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Oklahoma State’s Secret Is Out: Matthew Wolff is a Superstar



“Matt Wolff is a hell of a player.”

That’s what Alan Bratton told me two months ago, before any of whatever it was that happened over the last week actually happened. I knew about Wolff because of what he did last year at the U.S. Junior Amateur where he beat Austin Eckroat (!) in the quarterfinals and lost in the finals to Noah Goodwin, who is now a freshman star at SMU. But I didn’t know about Wolff.

The 19-year-old from just outside of Los Angeles was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school, and he actually committed to play at USC before flipping to OSU later on in his high school career (THE ANTI-RONALD JONES!)

“OSU golf is a legacy,” Wolff said at the time of why he chose Stillwater. “Even to be thought of as being part of that legacy is awesome.”

Now Wolff, who buried the clincher on Wednesday against Alabama, is forever entrenched as a legend in Stillwater. How few true freshmen have ever cinched a trophy for the No. 1 team in the country on their home turf? There’s obviously no way to look this up, but I’d be willing to bet it’s never happened.

In the end, it felt inevitable that the guy around which OSU’s world seemed to swing this week unlocked the trophy case and shoved another wooden and gold symbol next to innumerable others.

I walked with a buddy of mine who evaluates college talent for the transition to professional golf, and we talked about Wolff’s week and his future. We talked, legitimately, about whether this was the end for Wolff, whether he would even come back to Stillwater. He wavered a little, but ultimately he said that he doesn’t think Wolff’s marketability has reached a tipping point to make turning pro worth it.

That was before the dagger putt, though. Before he joined Rickie Fowler, Norman Xiong, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay as a Freshman of the Year. Before he helped deliver OSU’s first title since 2006.

You could feel the momentum building all week around Wolff. Both on social media and on the ground at Karsten. Kids breaking down his swing. Adults breaking down his whirlwind of a personality. Writers breaking down whatever the name is for that galvanizing nature all the great ones possess.

Obviously his swing is the primary talking point when you start talking about Matthew Wolff. It’s so unique and his speed so breathtaking that it’s impossible to talk about OSU’s best player without discussing what it is that makes him OSU’s best player.

“It’s pretty natural,” said Wolff of his move. “I didn’t try and swing that way. If no one ever filmed me and I never saw my swing, I would think I took it straight back and straight through. That’s how it feels, and that’s how I’ve always done it.”

“(I) take it a little upright and drop it in the slot, sort of bring up the heel, which is from baseball. But no, I mean, me and my coach George, we’ve been working on it, and I went to him about freshman year of high school. Ever since then, he’s loved my swing and told me that I was going to be a great player, and he’s the only one I trust with my swing. Without him, I don’t know if I’d be here today.”

Wolff rarely hit driver at lengthy Karsten Creek, and I watched him go 3-wood, long iron into the 623-yard par-5 9th on multiple occasions. His numbers, which Sean Martin collected here, are embarrassingly long.

Here’s a small sampling of some of the clubs he hit this week: a 3-iron from 290 yards on the downhill par-5 ninth, a 7-iron from 225 on the same hole and an 8-iron from 228 out of a downhill lie in the rough on the 14th hole. []

Wolff finished as the low Poke in the stroke play portion of the event with a 71-73-69-72 showing that put him 3 under and four strokes out of a playoff. It was the fifth time this season he’s finished as low Poke in a tournament and his eighth top-10 finish on the year. He came into the NCAAs with a sub-70 scoring average and was one of only two Cowboys (Viktor Hovland being the other) who could say that.

Then he played his three match play matches in 10 under and went 2-1 against Texas A&M, Auburn and Alabama consecutively. With the planet on five sets of shoulders at Karsten on Wednesday afternoon and a 12-year run of losses hanging in the balance, Wolff played the first 15 holes in 7 under, was pacing for something around 63 (IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP) but didn’t even see the 16th tee box.

It was curtains at 15 for the trophy.

Maybe even more importantly, he is clearly the personality upon which OSU golf hinges right now. He didn’t play first or last in match play,  but he navigated the biggest crowds and saved the ultimate knockout blow until the very end.

“It’s everything I could wish for,” said Wolff. “I didn’t know that (my putt) was to win the championship, I just knew that it was to win my match, and that’s how you win championships. Coach has told us every day when we practiced. How we win the championship is everyone wins their match, and that’s what we did today.

“He told me right before I hit it, just act like it’s the first hole, no pressure, just you’re a great putter. We picked a line, we felt confident, and we rolled it in, and I knew that was big, and kind of let my emotions out.”

The stock is soaring, and it never stopped soaring all week. The secret is out now. Because the tournament was broadcast on Golf Channel. Because Wolff ended Bama. Because Brandel waxed poetic about his front leg action. Because he eschewed driver for 3-wood on one of the toughest courses in the country. Because all of these things and a thousand more, the country knows how good Wolff is and how important he was to OSU’s 11th national title.

Nobody knows what the future holds. Nobody knows what this summer holds. Wolff will presumably try and qualify for the U.S. Open in a few weeks and then play a Big Daddy list of amateur event this summer including the U.S. Am and Western Am. His stock might continue rising right into the fall (when OSU loses Ventura but returns everyone else), or maybe we’ve seen the last of him as a Cowboy.

But no matter what goes down this summer and beyond, for six days in May 2018 Wolff catalyzed one of the great Oklahoma State teams ever and led OSU where Peter Uihlein, Rickie Fowler and a host of others could not. His future might not be what theirs currently is, and that’s ok. Those guys are professionally accomplished, some of the best in the world in their industry. Wolff has a ways to go before he can say that.

None of that matters right now, though, because for seven rounds at Karsten Creek with more pressure than a 19-year-old should be able to handle, Wolff invited it in and embraced it. Even more, he thrived under it. For 119 holes at the NCAA Championship, Matthew Wolff was as good as it gets in college golf.

Follow Kyle Porter on Twitter @KylePorterCBS

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