College golf: Inside the ropes at the East Lake Cup with Oklahoma junior standout Brad Dalke
Whether he wanted it or not, Brad Dalke was thrust into the spotlight at age 13, when the middle-schooler committed to play college golf at Oklahoma. Now, Dalke's name is again making headlines, this time simply for his play. The Oklahoma junior helped the Sooners win the national title last year, a few weeks after making his Masters debut in Augusta.
During the East Lake Cup, a tournament pitting the top four teams in men's and women's golf against each other, we caught up with Dalke:
Oklahoma won its first national title since 1989 last season. What was different about that team?
We’ve used the word a lot since that week — Grittiness. We had a lot of grit that week. We had some guys that just never give up on this team. Max [McGreevy] was a big one for us. We lost him this year, but he was a grinder that just always had a chip on his shoulder. Blaine [Hale]’s a grinder, I’m a grinder, we just had a bunch of grinders that never gave up on a match, never gave up on a round, and that really showed in our Baylor match in the quarterfinals. We were all down going into the back nine and we all just kept fighting and ended up pulling it out. That was the difference.
What do you think it would take for the Sooners to repeat this year?
Continually getting better throughout the year. We have a really good team. We lost Max, but that was the only guy we lost. I think if we all can just keep pushing each other, keep getting better, and get some confidence this next spring going into the postseason. Luckily we have regionals at our golf course, so that will be nice, and hopefully we can get through that and get to nationals. Anything can happen in nationals. It’s just one week where the worst team there could play well and get the match play. So it’s just getting through the match play and trying to fight like we did last year.
You've had quite a bit of personal success the past few years, winning the 2015 Junior PGA Championship, being a 2014 Junior Ryder Cup member, winning the NCAA title. How are you feeling about your game now?
It’s been good. I’ve been playing well this fall. I think my scoring average was in the 60s this fall, so I’ve been playing really well and it’s the best year I’ve had so far in college. I’ve been working hard and putting a lot better and hitting the driver a lot better, which is really helping me get some more success, and hopefully I’ll get to win soon here this next spring. I’ve been playing well, and I’m excited, and hopefully I’ll be able to help the team a little bit this year.
What's your favorite club in your bag right now?
I’d say right now it’s probably my putter. Which would not have been the answer I would have given you four months ago or any time before that, but I’ve been putting good lately, so it’s definitely been the hot one lately.
You made your first Masters appearance earlier this year. What was that experience like?
That was such a cool experience. Didn’t play quite as well as I would have liked, missed the cut by three. But the whole experience was awesome and I learned a lot from it. Can’t go through an experience like that and not learn from it. That helped me a lot as a player and I’ve been playing really well since then.
What differences do you notice playing those professional events as opposed to college events?
Obviously the field is a lot better (in professional events). I played my first pro event at the Valero Texas Open my freshman year. It’s just a whole different mindset. It’s a little scarier for some, playing in front of the big crowds and all that. I love it. I love playing in front of crowds. I feel like I thrive in that. But it’s just a different kind of mindset you have to get used to. And I think the few pro events I’ve played in being some big ones will help me in the future. But it’s just a whole different feeling. College events are obviously fun. You have a team you’re playing for, you’re hanging out with your teammates all week. When you’re in a pro event, it’s pretty lonely. Everyone’s for themselves, so it’s definitely a lonelier feeling, but you feel like you’re a VIP at the pro events. You get everything catered towards you. So it’s fun though.
Your commitment to Oklahoma at age 13 made waves at the time. How do you think that experience has shaped you?
OU is the only place I wanted to go my whole life. Some people can’t quite comprehend that I guess, but when your parents go there, your grandparents go there, all your brothers and sisters just grew up loving OU, there’s really no other choice. That’s the only place I wanted to go. It was a long time ago I committed, but I wouldn’t change it for a second. I love college there, I love my teammates there, I love the coach. It’s been such a fun ride. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else if I could do it over again. It’s been so cool. And being able to come here and win the national championship with the team, it’s been a long time coming since I committed, but it all turned out good in the end.