Better late than never for OSU's Uihlein
__TOLEDO--__NCAA officials luck ran out Wednesday.
A day after dodging predicted bad weather and playing the first round of the 112th NCAA Championship uninterrupted at Inverness Club, lightning forced a suspension of play at 11:40 a.m. local time with only three of the 78 competitors playing in the morning wave having completed their second rounds. (Play finally resumed at 4:05 p.m.)
Among the trio that wrapped up their second 18 holes was Oklahoma State freshman Peter Uihlein, who shot a one-over 72 to finish at three-over 145 overall.
That Uihlein, a two-time AJGA player of the year, would be a starter for the Cowboys at the national championship was hardly surprising. The way his first season in Stillwater played out, however, has been anything but predictable.
During the fall semester, the 19-year-old who played at the Florida's David Leadbetter Academy in high school qualified to compete in just one tournament, the acclimation process to college turning out to be trickier than he imagined.
"It was a little bit of everything," said Uihlein. "The transition was not easy. I was in a pretty bad place. And playing Karsten Creek is not much fun when you're not playing very good."
Indeed, the Cowboys' home golf course is one many an OSU rookie has had trouble developing an amiable relationship with upon arriving to school.
Arguably Uihlein's early struggles were the result of some hiccups with his swing. Eventually, though, they transformed into psychological issues with the course.
"He got it in his head that he just couldn't play the course," said OSU coach Mike McGraw, who at the end of the first semester had a meeting with Uihlein to talk things over.
"I told him, 'You better understand we're hosting a regional this spring, we're hosting a preview and a NCAA at the end of your college career. You're going to have to figure out how to play [here]. So when you come back in January, come back with the right attitude and come back I want you to play this course every day. I don't care. Play it every day.' "
Uihlein heeded McGraw's advice, but added a caveat. He asked coach to accompany him during the rounds to help he get through his crisis of confidence. McGraw agreed.
"I wound up playing a lot of golf," McGraw said. "He'd get out of class, we'd go eat lunch and before you know it we were on the first tee."
Suffice it to say, McGraw got to see Uihlein's troubles up close and personal. Just how bad was it? "Well, the 13th hole at Karsten," Uihlein said, "I hit the fairway on that hole maybe twice in seven months."
McGraw also enlisted the help of former Cowboy Jonathan Moore, who famously had trouble in the transition to the college game after a successful junior career before turning things around to help OSU win the 2006 NCAA title and win the individual title. Early in the spring, McGraw asked that he meet with Uihlein when Moore was in town to discuss his experience.
"It was nice to talk with him and get his perspective," Uihlein said.
Slowly in the spring, Uihlein's game started to come around. The turning point might have been in early April at the Gaillardia Intercollegiate, an NAIA event hosted by Oklahoma City University, where Uihlein played with four other Cowboys and earned medalist honors.
A week later he played sixth man at the Aggie invitational, finishing in a tie for eighth place.
Uihlein then finished even-par 144 in a two-round qualifier at Karsten Creek for a spot in the line-up at the Big 12 Conference Championship, where he again posted a top-10 finish (ninth). Two weeks ago at the regional at Karsten Creek, he finished in second place.
"When you're a little happier, golf seems more fun," Uihlein said, "I've got my swing fine-tuned. I've really got some confidence back."
So much so that Uihlein can even have fun with all he's been through.
"I'm kind of joking around now with the other guys on the team," Uihlein said. "I only show up for the postseason."