Bringing this year’s Class 6A boys’ state golf tournament to Norman didn’t happen overnight.
It all started last summer when Norman High golf coach Gregg Grost was approached by Josh Gornzey. The former Norman North golf coach pitched Grost the idea of hosting the 2022 tournament at OU’s Jimmie Austin Golf Course.
Grost was on board. The former OU golf coach coached the Sooners from 1986-2000, winning a national championship in 1989, and was thrilled to bring the state tournament back to Norman.
“I felt like we could have a fabulous event here,” Grost said. “It’s a golf town. We know how to organize golf events in this city, in Jimmie Austin in particular. That is why this golf course was rebuilt and redesigned. When it was redesigned in 1996, that was the whole impetus behind its realization. That’s why I was involved at the time as a coach at OU because we needed a championship golf course here that could host events.
Soon after the process began, Gorzney took a job as an assistant coach for the Arkansas State women’s golf team. Grost then began working with Rodney Young, who was Jimmie Austin’s general manager.
The two began working out the details and officially submitted the documents to the Oklahoma Secondary Sports Athletic Association. The paperwork included the two Normandy schools as co-hosts, which had always been one of the central ideas.
“I don’t know if it’s been done before,” Grost said.
Once Ryan Rainer was hired as North’s new golf coach last October, he was happy to join the cause by co-hosting the tournament with Grost. For Rainer, it wasn’t just about bringing the tournament to Norman.
“I think Class 6A deserves to be played on a championship course,” Rainer said. “You have some of the best golfers in the state playing, I think they need to be tested and challenged. Having him in a place like Jimmie Austin has got to happen year after year.
“I think it’s pretty important…to show that these two schools are working together to support junior golf in this city and the state. I think it shows unity. Something unique about golf is that you compete against everyone, but a lot of those guys are buddies and friends. Even if they want to kill each other on the course, they are still friends. So co-hosting together kind of shows unity outside of the ropes.
OSSAA awarded the event to Normandy schools at the end of October. From there, efforts focused on fundraising to make the tournament run smoothly. Rappel clubs Norman High and Norman North worked together for nearly three months at an auction in April to raise funds.
The fruits of that labor will be visible on Monday, when the 54-round state tournament kicks off at Jimmie Austin.
In addition to the five rules officials working Monday and the seven working Tuesday, there will be live scores during the tournament on golfstat.com. The tournament will also be streamed live online for free on gamekast.live using 20 cameras that will be installed around the course.
There will also be a Sunday night pre-tournament dinner for teams competing at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, and the tournament will include lunch both days.
The effort is bigger than most high school tournaments, Grost said, but the hope is to raise the standard for high school golf in the future.
“Is that a bit of a stretch for high school golf? Yeah,” Grost said. “But why not? Why not give these kids, these young men, the same experience as student-athletes that all other sports provide. There’s nothing wrong with setting the bar high. And that’s one of the reasons we try to do that.
“I want to give them a better chance to benefit from their experience for what they have earned the right to do throughout the season, but also to set the bar high so that other schools who may want to welcome this championship or other divisions in Oklahoma… go further.
Norman, host of the state golf tournament, also received a boost when OU’s top-ranked men’s team was named NCAA regional host in April. The regional, which is scheduled to begin May 16, will take place a week after the state golf tournament.
Rainer said the regional is just another opportunity for Normandy golfers to see the sport at a high level.
“I think it’s going to be a bit more special,” Rainer said. “The fact that [the state tournament is] to a championship course a week before an NCAA Regionals. I think there’s going to be a lot of kids going, “Wow, maybe that’s as close to playing college golf as it gets.” So it’s going to be pretty special for some. Some kids who go to college golf, it’s [still] will be the biggest tournament of the year.
Of course, all 12 teams are also looking to win a state championship. and NHS and North enter the tournament with momentum.
The T-Wolves won the 6A West Regional Qualifier in Enid on Monday with a score of 282 and North’s Josh Stuart hit a career low of 63 to finish as the individual leader. The T-Wolves are feeling confident heading into the state tournament, but Rainer insisted on staying focused.
“I think we did a good job in training focusing and keeping our eyes on the prize,” Rainer said. “Whatever success we’ve had so far, it doesn’t really matter because we still have a big goal that we want to achieve.”
The Tigers are also feeling confident after finishing second in Monday’s regional with a season-low 293.
“You hope your guys are playing their best at the right time,” Grost said. “…We’re just going to go out there and play.” We are not the favourites. This falls on Norman North, Edmond North and Jenks. But we’ll just go out there and we’ll play. and you never know what might happen.