During the college golf season, GolfChannel.com will check in weekly to update what’s happening in the world of college golf.
They’ve known in Norman, Oklahoma, for a while now. But a few days ago, the Sooners’ Twitter account announced it to the men’s college golf world.
“It's safe to say that Garett Reband is officially back,” the tweet read.
Reband, a fifth-year senior who missed most of the latter half of last year with a broken right hand, continued his hot spring with a victory Sunday at the N.I.T. in Tucson, Arizona. The reigning first-team All-American shot 15 under, the fifth-best score in relation to par in program history, to beat a star-studded field by two shots and add to a recent run that also includes a runner-up showing at the Cabo Collegiate and two other top-15 finishes.
“He’s arguably on one of the better streaks in college golf right now,” Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl said.
The journey back for Reband, though, wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright brutal at times. First came the devastating fracture in early June, followed by weeks of soreness after doctors inserted three pins into his hand to help it heal. Reband didn’t pick up a golf club until August when he started chipping with both hands. He missed the U.S. Amateur and every other summer amateur event.
When he returned to campus last fall, Reband had seen his swing speed dip to 115 mph from the low-120s. He wasn’t ready to go when the Sooners began their season at Colonial in late September, and he played sparingly in four fall events, going 1-5 between the Big 12 Match Play and East Lake Cup, where he shot 74 in his only stroke-play round of the fall, beating just two players in the field.
It was unfamiliar territory for a player who had amassed 12 top-10s in the last three seasons.
“The fall kind of beat him up a little bit,” Hybl said. “When you’re coming off of injury, your expectations are still to be the type of player you know you are, and it wasn’t matching up.”
Hybl said when Reband is at his best, you can tell just by listening. That familiar sound started to return in November when Reband teed it up in a made-for-TV exhibition at Scottsdale National in Arizona. While he struggled at the Palmer Cup in December, going 0-3-1, Reband continued working on his game during the winter break, strengthening his hand and regaining his power and feel. He even added some height to his iron shots.
But the biggest impetus to Reband’s resurgent play has arguably been an early-spring switch to an arm-lock putter. Many of his Oklahoma teammates, including All-Americans Quade Cummins and Jonathan Brightwell, use the technique, so when Reband was feeling off on short putts, a result of breaking his wrists, he decided to ditch his left-hand-low grip just days before the Cabo Collegiate, the Sooners’ second event of the spring.
“I just said, ‘Screw it,’ and gave it a try,” Reband said. “Ever since, I’ve been rolling it the best I ever have in college.”
The confidence on the greens has bled into his entire game. Reband said he’s noticed that “swagger” even when he’s walking between shots. He’s also seen the chip on his shoulder grow in recent weeks, too.
Despite being ranked No. 10 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and being one of 16 players invited to the U.S. Walker Cup practice session last December, Reband wasn’t among the final 10 names selected to represent his country in May at Seminole when the team was revealed at the beginning of March.
Reband, who was named second alternate, doesn’t want to play a game of what ifs, but it’s hard not to think that his injury had a major impact. With no college tournaments being factored into the selection process, last summer’s abbreviated amateur slate played a big role, as did last month’s Jones Cup, where Reband tied for 65th.
“The timing of the injury was terrible,” Hybl said. “A lot of these guys played a lot of golf [during the summer] and he didn’t play anything.”
Reband subscribes to the mantra that nothing is given but rather everything is earned, which is why he’s not sour about being passed over. However, to say it hasn’t fueled him to step up his play, especially against some guys who were picked, would be inaccurate.
“It’s definitely put a chip on my shoulder, given me more motivation,” Reband said. “It’s not like an I’m-getting-back-at-you kind of thing, but playing well and going out and winning does kind of show them what they’re missing out on.”
Back in Norman, where Oklahoma is resting up after starting the spring third-first-second-second, they aren’t missing out at all. The Sooners’ star is officially back, and they’re enjoying every second of it.
We’re inside of two months until the NCAA Championships begin at Grayhawk, so here are some updated predictions:
Making match play? Pre-spring: 1. Arizona State, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Pepperdine, 4. Texas, 5. Texas Tech, 6. Georgia, 7. Oklahoma State, 8. SMU
Now: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Texas, 3. Arizona State, 4. Wake Forest, 5. Florida State, 6. Pepperdine, 7. Oklahoma State, 8. Florida
Winning it all? Pre-spring: Arizona State
Now: Oklahoma. Though the Sun Devils will have the home-course advantage, the Sooners’ experience should carry them to the title. Garett Reband has looked excellent of late and Logan McAllister has turned into the best five man in the country.
Player of the year? Pre-spring: Davis Thompson, Georgia
Now: Thompson. While some other players have multiple wins, it's still Thompson, who is currently among the top 15 players on the latest Haskins Award Watch List. But watch out for Florida State’s John Pak, who is ranked third by Golfstat.
Freshman of the year? Pre-spring: Karl Vilips, Stanford
Now: Nick Gabrelcik, North Florida. He's ranked fifth in Golfstat, three spots behind Ohio State freshman Max Moldovan, but the Ospreys newcomer already has two wins this spring.
Making match play? Pre-spring: 1. Wake Forest, 2. USC, 3. South Carolina, 4. Arizona State, 5. Texas, 6. Ole Miss, 7. UCLA, 8. Arizona
Now: 1. South Carolina, 2. Wake Forest, 3. USC, 4. Duke, 5. Arizona State, 6. Ole Miss, 7. LSU, 8. Texas
Winning it all? Pre-spring: Wake Forest
Now: South Carolina. The return of senior Ana Pelaez this spring has turned the Gamecocks from one of the favorites to the favorite. The top-ranked team in Golfstat recently took down USC and its top SEC foes at the Liz Murphey, which wrapped up Sunday with South Carolina’s third win in four spring tournaments.
Player of the year? Pre-spring: Pauline Roussin-Bouchard, South Carolina
Now: Roussin-Bouchard. We’ll stick with Pauline, who has three victories this season, one fewer than Arizona State’s Linn Grant, but the Gamecocks have played a tougher schedule in those wins.
Freshman of the year? Pre-spring: Alessia Nobilio, UCLA
Now: Karen Fredgaard, Houston. Nobilio has yet to debut for the Bruins, while Fredgaard has a win, runner-up, third and a T-9 to begin her college career.