Whenever I’m asked what my job is, I’m always met with a response of “That would be a fun job!”
Certainly, covering sports is fun, but it can be tedious. If covering a team that is barely playing .500, the job is not so fun – and the balance of fair coverage, and critical coverage typically leads to some choice emails or phone messages.
It is an amazing job, but that’s not to say it’s an easy one.
But after 10 years as a full-time sports journalist, I can agree with the sentiment that it’s a “fun job” – again, albeit it demanding – especially when covering a national champion.
The entire month of May this year was focused on the NCAA golf championships – starting with a press conference to preview the tournament before any team had actually qualified through the regional tournaments, and a mad dash to put together my pet project for the tournament of a special section featuring insight into the history of Karsten Creek (with an exclusive interview with Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder) and how to attack the championship course with a hole-by-hole breakdown with former NCAA individual champion and Cowboy golf strength coach Jonathan Moore, among other stories.
We had written a week’s worth of content for a single section before the golfers descended on Stillwater.
This isn’t to ask for pity, but to give insight into how the sports department at the News Press went beyond just the everyday coverage of the tournament to properly cover this event.
And we went beyond every day.
I spent 13-straight days at Karsten Creek spanning the end of May between the women’s and men’s championships.
As my high school classmates were celebrating our 15-year anniversary in my hometown over the Memorial Day weekend – asking if I were finally going to make it back to see old faces – I spent it following the best college golfers in the country in the grueling, hot Oklahoma sun.
And as I walked out of the basement of the Karsten Creek clubhouse into complete darkness for the 13th-straight night, I wouldn’t have asked for anything different.
Having covered the Oklahoma State men’s golf team since I moved to Stillwater in 2010 – getting to know Alan Bratton back when he was an assistant men’s coach at his alma mater before he later became the women’s head coach and eventual men’s head coach – as well as the beat writer for Cowboy wrestling, I’ve been at the forefront of watching a lot of talented athletes and teams to play at OSU.
I had covered the 2011 NCAA men’s golf championships at Karsten Creek, in which the Cowboys lost in the semifinals despite a cast that included four golfers – Peter Uihlein, Morgan Hoffmann, Kevin Tway and Talor Gooch – who have earned PGA Tour cards since leaving Stillwater. I was in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2013 when OSU wrestling finished four points shy of winning a national title – and when the program finished third the following year in Oklahoma City.
I even took a few trips to Tulsa when the Cowgirl tennis team finished as national runner-up to Stanford in 2016.
So as the final day of this year’s men’s golf championship got underway with OSU building a massive lead, the adrenaline was pumping just as much as it was for any Cowboy fan.
It was clear that a lot of pressure was about to fall upon me as both photographer and beat writer. One of the two most prestigious programs at OSU was going to win a national championship, and it would be my task to best capture that moment in both forms of picture and print.
Fortunately I had assistance in the photo department with News Press sports reporter Jordan Bishop taking up shop along the edge of the No. 15 green opposite me to make sure we had every angle covered of the fateful moment with Matthew Wolff.
But trying to tell the story in words was more chaotic. There was a scramble to get extra interviews with Holder – who had coached Bratton on the golf team in the ‘90s – as well as a one-on-one with Bratton and several of the Cowboys after the big press conference in front of the Golf Channel cameras.
It truly was just as chaotic as the entire 13 days at Karsten Creek.
I got a unique opportunity to witness firsthand the joy in the faces of the Cowboy golfers, and the emotions – even if for the briefest of moments – from Bratton when talking about becoming the fourth golf coach at OSU to win a national championship, and the first Cowboy to ever win it both as a player and a coach.
It truly was a fun moment – until I had to sit down and try to convey it into words for our readers with deadline fast approaching.
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at email@example.com.