Through all of the flooding, the take-cover-now notifications, the late-night tornado episode and more of the garbage that defined a miserable May, there were moments of sensational diversion.
The recently concluded spring-sports period was among the more eventful such periods in Oklahoma history.
If the state of Oklahoma’s 2019 college football season is as entertaining as what we saw from golf, softball and baseball athletes, people will lose their minds.
Filling the void between the end of college basketball and a fresh college football season were historic performances by the Oklahoma State golf and both Oklahoma softball teams.
As bat-flipping Samantha Show became a nationally renowned figure in softball, the surging OSU program made a surprise appearance in the Women’s College World Series.
University of Tulsa softball has been consistently good for years, but the Golden Hurricane was beyond just good this year. As UCLA twice defeated the OU juggernaut in Oklahoma City, the Bruins are very impressive national champions. The Sooners are far beyond all of the other teams in the country.
There might be 10 or 15 programs that would be tied for third place, and TU would be on that shelf below UCLA and OU. Before losing twice to Oklahoma State in an NCAA regional at Stillwater, the Golden Hurricane had prevailed in 12 of the previous 14 meetings of the teams.
Giselle Juarez. Matthew Wolff. Jensen Elliott. Julia Hollingsworth. Viktor Hovland. Patty Gasso. Kenny Gajewski. Nicole Mendes. Chenise Delce. These were some of the people who made May and early June memorable for more than just extreme weather.
The OSU baseball program got hot in May and rode the momentum into an NCAA Super Regional. Last week, with two out in the ninth inning and the Cowboys trailing by two runs, former Memorial star Trevor Boone belted a three-run home run to beat Nebraska 6-5.
While it might seem impossible to script anything more dramatic, it’s not.
For unbelievable, riveting drama, Zach Bauchou tops the list.
Bauchou is an Oklahoma State senior golfer who, in a figurative sense, was struck by lightning on May 28.
Golf Channel’s coverage of the OSU-Texas match-play national semifinal was sports television at its best.
At Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the match was tied at two points apiece. The outcome of the final match — Texas’ Steven Chervony vs. Bauchou — would determine whether the Longhorns or the Cowboys would clash with Stanford for the national title.
It was then that I received a text message from Carson Cunningham, a sports reporter and anchor at Oklahoma City’s KOCO-5: “I don’t know how they pick up a club with this much pressure, much less hit a shot.”
On No. 18, Chervony converted on a long birdie putt to send the match to a sudden-death playoff. On the first playoff hole, Bauchou stood over a 3-foot putt that would have extended the match. His speed and line seemed perfect.
It seemed a certainty that the ball would plop into the cup — until it didn’t. Until it horseshoed around the edge of the hole and back toward Bauchou.
Moments later, as the Longhorns celebrated, Bauchou wiped away tears as he and teammates began to process their cruel reality: that a lipped-out putt had ended their season.
“There was never a thought that Zach’s putt wasn’t going in,” OSU coach Alan Bratton said. “We had the best people in position to deliver, and they did except for that lip-out. You don’t see lip-outs like that very often. You might see it on the (practice green) but not in a situation like that.”
Wolff and Hovland have turned professional. Hovland was the low amateur at the Masters and was the Big 12 Player of the Year. Wolff was the NCAA’s individual champion and won more significant awards than any college golfer this year.
Wolff and Hovland will make their PGA Tour debut during the June 20-23 Travelers Championship.
After his infamous putt in Fayetteville, Bauchou immediately launched his professional career. While he missed the cut by two shots at this weekend’s RBC Canadian Open, his body of work would suggest that he’s capable of a lucrative run in pro golf. In 2017 and again last year, Bauchou was the Canadian amateur champion.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of extra consoling that went on, and I don’t think Zach needed it,” Bratton said. “I told him that there was no one I’d rather have in that spot. If we played that match again tomorrow, I wouldn’t change a thing. Zach would be in the same spot.
“I spoke with Zach several times this week — about different things and his future — but we didn’t revisit that putt. Maybe one day, we’ll commiserate about it a little.”
In about eight weeks, preseason practice begins for the Sooner, Cowboy and Hurricane football teams. This state is synonymous with football, but spring-sports athletes provided phenomenal theater this year. And this is a fact: More people than ever before are watching and talking about college softball.