__OOLTEWAH, TENN.—__The contrast between the two teams that will compete Sunday for the national championship couldn't be more profound.
Oklahoma State, winners of 10 NCAA golf titles, flies to tournaments on a private jet that it rents during the year. They have a student body of 33,464 and golf is one of 11 sports that compete at the Division I level.
Augusta State, winners of zero NCAA golf titles, just got a new state-of-the-art team van that it touted in a press release only a month ago. They have a student body of 7,071 are the one of one team that competes at the Division I level.
"They're our football team," said Augusta State president Dr. William A. Bloodworth.
A battle of David vs. Goliath? Perhaps, although supporters of the Jaguars might take some exception to that. For the past eight years coach__Josh Gregory__ has managed to keep his team in the national rankings, relying on a healthy dose of international players and some homegrown Georgia kids overlooked by the "big name" in state programs.
"If you've followed college golf, you know that they're a good team and have been one for years," said OSU men's coach Mike McGraw.
The better analogy, then, might be one from basketball. Call this golf's equivalent of Duke vs. Butler.
The Jaguars showed they could definitely play on the national stage Saturday in defeating Florida State, 4-1, during the semifinals of the NCAA Championship at The Honors Course. It started with junior__Carter Newman__, who finished T-146 in stroke-play qualifying and was to the point of tears after shooing 77-83 in the first two rounds, winning his match versus__Michael Hebert__, 3 and 1.
Next came sophomore Taylor Floyd, nearly scratched from the line-up because of flu like symptoms he began experiencing Friday night, winning his match against__Wesley Graham__, 2 up, holing a 15-foot birdie on the 18th.
(Photo: Floyd, left, and Newman after Floyd's victory on the 18; photo by J.D. Cuban)*
When junior Henrik Norlander holed out a wedge from 84 yards on the par-5 17th for an eagle to close out his contest with Drew Kittleson, the Jaguars then had their clinching third and decisive point.
"To get a chance to play for a national championship, what more can you ask for," said Gregory. "And to do it with this group of guys. I told Carter all along that I knew if we made it to match play he was going to contribute. He's too much of a competitor not to. And with Taylor, he was sick as a dog all day. I told him [during a weather delay that halted action for almost two hours] that if he couldn't get back out there I'd understand. But he wouldn't have any of it. I'm just so proud of these guys."
Make no mistake about it, though, while top-ranked Oklahoma State respects Augusta State, it will have no problem spoiling the Jaguars' party. Key to the Cowboys 3-1-1 semifinal triumph over Oregon was the play of senior Trent Whitekiller, a former walk on who made four birdies and a chip-in eagle in his first seven holes to take a 7-up lead against__Isaiah Telles__, before cruising to a 5-and-4 victory.
"I am looking back there, and thinking 'Wow, what is going on.' I have hit the ball like that all season, just have not had much luck, which has held me back," said Whitekiller, who also won his quarterfinal match versus Stanford's Andrew Yun in convincing fashion the previous day. "When you have a day when you are throwing it in from all over the green and getting he ball close to the hole, you are going ot have a pretty good result."
Oregon's Jack Dukeminier dispatched OSU's Sean Einhaus, 4 and 3, to even the overall match at 1-1 when the thunder forced play to stop at 12:30 p.m.. However, the Cowboys were ahead 2-up in their three remaining matches.
When play resumed around 2:15 p.m., Oregon's__Andrew Vijarro__ won two straight holes to square his match with Kevin Tway. However, OSU's__Peter Uihlein__ held steady against Daniel Miernicki, eventually winning, 3 and 2, while Cowboy__Morgan Hoffman__ clinched the victory with a 3-and-2 defeat of Pac-10 co-player of the year Eugene Wong. (Vijarro and Tway subequently halved their match.)
"Just because [of our history], nobody is going to give you any thing," said McGraw of the playing for the national title. "You've got to go earn it. That's the beauty of our game."
The fact that Augusta State has a chance to face off with Oklahoma State, however, is something that Gregory and his squad are savoring.
"This is an unbelieveable dream," Gregory said. "But we're not done yet. We have one more match against the best program of all time. We have a chance to win a national championship."
It should be an interesting Sunday.
Sunday, June 6
Oklahoma State vs. Augusta State
__9:30 a.m.—Sean Einhaus vs. Carter Newman
9:39—Trent Whitekiller vs. Taylor Floyd
9:48—Kevin Tway vs. Mitch Krywulycz
9:57—Peter Uihlein vs. Patrick Reed
10:06—Morgan Hoffmann vs. Henrik Norlander