Vanderbilt Men’s Golf conquers Cabo

Wells Williams and Vanderbilt Men’s Golf won the Cabo Collegiate in spectacular fashion, finishing 12 strokes better than the competition.

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Vanderbilt Athletics

Wells Williams hitting a chip on March 5, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Henry Oelhafen, Staffer-in-Training

The Vanderbilt Men’s Golf team continued its spring season at the Cabo Collegiate at the par-71 Twin Dolphin Club in Mexico on March 5-7. Vanderbilt won the 54-hole event with a score of -18, scorching past the rest of the competition and successfully defending its title.

The win was the Commodores’ third of the spring semester and fifth of the entire season, led by the world No. 1 amateur sophomore Gordon Sargent. The victory marked the first time in program history that the team has won five tournaments in a single season. 

Wells Williams, the only freshman in the starting lineup, won the individual title with a three-day score of -10, highlighted by an impressive bogey-free 65 in his second round.  Head coach Scott Limbaugh’s decision to stick with the freshman — this was only Williams’ third start of the spring season — has clearly paid off. 

After a fairly mundane, even-par first round with three bogeys and three birdies, Williams attacked the pins in rounds two and three, leading to his first ever collegiate victory. Williams’ play was reminiscent of a freshman Gordon Sargent — cool, calm and collected despite being one of the younger players in the field. 

Surrounded by unbelievably strong competition, Williams rose to the challenge and conquered Cabo, showing that he, too, can be the next Vanderbilt freshman to take college golf by storm. Williams appeared to have lost the tournament through the first nine holes in round three as Matthew Riedel surged to -10, but Williams’ steady golf (and Riedel’s mistakes) led him to victory as he made three birdies and six pars on his back nine. 

“Obviously, so happy for Wells to get his first collegiate win. He played awesome this week and he keeps taking steps to show he belongs on this stage,” Limbaugh said. “To make only four bogeys for the week out there is really remarkable.”

Senior Matthew Riedel shot a score of -4,  placing him in a tie for 5th. 

Riedel had a promising start to the tournament, shooting a 3-under 68 with four birdies and a bogey on day one. While he struggled on the front nine of his second round, he shot a staggering -4 on the back nine to grab a share of the lead at -6 with Wells Williams after day two. He then shot -4 on his front nine in round three giving Williams a run for his money. 

It seemed like Riedel’s tournament to win through the front nine in round three before a tough back nine (+6) allowed Williams to take a commanding lead. While Riedel may not have won this tournament, it serves as a positive indicator of what is to come for his senior season. 

“Matthew had another good week and it’s exciting to see his continual growth.” Limbaugh said. “He had a tough finish today, but he will use it to make him better and we could not believe in him any more than we do.”

Since being named to the Haskins Award Watchlist this past fall, Sargent has continued to prove his worth as a stellar player. Sargent is often the player to beat in collegiate tournaments. Sargent excelled in Cabo, making 15 birdies and with a scoring average of 4.33 on the par-5’s and 4.03 on the par-4’s — an indicator of his steady, smart golf. He ended the tournament with a score of -3 and a 7th place finish. 

Sargent had an excellent first round score of 69, which he followed up with a 70 on day two. However, three atypical double bogeys over the three rounds hurt Sargent. 

Fifth-year senior Reid Davenport also exhibited flashes of greatness. While it wasn’t enough to place him firmly in the top-10, Davenport still gave an impressive three rounds of golf. He shot +2 overall, placing him in a tie for 15th place. 

Davenport struggled in round one with two costly double bogeys, leading him to be five over through 16 holes. However, an eagle on his 17th hole brought him back to +3. With good play on day two, shooting 70 and a solid day three, shooting 71, he showed why he can be a solid roleplayer for the Commodores. 

While this may not have been junior Cole Sherwood’s strongest tournament, shooting +6 and placing himself in a tie for 35th, we know what he is capable of. But even with a triple bogey and two double bogeys over the course of his three rounds, he still managed to shoot a solid score. 

Finally, Jackson Van Paris competed as an individual for this tournament, shooting +4 and finishing in a tie for 23rd. Van Paris was knocked out of the starting rotation for the week, but he might return after this weekend’s solid performance. He continues to excel at the game and his scoring average of 4.67 on par-5’s indicates he is attacking scorable holes. 

Winning this tournament was no small task. According to Golfstat’s national rankings, 10 top-25 teams competed in the event, including the top four teams in the country (No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 2 Texas Tech, No. 3 Arizona St, and No. 4 Stanford). The Twin Dolphin Club golf course also played extremely difficult, with a scoring average of 73.96 (on a par-71 course), making the Commodores’ win that much more impressive. 

Vanderbilt has been unstoppable as of late, more than earning their spot as the undisputed No. 1 college golf program in the country. Still, the Commodores aren’t finished yet, as they have plenty of golf left to play and more opportunities for victories ahead.

“Although we came up one shot short of the low round today, I’m excited for how we handled the day,” Limbaugh said. “It was a good and tough setup this week and I thought our guys responded well to the challenge.”

Vanderbilt will travel to Eatenton, Georgia next to compete in the Linger Longer Invitational from March 19-21.