BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – Of the 48 players in this week’s LIV Golf Tulsa field, six have college ties to the state of Oklahoma.
Charles Howell III, Peter Uihlein, Talor Gooch, Matthew Wolff and Eugenio Chacarra attended Oklahoma State University, while Abraham Ancer went to the University of Oklahoma.
“One-eighth of the entire tour has a tie here,” Howell said before a practice round at Cedar Ridge.
“There may be more orange than red this week,” Uihlein added with a smile, noting the 5:1 ratio.
Each of the six earned All-American status, and returning to Oklahoma to compete this week has provided fond memories of their collegiate experience. Each player was asked about the recruiting process and decision to attend their respective school.
CHARLES HOWELL III
Oklahoma State All-American 1998, 1999, 2000
Howell was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia, home of the Masters, but opted to leave his home state to play for legendary Cowboys golf coach Mike Holder.
HOWELL: “I was between the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State. I think when you make a decision to go across the country to play golf for Mike Holder, you're really making a commitment to play golf and professional golf. It was something I wanted to do.
“I wasn't sure if I could handle him, to be quite honest. You hear all the stories and whatnot. But it was three awesome years. I talked to a lot of people. I remember having some conversations with Bob Tway on the phone, not from a recruitment point of view but more what does he expect and what are we getting into, if you had to do it all over again, what would you do, things of that nature.
“I think the history and the tradition of it makes it easy to ultimately decide to go there with the success that Oklahoma State has had and hopefully continues to have.”
Oklahoma State All-American 2010, 2011
Uihlein was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and grew up in coastal New England before moving to Florida at age 13 to attend the IMG Academy’s Pendleton School.
UIHLEIN: “I grew up a pretty big Duke basketball fan, and I remember sitting around the couch asking my dad, what was the equivalent to Duke basketball for college golf? He said Okie State. At that point I kind of became a fan, and that's where I wanted to go. Love tradition, love history, love the excellence that they bring.
“To be able to make a mark on the university from a playing standpoint, you're basically a small fish in a big pond, and if you can leave your mark there, you've done something really well.
“That tied with all the history that goes into it, former players. I went to high school with the Leon brothers [Tyler and Trent] and Jonathan Moore and then looked up to Charles and Bo Van Pelt, Scottie V, [Verplank] so those guys you kind of get close to and become friends with. I looked at other schools, but I was always going to go there.”
Oklahoma All-American 2011
Born in Texas and growing up in Mexico, Ancer was a Junior College All-American before transferring to OU.
ANCER: “I grew up in Mexico playing golf over there. I didn't really play many AJGA events as a little guy, and I didn't really get recruited at all.
“Right after high school, I got recruited from Paul Chavez to Odessa Junior College, and it was a great opportunity for me to kind of get going and not just jump into a D-1 school. Thankfully I played really well that year, something clicked. Got lucky that Coach [Blake] Smart – at the time, he was assistant to Coach [Ryan] Hybl – he was going to go watch another guy that I was playing with. By the end of the round, he told Hybl, we've got to look at this guy, not the other guy.
“After that, they just started the recruiting process, we started chatting, and thankfully I played really well throughout that year. We had other options, but OU was always there … I fell in love with the facilities, the people. It was a no-brainer for me. It was awesome.”
Oklahoma State All-American 2014
Of the six players, Gooch is the only one who grew up in Oklahoma, born and raised in Midwest City. He called it an “easy decision” to attend OSU.
GOOCH: “My coach my first three years was Mike McGraw. First time I had any interaction with him was when I was in eighth grade. I was 14 or whatever at the time.
“When I saw that, you see the Swinging Pete on the hat and thinking, I have an opportunity to do this, I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure I get a spot on the team.
“I made other schools feel like I might have a chance of going there so I could get some free football tickets out of it, but it was always going to be Oklahoma State.”
Oklahoma State All-American 2018, 2019
Wolff was born and raised in California and initially committed to Southern Cal before deciding to attend OSU.
WOLFF: “I wouldn't really say there was any one person that was like very influential in the whole thing. Coming from California, going to Oklahoma State, I think I looked up to guys like Rickie [Fowler] and Kevin Dougherty, and I think there's a few more from California that went to Oklahoma State. I think I used them as kind of like an example of they went there and they became pro and became successful and made it to the next level.
“To me, it was just playing the PING Invitational there for the AJGA tournaments and seeing the facilities, the coaches, how they went about the stuff, the level of camaraderie between the team, the players, and just the way everything was run. I felt like it was very disciplined, but you can have fun and they'll reward you if you perform.
“I just thought that every aspect from top to bottom at Oklahoma State was exactly how I wanted to see myself playing college golf or around those people. That kind of weighed into my choice more than anything. I don't think there was one person. But probably the best decision of my life, to be honest.”
Oklahoma State All-American 2021
Born in Madrid, Spain, Chacarra began his college career at Wake Forest before transferring to Oklahoma State prior to his junior season.
CHACARRA: “Being from Spain, it's always hard. I didn't go to the U.S. until I was 18. I had a long journey before I went to Oklahoma State. I was verbally committed to Stanford, never made my SAT, so obviously it wasn't an option.
“I was lucky enough that Wake Forest got me pretty late to get a scholarship and play for them. I had a good year as a freshman at Wake Forest. … I was watching Matthew Wolff making [birdie] to win NCAAs and all the people in the crowd shouting and screaming, and I was like, man, that looks like Real Madrid soccer; I want to play for that team.
“So I decided to get into the transfer portal, and I was lucky enough that I had a good year, and then Oklahoma State lost all these great players like Viktor Hovland, Kris Ventura, Wolffy, so all these guys left, so there was an open spot for me, so I got my chance, and I landed there.
“I feel like without Oklahoma State, I wouldn't be where I am right now. I learned so much. I feel it's an incredible program with incredible people, and you have everything you need to be successful in golf, so that's why there's a lot of names at Oklahoma State on every tour in the world.”
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