Final Notes: OU Coach Makes Sacrifice to See Dalke in Final
August 21, 2016 | Bloomfield Township, Mich.
By David Shefter, USGA
Ryan Hybl was in position to win as much as $10,000 this weekend. He forfeited a potential payday for something far more valuable: watching his college player compete on the grandest stage in amateur golf.
Hybl, entering his eighth season as the University of Oklahoma men’s golf coach, was tied for fifth after two rounds of the Oklahoma Open at Oak Tree Country Club in Edmond. But when Brad Dalke advanced into Sunday’s 36-hole final of the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club, Hybl withdrew before Sunday’s final round.
While Dalke didn’t play his best golf of the week in the final, falling 6 and 4 to Curtis Luck, of Australia, Hybl had no regrets about his decision.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Hybl, who arrived in Michigan at 2 a.m. on Sunday. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go watch one of your guys do something that’s the pinnacle of amateur golf. These memories are definitely worth a lot more than money.”
Hybl can relate to Dalke’s disappointment at not winning. He lost to fellow Georgian Dave Womack, 1 down, in the 2006 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship final at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz., with an invitation to the Masters on the line. Now one of his players is headed to the 2017 U.S. Open and getting a likely invitation to Augusta National.
“When he called me [on Saturday], I told him I am proud of you,” said Hybl. “People don’t understand unless you have been in that spot.”
When Hybl, a former University of Georgia standout, took over the OU program in June 2009, Dalke, just 12 at the time, became one of his first recruiting targets, even if it meant waiting six years to officially get him on campus. The potential that Hybl saw in Dalke as a junior golfer blossomed this week. During phone conversations, he sensed the confidence, especially on the greens. Hybl said the switch to the pencil/claw grip has helped Dalke convert more putts, despite the struggles during the second 18 of the final when he lost eight consecutive holes.
It’s something that has Hybl excited for the upcoming season, which begins with The Carmel Cup in 12 days at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.
“This is going to give him confidence. It’s going to give my team confidence,” said Hybl. “This has been a great week for Brad. His game has grown from it.”
Oklahoma teammates Grant Hirschman and Dalke made a pact before embarking on their 16-hour journey to Oakland Hills. Whoever was out of the U.S. Amateur first would caddie for the other person. Hirschman, 21, of Collierville, Tenn., failed to advance out of Wednesday morning’s 23-for-8 playoff for the final match-play spots. And when Dalke’s older brother, Tommy, needed to leave Thursday for a wedding in Chicago, Hirschman gladly took the bag for the Round of 16. The OU junior’s journey would continue through Sunday’s final match.
“We’ve played so much golf together that I know his game and he knows my game better than anybody,” said Hirschman. “Me jumping on the bag for him wasn’t any change.”
Dalke might have benefited from Hirschman’s course knowledge. He took copious notes of the South Course during his practice round last weekend and gained a keen understanding of its nuances.
“I feel like he was listening to me more because I had played the course,” said Hirschman. “I had prepared and could use my notes with his notes.”
Dalke and Hirschman also won’t be facing the 16-hour drive home. Tommy Dalke will be driving the vehicle back to Oklahoma, while Hirschman and Dalke jump on a flight Monday. They need to get ready for the fall semester and prepare for the team’s first fall event Sept. 2-4.
Now that Hirschman has helped guide Dalke to a U.S. Amateur final, he was asked if Dalke will use his services for his next two major starts: the U.S. Open at Erin Hills and his likely 2017 Masters invitation.
“I don’t know,” said Hirschman. “It’s whatever he wants. I might end up on it. That would be nice.”
One of the perks Dalke received for making the final match was a trip to Comerica Park on Saturday night to take in the Tigers-Red Sox game. Before the game, Dalke was introduced to several Detroit players, including star pitcher Justin Verlander. During the final on Sunday, Detroit Lions offensive guard Gabe Ikard was in the gallery. An Oklahoma alum, Ikard contacted the Dalke family about getting a ticket. Dalke’s father, Bill, was a starting linebacker on the 1975 OU national title team.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.