TULSA, Okla. — As with any big tournament, on the first day of competition there are usually a few surprises. Some athlete or team causes an uproar with an unexpected showing or upset.
But by the second day, everything usually goes back to normal, and the expected leaders start to separate themselves from the upstarts.
That is not the case at the Big 12 men’s golf championship.
Tied for second after the first two rounds of competition, WVU freshman Matthew Sharpstene found himself still in contention for the individual title when the third round was completed April 24, at the Southern Hill Country Club.
Sharpstene shot a 2-over-par 72 and now sits in fourth place heading into today’s final round of competition.
Sharpstene’s 54-hole total of 212 is only two strokes back of Oklahoma’s Grant Hirschman and Dough Ghim, of Texas. Jeremy Gandon, of Kansas State, is in third, at 211.
Despite still being in striking distance of winning the individual championship, Sharpstene was visibly upset when he came off the course. That is because on the 18th hole, he double-bogied, which dropped him from what would have been a three-way tie for first place.
“I think Matt played pretty good, but then he made double bogey on his last hole, so I know he’s gonna be really upset with this round,” WVU coach Sean Covich said. “But he looked like he was doing pretty well, that he was in a good mood up until number 18, and that might have ruined the rest of his day, but we’ll see.”
Sharpstene put himself in a good position when he birdied two holes on the front nine of the course. By the time he got to the 10th hole, he was alone in first place.
However, Sharpstene gave the shots back when he bogeyed holes No. 12 and No. 16. Counting his miscue on the final hole, he was 3-over on his final three holes of the day.
However, when Sharpstene tees off today, he will have had to put that behind him and focus on the task at hand.
As a team, the Mountaineers sit in 10th place, with a score of 888, after shooting 297 on Tuesday. Oklahoma took over first place, with a score of 852. The Sooners are followed by Iowa State (854), Oklahoma State (858), Texas (858) and Baylor (861) rounding out the top five.
Other Mountaineers who had strong days included Mark Goetz. He also shot a 72 on the day and is tied for 42nd with his teammate Avery Schneider. Etienne Papineau is one spot above, in 41st.
Junior Max Sear continued to struggle. He shot a 79 to bring his total to 236.
“Max, arguably our best player, hasn’t performed well this week,” Covich said. “We’d love to see him leave with something to hang his hat on from this week and battle back from some tough rounds so far. He might have put a lot of pressure on himself, because he played great his freshman year, Big 12s, and I think he finished just outside the top 10. Then last year, he played really bad at Prairie Dunes, and I think he wanted to come back, and just prove, ‘Hey, I can play well, Big 12s.’ ”
WVU is again paired with K-State for the final round and will tee off on the 10th hole today.