For first time, Mountaineers not last at Big 12 golf tourney

TULSA, Okla. — For two days, the state of Oklahoma rolled out the red carpet for participants in the Big 12 golf championship. With sunny skies and warm temperatures, they were treated like kings.

Then April 25 came and the skies opened up and poured down chilling rain all day. It caused scores to rise, along with the frustration level of many of players.

But when it was all said and done, the WVU squad had one of the best tournaments in the program’s short history, as the Mountaineers placed ninth overall. It was the first time in three years they didn’t end the 10-team tourney in last place.

“Our team, we didn’t come in last place, which is great for us,” freshman Matthew Sharpstene said. “Past two years, we finished last. To beat somebody is huge because we have such a great conference. Overall for me, a lot of positives to take away from it.”

The Mountaineers posted a score of 299 on the day. That brought their four-round total to 1187 — three shots better than Kansas State.

No. 4-ranked Oklahoma, the reigning national champion, took home the Big 12 title with a score of 1139, which was 19 over par.

No. 1 Oklahoma State and No. 14 Texas tied for runner-up, at 1147.

Iowa State (1150), Baylor (1157), Kansas (1166), Texas Tech (1171) and TCU (1175) rounded out the top 10.

There was a four-way tie for the medalist honors among Grant Hirschman, of Oklahoma, Jeremy Gandon, of Kansas State, Doug Ghim, of Texas, and Kristoffer Ventura, of Oklahoma State, with overall scores of 283 (3 over par).

Sharpstene was the highest placing Mountaineer. With a final total of 287, he tied for 11th, with Charlie Hillier, of Kansas. He just missed out on being named all-Big 12.

Sharpstene entered the final day in fourth place but said a few bad holes were his undoing as he shot a 75.

“I left a few shots out there. There was a tough battle out there just rain, wind,” Sharpstene said. “But there’s no excuse. I missed a couple of putts on the front nine. Couldn’t really get anything going. And the front nine was tough. I wasn’t hitting my tee balls very well. I wasn’t placing it well. Putts weren’t falling.”

However, Sharpstene wouldn’t blame his play on the weather.

“Some people hate rain. Some people like it,” Sharpstene said. “It was tough, but it’s just a part of the game. You have to play through whatever it gives you.”

While Sharpstene didn’t finish as he would have liked, another WVU freshman ended the tournament strong. Mark Goetz shot a 71, tied for the third-best round of the day. Ventura shot a 69 and was the only player under par.

In the final two rounds of the tournament Goetz shot a combined 143, which was only 3 over par.

“I thought the last two days I played pretty well,” Goetz said. “The first day was a little bit of a disappointment. I feel like I play tough golf courses pretty well. It’s similar to where I grew up. It’s long and it’s tough. The greens are tough. So I was a little disappointed, but I thought the last two days I was pleased with the way I played.”

Goetz’s three day total of 297 was good enough to tie for 36th.

“It was a tough day out there because it was cold, and wet and windy,” WVU coach Sean Covich said. “I mean it’s really hard. It was just one of those. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective. And I can’t say enough about the freshmen. Matthew and Mark both played well. Obviously Matthew had a good week. Today he is a little disappointed. But he grinded hard out there. And Mark really stepped up for us today, which was a really tough day out there. So it was good to see.”

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