Ohio State is host to the NCAA golf championship for the eighth time starting Wednesday, with Oklahoma State seeking to prove its No. 1 ranking and the host Buckeyes looking for respect.
“If Oklahoma State comes in here and plays up to its potential, the thing’s over,” said Ohio State Coach Jim Brown. “But that’s why they play the tournament. I don’t think they’ve played many courses like The Scarlet. Mike Holder (Oklahoma State coach) thinks it’s the best they play.”
The Coyboys, led by Bob Tway and Willie Wood, won the NCAA in 1980, the last time it was played at Ohio State, and they also captured the Buckeye Fall tournament last October.
Although Oklahoma State won the Fall event on the Scarlet, it could be a completely different look the Cowboys get now from the 7,104-yard, par-72 layout.
“The last time we mowed the rough was the last week in April,” said Brown. “I can’t say it’s going to stay that way. The NCAA may want to cut it and that’s OK. But you can’t grow rough in a week.”
Brown also warned that, barring a lot of rain, the greens will likely be on the fast side.
“I like hard, fast greens,” said Brown, “and that’s the way we’re going to try to get them.”
Behind Oklahoma State in the coaches’ ratings this year came, in order, Arizona, Fresno State, UCLA, Arizona State and defending champion Wake Forest.
The host Buckeyes, despite winning six tournaments, including the Big Ten championship by 58 shots over runner-up Northwestern, were ranked No. 14.
“We haven’t gotten much respect,” said Brown, “although I think some of the coaches feel we’ll be one of the top teams. I told our players that the rankings are insignificant. I told them the only significant thing is where they are about 4 p.m. on June 13. That’s when you find out where you’re ranked.”
Brown said of the 33 teams entered in the championship, “15 have a legitimate chance to win it if all their players play. You just can’t have two players not playing well.”
Brown likes his team’s chances, especially since its runaway victory in the Big Ten, led by senior Robert Huxtable, who won three spring tournaments, including the conference medal.
“We’ve got five very good players,” said Brown, “but no super star. The Big Ten gave us a lot of confidence. Plus, we’ve been practicing out of the rough.”
In two of the past three years, the host team has claimed the title. Houston did it in 1984 and Wake Forest last year.
Play begins on Wednesday with 18-hole rounds through Saturday. Each team will count its low four (of five) scores at the end of each round. There will be a cut after the third round to the low 20 teams plus ties, or those teams that are within 10 shots.
Besides the 165 members of the 33 competing teams, there will be 18 Division I individual players, the top two players from the recent Division II championship and the Division III winner, a total of 186 players.
With 1986 medalist Scott Verplank of Oklahoma State now on the PGA Tour, the individual title is wide open, although Arizona State’s Billy Mayfair may be the one to beat.
Mayfair, a junior, has won six times this spring and finished second twice. His 70.03 stroke average this season includes a low round of 63.
Others who figure to challenge for medalist honors include:
--Sophomore Len Mattiace of Wake Forest, 14th in last year’s NCAA.
--Brent Franklin, a junior from Brigham Young, a 1986 first team all-America.
--Michael Bradley of Oklahoma State, the medalist in the Buckeye tournament last fall at Scarlet.
--Nolan Henke, a senior from Florida State and a two-time all-American.
--Rob McNamara of LSU, a senior, the Southeastern Conference player of the year.
--Larry Silveira of Arizona, a junior, this year’s medalist in the Pac-10.
--Brian Watts of Oklahoma State, a junior, also a first team all-America a year ago.
--Kevin Sutherland, a senior from Fresno State, this year’s Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. player of the year.
--Carito Villaroman, a Weber State sophomore, who tied for third at last year’s NCAA, five shots behind Verplank.
--Eduardo Herrera, a Brigham Young senior and the Western Athletic Conference player of the year.