OSU men's golf: Outsiders Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff fit in to lead Cowboys' charge
Matthew Wolff walked into the Gallagher-Iba Arena last month wearing roughed-up brown cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans and a sportcoat.
Arriving for the Cowboy Choice Awards, Oklahoma State’s celebration of its best athletes and teams, Wolff looked neither stereotypically Californian, nor stereotypically golfer.
He’s been in Oklahoma less than two years, leaving behind a home that was a 10-minute drive from the beach, but the Cowboy golf team’s star sophomore fits in Stillwater for more reasons than his low stroke average.
“I’ve grown into the culture here,” Wolff said. “I really like it. I wasn’t so much a Cali guy. I’ll wear a Cowboy hat. It’s not too much to me.”
OSU junior Viktor Hovland, whose accomplishments in the past year helped him edge Wolff for the Ben Hogan Award as the best college golfer in the country, might not be the jeans and boots type. But he, too, has been right at home in Stillwater to the point that he could be mistaken for a local if his Norwegian accent didn’t give him away.
Wolff and Hovland will be at the forefront of Oklahoma State’s charge toward a 12th NCAA golf championship when stroke play begins Friday morning at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Though the Cowboys have won 11 titles, they’ve never won two in a row. Yet this has been a different kind of year for OSU golf. Still a favorite for the title, which will be decided in match play next Tuesday and Wednesday, OSU has won six tournaments as a team to go with eight individual titles — four for Wolff, three for Hovland and one for Austin Eckroat.
Counting Eckroat’s upcoming appearance at the U.S. Open next month, four Cowboys will have played in major professional events this year.
Virginia native Zach Bauchou and Eckroat’s former high school teammate at Edmond North, Hayden Wood, finish out the Cowboys’ starting five. It’s an eclectic group with a wide variety of personalities and personal backgrounds, playing a sport that is not inherently a team game.
Yet these Cowboys remain tight.
“Anytime you get to spend a lot of time with the five guys we’ve got here, it’s really special to have a group of talented kids like that,” OSU coach Alan Bratton said. “We have tons of fun on the road. It’s been great for me to watch them grow up as young men and develop as golfers.”
Though the mental approach to golf remains an individual focus for each player, the winning rubs off.
“Seeing Viktor play well pushes me to work harder and play well,” Wolff said. “Obviously, it’s nice when it helps the team. I know I have confidence in every single one of those guys to go out and shoot a low number. It’s not just Viktor, it’s everyone. I see everyone else’s success and it pushes me to work harder.”
When two of college golf’s best are helping each other get better, leading the way for the team’s other three players — who could be the No. 1 bag at a lot of Division I programs — the importance of team golf becomes evident in the Cowboys.
“We had a really good season leading up to the national championship,” said Hovland, who finished second in OSU’s last two tournaments, the Big 12 Championship and NCAA Regional at Louisville. “We’re just trying to do what we’ve done the last couple years, just prepare well and play our best, and see what happens.”
NCAA MEN'S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS
Where: The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.