Collin Bryant | Sports Writer
Baylor men’s golf program is poised to excel once again.
Golf is a game with ups and downs. One minute you can be planning a mental victory, the next, you’re trying to figure out how you blew an outright lead.
The Baylor men’s golf team returned to the National Championship for back-to-back years this past season, collapsing in its final match that would have solidified a bid into the Semifinals against the University of Illinois. While ultimately falling short, its run to the NCAA Quarterfinal match against Oklahoma still culminated into the best finish in school history.
Headed by Mark McGraw, the team’s third-year head coach, the program has taken off, signing and bringing various players that have fit the system nicely. Sophomore Cooper Dossey, who was slated to play at Texas A&M, made a huge impact this past season, being named a third team All American.
Dossey isn’t the only one who nicely contributed to the team last season. Others, such as junior Braden Bailey and senior Matthew Perrine, made equally big impacts, being named to the Honorable Mention All-American team.
Though young, the Bears’ starting five appear to be a good balance of experience and young talent. Dossey, who recorded a season stroke average of 71.19, had the third-lowest scoring average in school history. Bailey had a stroke average of 71.70 and played 16 of 37 rounds at par or better. Perinne, since transferring from Auburn following his freshman year, has been a consistent top five player at a stroke average of 71.35.
While the team was extremely successful last season, it is looking to improve on its Championships woes. The team tumbled into the clubhouse on the back nine of the quarterfinal, leading at all five spots against Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma, who ultimately won the coveted title. Oklahoma gained momentum down the stretch and outlasted the Bears.
Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl said it was his team’s tenacity and holistic approach that made the difference.
“Our guys are fighters, they’re grinders. That’s Oklahoma golf,”Hybl said.
Oklahoma’s difficult victory over the Bears seemed to propel them to their ultimate championship victory, defeating both Illinois and the defending champion Oregon Ducks.
McGraw, who is familiar with the sometimes-treacherous style of match play, managed to return to the championships for the fifth time in nine years.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted and that’s disappointing,” McGraw said.
While McGraw mirrored the disappointment of the team, the Bears are resilient and will be looking to take home the trophy this season. Since McGraw took over, Baylor has improved each year, inching closer and closer to the title that every Division One program starts its year hoping to play for and win. Baylor’s success and recruiting class has not only shown McGraw to be a coach people want to play for, but also a guy who can bring the best out of good players.
McGraw recently announced Baylor’s upcoming schedule, taking the Bears all over the country, with a pit stop across the border. Baylor will participate in events in Illinois, Arizona, Minnesota, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma and Los Cabos, Mexico.
McGraw and his squad are hoping to return to the National Championship for a third consecutive season, a feat that has never been accomplished at Baylor University. They hope to repeat their 2014 success at the Gopher invitational where they claimed the title.
The Bears will then head to the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields Country Club, where they will hope to clutch the trophy for the first time. Next, they will head to Alabama, where their best finish is once again a top three. To round out their fall schedule, they will host an event at Royal Oaks Country Club, where they hope to defend home turf against a competitive field.
Baylor will play six events during the spring semester to help it prepare for April’s Big 12 Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Bears will also hope to start their championship run during regional qualifying in Texas, Ohio, Florida, California, Oklahoma or North Carolina in March.
With McGraw adding a few talented Texas natives, Mark Reppe and Ryan Grider, to his squad, Baylor plans on being poised for anything that comes its way.
“I am excited about Ryan and Mark joining the program,” McGraw said in an official press release on Baylorbears.com. “Both have been competitive on a state and national level. More importantly, they are great kids, who will represent Baylor in a very positive way. They believe in what we are building here.”