By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Boasting the defending national champion and five teams ranked in the top 15 nationally, the Big 12 is challenging the SEC as the top conference in the country for men's golf.
Seeded third and ranked 10th, the Baylor men will see how they stack up in the league at the Big 12 Championship that begins Monday morning at historic Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., the host site for seven major championships on the PGA Tour.
"You don't want to go up there and play against teams that are struggling and come home with a trophy," said Baylor senior Matthew Perrine. "A trophy is a trophy, but it's that much cooler when you can take down the top dogs."
The top dogs going in are No. 1-ranked Oklahoma State and No. 3 Oklahoma, the defending national champion. But, Baylor, Texas Tech and five-time defending Big 12 champion Texas (14th) are all in the top 15 in the latest Golfstat rankings.
"Texas is always good, they've won five of these in a row," said Baylor coach Mike McGraw, who won five Big 12 men's titles and one on the women's side at Oklahoma State. "Although they don't have the same team they've had the last five years, they've been there and experienced it and they have two really great players leading the way. So, they'll be good. The Big 12, it's argued, is probably the best conference in the country this year for golf."
It's fitting then that the conference is playing on one of the best golf courses in the country. Southern Hills has hosted the U.S. Open three times, the PGA Championship four times, two Tour Championships and six major U.S. Amateur championships.
"What a great place to play a championship," said McGraw, who has been on the course 151 times since 1970 as a player, coach or spectator. "It's an unbelievable golf course that has hosted seven major (PGA) championships. Some great names have won there. It's just an unbelievable facility. . . . I love the place. It's one of my favorite places in golf."
The only one of Baylor's five-man team that has played the course - tying for 36th at the Trans-Mississippi Championship in 2014 - Perrine said it's a tight course with a lot of big trees lining the fairways.
"It's definitely more target golf," said Perrine, who comes in with a 71.17-stroke average that is tied with junior Braden Bailey for the fourth-best single-season mark in program history. "You can't just bomb it and find it, because you're not going to have an angle to the green, whatsoever. You would be just pitching it back out. So, don't be afraid to hit something less than driver off the tee, keep the ball in front of you and play the angles, give yourself the best look at the green."
As tough as the course plays, McGraw said it's still "very getable, you can shoot a low number there if the conditions are right, but you can also bogey yourself to death."
"They're going to get a treat," McGraw said of the four Baylor golfers that are playing Southern Hills for the first time. "I don't think you can leave Southern Hills after four rounds without being a better player. It's going to teach you a lot about yourself. . . . They know what they're headed into, a championship golf course, and that's what you want when you're playing for a Big 12 title."
Joining Perrine and Bailey in the Baylor lineup are junior Garrett May and sophomores Cooper Dossey and Colin Kober. On pace to break Kyle Jones' single-season program record (70.47), May has a 70.19-stroke average and ranks 12th nationally. Dossey, who was out two months with a wrist injury, is fourth on the team with a 71.83 average and has posted five top-25 finishes in six tournaments. Kober, who won a playoff for the fifth spot, finished tied for ninth at the Baylor-hosted Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in the fall and won the Arizona Medalist title in the first spring tournament.
Perrine became Baylor golf's first major award winner on Friday when he was named this year's winner of the Byron Nelson Award. The selection committee for the award considers the candidates' entire collegiate academic and golf career as well as his character, integrity and good citizenship, a trait portrayed by Byron Nelson over the course of his life and golf career.
The tournament opens with 36 holes on Monday, followed by 18-hole rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday. Paired with Texas Tech, Baylor players will start on the back nine in Monday's morning round and will go off No. 1 for the afternoon round starting at 1:52.
In three previous Big 12 tournaments under McGraw, the Bears placed seventh in 2015, fifth in 2016 and seventh a year ago. Baylor's only previous Big 12 championship came in 2001 at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan.
"That's one of the things you put on the bucket list when you're a college golfer," Perrine said of winning a Big 12 title, "that and a national title. We haven't performed great at Big 12 my years here, so I think we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder heading into it. So, it would be that much sweeter to go in there and bring home a ring."
Live scoring is available at www.golfstat.com.
WACO, Texas -- Baylor men's golf is headed to the 2018 Big 12 Championship, which runs Monday through Wednesday at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. The Bears are the No. 3 seed in a 10-team field.
Baylor earned the No. 3 seed by being the third highest-ranked Big 12 team in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin ratings. No. 1 Oklahoma State is the top seed, followed by No. 4 Oklahoma (No. 2 seed), No. 10 Baylor (No. 3 seed), No. 13 Texas Tech (No. 4 seed) and No. 18 Texas (No. 5 seed).
No. 31 TCU is the No. 6 seed, followed by No. 43 Kansas (No. 7 seed), No. 61 Iowa State (No. 8 seed), No. 91 West Virginia (No. 9 seed) and No. 96 Kansas State (No. 10 seed).
Teams are scheduled to play 36 holes on Monday and 18 holes each on Tuesday and Wednesday on the par-70 course. The first round will be played at 7,158 yards, followed by rounds at 6,662 yards, 6,968 yards and 7,084 yards, respectively.
Baylor's lineup is led by junior Garrett May in the No. 1 spot. Junior Braden Bailey is No. 2, followed by senior Matthew Perrine at No. 3 and sophomores Cooper Dossey at No. 4 and Colin Kober at No. 5.
Baylor players will begin on the back-9 in the first round in pairings with golfers from Texas Tech. Kober is up first at 8:22 a.m., and he'll be followed in nine-minute intervals by Dossey, Perrine, Bailey and May, respectively. BU starts on No. 1 for Monday's second round, with Kober up first at 1:52 p.m.
May enters the tournament with a 70.19 stroke average for the season, which is currently on pace to break the Baylor single-season record set by Kyle Jones with 70.47 in 2014-15. Bailey and Perrine are tied for fourth on the Bears' single-season stroke average list at 71.17. Dossey currently sits atop Baylor's career stroke average list at 71.40, followed by Bailey in third at 71.88, Perrine in fourth at 71.89 and May in seventh at 71.93.
Perrine is playing his first tournament since being named the 2018 Byron Nelson Award winner, becoming the first major award winner in program history.
Baylor has finished fifth (2016), sixth (2017) and seventh (2015) in three previous Big 12 Championships under head coach Mike McGraw. The Bears have one Big 12 Championship title that was won in Hutchinson, Kan. in 2001, but BU has not finished top-three in any other Big 12 Championship.
Baylor's three previous Big 12 Championships at Southern Hills have resulted in ninth (2003), seventh (2006) and seventh (2015) place finishes.
The Bears opened the 2017-18 season with six consecutive top-four finishes, but their best finish in four tournaments since then was a tie for fifth place at the Valspar Collegiate. BU holds a 109-33-1 head-to-head record this season.
Baylor has faced five Big 12 opponents this season, going a combined 5-7 against those teams. The Bears have squared off in tournaments against Iowa State (1-0), Oklahoma (1-1), Oklahoma State (0-5), Texas (2-1) and Texas Tech (1-0). BU is seeing Kansas, Kansas State, TCU and West Virginia for the first time this season.
Live scoring for the tournament is available at www.golfstat.com. Follow @BaylorMGolf on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates throughout the season.