At this rate, the respective Oklahoma City University golf programs are going to have to take on a new shared moniker ” something that appropriately describes their recent success.
Something like, say, “Dynasty Central.”
The Stars have been dominating the NAIA world of golf for almost a full decade now, and there’s no signs of them slowing down any time soon.
Since crossing into the new millennium, the OCU golf teams have combined to win 11 NAIA national championships. The men’s program captured titles in six of the first eight post-2000 spring seasons, while the women ran their consecutive championships streak to five straight this past month.
What makes the OCU women’s current run even more impressive is the fact they have done it with three different head coaches in five seasons. Derek Freeman really got the ball rolling, so to speak, when he brought in two straight classes of talented freshmen ” in 2004 and 2005 ” who have served as the foundation for the Stars’ list of latest accomplishments.
Players like Sydney Cox, Christina Cung and Ashley Sholer, all of whom finished their careers this spring, have been the biggest factors behind the program’s rise to national prominence.
Cox led the way at the NAIA National Championships this spring by capturing the individual title with an impressive performance at Meadowbrook Golf Course in Rapid City, S.D. The Edmond senior’s fourth career victory provided the perfect finish to the veteran trio’s OCU legacy.
“It’s all been pretty cool,” said Cox, who finished three shots in front of Sholer for medalist honors at the NAIA finale. “Having three seniors who have been there for the last four titles makes it even more special. It’s just one of those situations where you get a taste of winning a national championship and you want to experience it as many times as you can.”
Fortunately for the Stars, they seemed to align perfectly over the last five seasons, earning their first national title under Freeman in 2005 and then back-to-back crowns with Sara Mobley calling the shots. When she left to take a job at Tulsa University after the 2007 season, M.J. Desbiens took over the program and has not missed a beat the last two springs.
“I knew coming in here the history of the OCU program was excellent, so I felt it was a great opportunity as my first head coaching job,” explained Desbiens, who spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma prior to her arrival. “We’ve been fortunate to have players like Sydney, Christina and Ashley ” the experience and leadership they provided the team has been invaluable.
“Derek deserves a lot of credit for the job he did recruiting when he was here.”
Both Cung and Sholer became four-time All-Americans with their closing efforts at nationals, and the 23-year-old Sholer’s runner-up finish was almost the perfect close to a career that began with her winning the individual national title as a freshman. Meanwhile, the starting five at nationals was rounded out by Laura Jones and Morgan Gay, who will be the core of the team vying for title No. 6 next season.
Asked how the Stars have been able to sustain their success for such a long period, Cox provided what she feels is the right answer:
“I think we were all pretty talented to begin with, and that’s always a key,” explained Cox, a kinesiology major who will pursue a professional golf career later this year. “But I have to say we worked really hard, too. I think everyone on this team lives and breathes golf when we’re out here. Plus, M.J. is incredible. We’ve been very, very, very lucky to have her as our coach.
“She knows the game so well and she knows what it takes to be a good player because she played the game at a high level. I think everyone on this team trusts and respects her, and that plays a huge part with any team.”
Flattered, Desbiens deflected the credit right back to her players, pointing to their ability to handle adversity so well all season, especially the adverse weather conditions that plagued nationals last month.
Said Desbiens, “Their experience, their mental toughness ” those were the things that made all of the hard work pay off in the end.” “Jay C. Upchurch