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Super seniors propel Oklahoma, Pepperdine into NCAA final


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – “I want rings.”

That was the textual content message that Quade Cummins despatched Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl final March when it was determined that Cummins can be allowed to return for a sixth season. Cummins was the sixth man for the Sooners once they received all of it in 2017 at Rich Harvest Farms, however with the pandemic chopping quick his preliminary redshirt-senior season, there was no hesitation.

“Watching, you don’t get the same emotions,” Cummins mentioned. “You don’t have those pressure putts. I just wanted to be able to feel that.”

Cummins received that likelihood Tuesday at Grayhawk Golf Club, sinking the clinching birdie putt to ship Oklahoma to the NCAA Championship final, the place the Sooners will face Pepperdine on Wednesday afternoon.

With two factors on the board for each Oklahoma and Arizona State of their semifinal matchup, all of it got here all the way down to Cummins and Sun Devils junior Cameron Sisk. The 25-year-old Sooner from Weatherford, Oklahoma, led Sisk, 1 up, with two holes to play when Sisk opted for iron off the tee on the 330-yard, par-4 17th gap and tugged it barely into the tough. Again, Cummins didn’t blink.

“I was hitting driver the entire time,” mentioned Cummins, who drove the inexperienced to arrange his profitable two-putt from 50 ft.

His birdie roll got here from about 7 ft, although Cummins mentioned it felt double that. When it dropped, sealing a 3-2 victory over the host Sun Devils, Cummins dropped the hammer together with his proper fist.

That proper there was why Cummins got here again.

“There were so many moments like that today, but at that moment, that’s kind of what’s going through my mind,” Hybl mentioned. “I’m like, you just keep doing what you’re doing and what we’ve been practicing on, what he’s been visualizing for such a long time. He’s wanted to have that moment. In 2017, he was over on the sidelines, just rooting us on, and he always envisioned himself being able to do that and make that putt, so to be able to see him do that is special.”

Oklahoma, which had gotten bounced within the first spherical in every of its previous two NCAA match-play appearances, additionally acquired semifinal victories Tuesday from senior Jonathan Brightwell, who transferred from UNCG final summer time, and sophomore Logan McAllister. Ben Lorenz and Garett Reband misplaced their matches, with Reband, who additionally opted to return for an additional 12 months, struggling mightily together with his sport, significantly off the tee, in a 5-and-4 loss to Kevin Yu.

Though Cummins, Brightwell and McAllister are a mixed 23-4 in match play this season, the Sooners will want extra from Reband and Lorenz if they’re to defeat Pepperdine, which beat Oklahoma within the East Lake Cup final, 4-1, final October. Cummins was the one Oklahoma participant to win his match that day, and he didn’t even get to complete it.

“Last time we played them in match play they got us pretty good,” Cummins mentioned. “So, you know, we’re not satisfied just making it to the finals. We’re here to win.”

Pepperdine Athletics

Pepperdine Athletics

Not current for the Waves’ victory at East Lake was Pepperdine’s Clay Feagler, one other tremendous senior. Unlike Cummins, Feagler wasn’t a shoo-in to come back again to highschool. His sport was in poor form and he had missed two straight tournaments for the top-ranked Waves when final season was canceled.

“I was so bummed,” mentioned Feagler, who additionally had watched star teammate Sahith Theegala make the leap to the professional ranks. “I didn’t really want to go back. I wasn’t making the lineup anyway and was kind of just down in the dumps.”

It wasn’t till a number of weeks after the NCAA’s announcement that Feagler’s mom, Caryn, talked her son into returning.

“You have this opportunity,” Caryn Feagler informed Clay. “You should seize it.”

Initially, Feagler didn’t take benefit. He made simply half the beginning lineups for Pepperdine final fall, and he didn’t even crack the highest 50 at Maridoe whereas competing as a person. He once more debated turning professional over winter break.

“I was contemplating whether I wanted to keep going,” Feagler mentioned. “I don’t know, I just wasn’t in a good place mentally.”

But Feagler continued to stay it out. He began working extra with Pepperdine’s psychological coach. Neale Smith, his teacher from Alta Vista Country Club in Riverside, was additionally a giant assist, as have been some courses for Feagler’s psychology minor, which Feagler added after needing credit score hours due to the additional 12 months.

He didn’t see quick outcomes, however after tying for fifth within the particular person event at The Prestige, Feagler discovered a spark. He translated that second in Palm Springs into extra strong golf, and he saved trending, ultimately profitable a qualifying event for the Mackenzie Tour – that full standing will now be for the U.S.-based Forme Tour this summer time – in a playoff on the Wigwam Resort two months in the past in Litchfield Park, Arizona.

“Having that off of his shoulders,” Caryn Feagler mentioned, “to get a win again and to get job security, that helped him get to a point that he was feeling better, not just about golf but everything.”

Added Clay: “Winning that qualifier gave me all the confidence in the world.”

Feagler hasn’t misplaced an oz of that self-belief this week in Scottsdale. (It should be one thing in regards to the desert.) He not solely steamrolled Florida State senior Vincent Norrman in Tuesday morning’s quarterfinals, however he rallied in opposition to one other elite school participant, Oklahoma State senior Austin Eckroat, within the afternoon. Two down by seven holes, Feagler made a hole-in-one from 188 yards on the par-3 eighth with an 8-iron to start a stretch of 5 straight received holes.

“Clay is a fighter; he’s ruthless,” Pepperdine head coach Michael Beard mentioned.

Feagler’s 2-and-1 win over Eckroat received the primary level on the board for the Waves in opposition to the Cowboys. Joe Highsmith, who delivered a clutch shot of his personal out of a fairway bunker on the par-4 18th to arrange a profitable two-putt over Aman Gupta, and Dylan Menante additionally received their semifinal matches in a 3-0-2 win.

Now, Pepperdine, which received its solely NCAA title in 1997, will get an opportunity to do what many anticipated the Waves to do final spring.

“It was great to be favorites last year, but we didn’t get to finish,” Beard mentioned. “Now, to come here and put it all together, losing Sahith but keeping Clay and Josh [McCarthy, who isn’t in the lineup this week], I think that these guys owned it. They felt like we should be here, and I think that’s a big reason for why we’re here.”

It’s why Feagler is right here.

It’s why Cummins is right here.

They need rings.

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