TULSA, Okla. — Calling Matthew Sharpstene confident is an understatement. According to WVU golf coach Sean Covich, the true freshman is always confident even when he doesn’t have a reason to be.
However, to play on a course the caliber of the Southern Hills Country Club, confidence is exactly the trait that is needed to do well.
“You have to have that,” Covich said. “Because if you get scared or lose confidence out here, Southern Hills is really going to do some damage on you.”
Sharpstene showed on Day 1 of the Big 12 Men’s Golf Championship that he doesn’t scare easily. He posted a score of 140 over 36 holes April 23and ended the day tied for second overall.
“I played great,” Sharpstene said. “I had a bunch of good looks out there. First round I had a slow start, but I battled back all day. Made a few putts.”
Covich has always had the talent level to have this type of day.
“He has a lot of talent,” Covich said. “He drives it well. It all comes down to chipping and putting and today I think he, on the second round, did a good job of putting. He played well.”
Sharpstene shot a 73 in the morning round. But it was in the afternoon action when Charlotte, N.C., native really began to put on a show. He posted a 67, which was tied for the third best overall round of the day.
“I think I just missed it in the wrong spot. Short sided myself the first nine and shot three over,” Sharpstene said. Then I started to play smart. Wasn’t really going at flags. I found myself making some puts. I just stuck with my game plan. Wasn’t really following my game plan the first nine. Just stuck with my gut.”
Seeing Sharpstene’s name on the leaderboard may come as a surprise to many. During the season he rarely was able to put together a full round of consistent good golf.
“He’s been capable of it. He just such a good ball striker. He drives it so well, so long. Sometimes he frustrates you because he doesn’t convert with his wedges or his putting. But apparently the second round, he made some puts. He is always capable of it. He just hasn’t put it together other than one round earlier in the semester. But on a golf course like this, it’s a major championship venue, to have a true freshman do that, it was pretty impressive.”
Sharpstene trails only Oklahoma State’s Viktor Howland by one stroke heading into Tuesday 18-hole third round. He is tied with Doug Ghim of Texas and Jeremy Gandon of Kansas State.
“I just want to keep making putts and putting it great,” Sharpstene said. “I know coming into the tournament I wasn’t really putting it that good. But after the practice round I felt really good on these greens.”
As strong of a day as Sharpstene had, his teammates struggled throughout the first round. That includes WVU’s No. 1 golfer Max Sear, who shot a 157. His 81 in the first round was the highest score by any Mountaineers on the day.
As a team, WVU posted a 591, which was good for ninth overall.
Iowa State leads all teams with a 569. Defending national champion Oklahoma is second with a 571. Oklahoma State, the No. 1 team in the nation is third after posting a 574.
Covich is looking for Sharpstene’s outing to give the rest of the Mountaineers a spark as they look to fight back up the standings.
“I hope it fires up the other guys on the team,” Covich said. “Just seeing what Matt did today and will be like maybe I can help out the team that way. Hopefully, give the other guys confidence. Obviously, Matthew always has confidence. Whether he shoots 80 or 60. Hopefully, the other guys can feed off of it and say hey, let’s put a round together like Sharp did.”