Hang up the winter jackets and the parkas, because Cowboy golf is teeing off the spring season in Kona, Hawaii.
Kevin Dougherty, Ian Davis, Sam Lee, Talor Gooch and Jordan Neibrugge are representing Oklahoma State in the Ameri Ari Invitational on Feb. 6-8 before beginning the main portion of their spring schedule in mid-February.
“This tournament is what we all hope to play in,” Gooch said. “It’s probably the most fun tournament of the year. When there’s bad weather here, we’re off at the beach golfing.”
The Cowboys joined the field of high-caliber golf programs such as Southern California, Texas and UCLA, among others, which are soaking up sunrays and competing in match play on the beautiful Waikoloa Kings Golf Course.
The upcoming spring season provides a unique opportunity for OSU, one that players on this team have not had in their collegiate careers.
After missing the national championship last spring for the first time since the team’s inception in 1947, OSU was faced with the challenged of re-establishing itself as a dominant force in college golf.
“The experience of being in that position is so important,” Gooch said. “The more often you’re there, the more prepared you’re going to be.”
The shortcoming resonated with the team, etched in its memory and was never more than a few wandering thoughts away. But the fall season saw an improved work ethic and small but vital results.
“I think they are highly motivated to be better than they were,” McGraw said. “As I’ve said, I don’t think you can control what you shoot, but you can control how you prepare. And there’s a lot of confidence in knowing that you have prepared more than anyone you’re playing with.”
Led by the inspired play of Ian Davis, the Cowboys picked up a win at the Royal Oaks Invitational in Dallas the last event of 2012.
“That win was a big weight off our shoulders,” Davis said. “It’s been a long time since we got a win so we couldn’t ask for more going into the offseason.”
McGraw identified the team’s success as a product of emerging leadership. Namely, he saw the change in Davis.
“He has been very motivated this year,” McGraw said. “Sometimes motivation comes in different forms.”
While making his nightly rounds at the serene Karsten Creek golf course, McGraw came upon a lone golfer hitting balls on the driving range. It was Davis, saving every last minute of daylight to work on his game.
“He wasn’t asked to do that,” he said. “Practice was over, he was finished.”
Davis was out past dark, smacking golf balls into the horizon and putting the past behind him with every stroke.
McGraw believes it is a sign of things to come, that it’s time for his team to maximize its opportunities to grow, and that Davis has a chance to play the best golf of his life this season.
“The players are very motivated to erase a bad memory and to create a new today, a new tomorrow even,” he said. “We’re pretty close but we’re not there by any means, we have a lot of work to do.
“Ian was out there at dark putting more work in, that’s what I want all of my guys doing.”
McGraw seems pleased, but Davis can’t leave the range yet. Players on this team have to shag their own balls.