the final team to qualify for match play and then knocked off the top-seeded Bruins. However, that fails to take into account that coach Jamie Green's team actually posted the best score over the final 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, rallying to extend their season.
It's also not like the Blue Devils haven't been playing well of late. Duke finished no worse than third in their five starts prior to NCAAs, winning the Callaway Match Play title, the Irish Creek Collegiate and the NCAA East Regional.
"They were ready," said Green of his players. "They wanted this. They knew if they had an opportunity, they could play well in match play."
The Blue Devils capitalized on early leads in four of the five matches, preventing the Bruins from getting into the rhythm they had found the previous three days.
"Momentum plays a huge factor in match play and I just didn't feel like we had any momentum all day long," said UCLA coach Derek Freeman. "I didn't see putts falling. I didn't see up and downs. I saw us have to chip out. I would say statistically if I looked at the round, this is probably our worst ball striking day and unfortunately you just can't have that in match play."
Georgia knows something about not being able to build any momentum, having put together some disappointing performances during the spring season despite having three senior All-Americans in the line-up in Russell Henley,Harris English and Hudson Swafford. But they've put that in the past as they play their final college event and let their talent take over in knocking off Illinois in the other quarterfinal match.
"I can't put my finger on exactly why we just weren't able to get anything going in the spring, it wasn't like we weren't trying," said Henley, who beat the golfer he shared low amateur honors with at last year's U.S. Open, knocking off Scott Langley, 4 and 2. "Every tournament we were like, come on, it's time to pick it up. But I think knowing this is our last one, maybe that's been enough to get us going."
(All times Eastern)
No. 8 Duke vs. No. 5 Georgia
11 a.m.—Austin Cody vs. Bryden MacPherson
11:09—Julian Suri vs. T.J. Mitchell
11:18—Wes Roach vs. Hudson Swafford
11:27—Tim Gornik vs. Russell Henley
11:36—Brinson Paolini vs. Harris English
No. 7 Augusta State vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State
11:45—Olle Bengtsson vs. Talor Gooch
11:54—Carter Newman vs. Sean Einhaus*
12:03 p.m.—Mitch Krywulcz vs. Morgan Hoffmann
12:12—Henrik Norlander vs. Kevin Tway
12:21—Patrick Reed vs. Peter Uihlein*
** pair played in an individual match in 2010 NCAAs
Einhaus beat Newman, 2 and 1
Reed beat Uihlein, 4 and 2*