On a day when the Muskogee Country Club course was tough, Muskogee High School’s golf team was tougher.
Muskogee, which has been close to the state title for the past three years, won the Class 5A golf championship Tuesday by three shots over Edmond North, 314-317.
The Roughers seniors finished fourth as freshmen, third as sophomores and second as juniors. All that was missing was the elusive first-place finish.
“We’ve been saying next year since we were sophomores,” said David Cole, who led the tournament after 36 holes. I’m happy and so glad. All the work and effort has paid off.”
And MHS had its hardest work cut out during the final round.
Just one golfer posted a score less than 74 -- Edmond North’s Kyle Willmann, who won the tournament -- compared to nine on Monday. Muskogee’s 311, which would have put them in the middle of the pack on the first day, was the best team score of Tuesday’s second round.
The course, simply put, was arduous.
And so was the competition between the Roughers and the Huskies. The teams were tied after the first day’s action, 603-603 and the scores remained tight throughout the final day.
“I honestly didn’t know we won until they posted the score,” Muskogee coach Lucky Tarkington said. “This is something no one can take away from us now. And this bunch of young gentlemen deserved it. It was real hard-fought, real stressful and hectic at best.
“It’s a really wonderful feeling knowing these kids set out to accomplish this four years ago. The fact that they pulled it off is simply amazing.”
Amazing too, was the pressure, the golfers said.
“There was pressure on every shot,” Muskogee’s No. 4golfer Andy Hayes said. “There was not a single shot where there wasn’t. Even the tap-ins.”
Hayes played a huge role in Muskogee’s win. He shot a five-over 76, helping the Roughers to the title.. Muskogee needed that,” as No. 3 golfer Rip Ohley and No. 5 golfer Josh Raley both shot over 80.
“Andy’s 76 was huge,” Tarkington said. “It was the kind of cement that cemented our chances. I knew 76 would be a great score and something we needed at the time. Andy gave us a cushion, and I knew we needed it going in to the final holes.”
Ohley said his teammates “picked him up.”
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but I know it feels great,” Ohley said. “It was a lot harder for me playing bad. I played bad for 36 straight holes. I just tried to conserve every shot and pull for the team. And the team came through huge. I couldn’t think of any better teammates. It’s a great way to end my career as a Rougher.”
MHS’ No. 1 golfer Jimbo Fuller carded the Roughers’ best score of the day with a 75.
“The back nine, I was kind of in a zone,” said Fuller, who played the second nine at one-over. “I just remember the ball and it being blurry every time. It’s the best nine holes I’ve grinded in a long, long time. There was pressure, but then again, there was the back nine.”
Cole had a chance to end his career in style, too. Cole led by one shot over Willman and Jenks’ J.C. DeLeon heading into Tuesday’s round, 146-147. He finished with a respectable 78. good enough for fourth. But he said winning as a team “was good enough.”
“Every shot we had was huge,” Cole said. “I actually thought Edmond North was ahead until I got congratulations coming off the green on No. 18.
“This is the best feeling in the world. It’s just wonderful. What a relief.”
Cole also was involved with a bit of controversy on hole No. 18. His drive landed right behind a sprinkler head. He got a drop, but it landed in the same place, so he dropped again. On his shot, it was unclear whether or not he hit the sprinkler. There was talk Cole should have been assessed a two-stroke penalty, but a tournament official ruled no penalty should be assessed.
As it turned out, it didn’t matter, as the Roughers won by three strokes.
Muskogee had three golfers place in the top 10 — Cole (fourth), Hayes (eighth) and Fuller (ninth). Edmond North was the only other team to have more than one finish in the top 10 with two.
“I’m so proud,” Tarkington said. “To be with this group for four years and seeing them mature, seeing the joy and sometimes tears. Every minute spent is well worth it.
It has been a great ride, and I hate to see it come to an end.”