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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Heartbreak in Sea Island: Men’s Golf falls just short of the title at SEC Championships

Vanderbilt reached the final of the SEC Championships, but fell to Florida in a thrilling set of matches.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt Men’s Golf competes at the SEC Championships (Vanderbilt Athletics).

The Vanderbilt Men’s Golf team traveled to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia to play in the SEC Championships from April 19-23. The event took place at the par-70 Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. Gordon Sargent, William Moll, Cole Sherwood, Reid Davenport, and Matthew Riedel were the starters for this tournament.

After three days of grueling strokeplay, in which the Commodores placed in a tie for fourth overall, Vanderbilt moved on to the matchplay portion of the tournament. The team defeated Alabama in the quarterfinals and narrowly beat Tennessee in the semifinals. Vanderbilt once again found itself in the final against Florida on Sunday and in contention for a third straight SEC title. 

However, the three-peat was not to be. With a heartbreaking loss on the 18th hole, the Commodores came back to Nashville empty-handed. 

The first three days of the tournament consisted of strokeplay to determine the top eight teams (out of 14) which would advance to the matchplay. The Commodores played well all three days, easily cementing themselves into the matchplay portion. Vanderbilt shot a collective -8 with a 832 stroke total, placing itself in a tie for fourth. 

Sargent led the team, shooting -5 to finish in fifth place. He fired rounds of 68, 69 and 68 to give him his tenth top-10 finish this season. 

Moll also produced a top-10 finish after shooting -4 over the course of the three days. Similar to Sargent, Moll shot under-par on all three days with rounds of 69, 68 and 69, putting him in a tie for sixth.

Sherwood shot rounds of 68, 73 and 70 to finish at +1 and in a tie for 28th. Similarly, Davenport shot 71 in all three rounds to finish in a tie for 38th.

Riedel struggled in the strokeplay portion, finishing at +5 and in a tie for 47th. 

“There are certainly some things that we will need to do better to continue advancing, but this was a good start and we are excited about the new opportunity,” head coach Scott Limbaugh said after round three. 

After these opening rounds, the real battle for the SEC title started: The matchplay portion. While the strokeplay rounds are important for seeding and crowning an individual champion, as long as the team finishes in the top-8, they successfully enter the matchplay bracket. Particularly for a team like Vanderbilt, which is loaded with talent and not lacking confidence, seeding doesn’t matter as much.

In the quarterfinals, Vanderbilt played Alabama. The team prevailed against the Crimson Tide, winning 4-1 in the matches. 

Moll got things rolling for the Commodores, easily winning his match 5&4. It was a dominant performance, as Moll kept his foot on the gas for the entire match. 

The next three matches all came down to the 18th hole. Sherwood narrowly lost on the final hole; however, Riedel won his match against JP Cave. This put the Commodores up 2-1 and in need of one more win to advance to the semifinals. 

The final win came from Davenport on the 18th hole. Davenport lagged his birdie putt on his final hole to a few inches for par while Thomas Ponder, his opponent, missed his short putt for birdie. Vanderbilt had narrowly clinched its spot in the semifinals. 

Next up was Tennessee, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament after a dominant performance during strokeplay. Tennessee’s Caleb Surratt had won the individual title during those rounds just the day before. 

However, this didn’t seem to phase the Commodores as they successfully beat the Volunteers 3.5-1.5 in matches. 

Davenport was the hero in this rivalry matchup, sinking a four-foot putt for par on the first extra hole to secure Vanderbilt’s spot in the final.

The dream for the three-peat was still alive. 

Sargent won his match 4&2, and things were never in doubt as he took control of the match early. Riedel lost his match 4&3. 

Sherwood won his match on the 18th green to give Vanderbilt a 2-1 lead, meaning the Commodores only needed one more win to advance to the finals.

It was down to Moll and Davenport to secure the final point. Davenport buried a putt on the 18th hole to extend the match to extra holes. Similarly, Moll’s opponent sunk an unlikely birdie on the 18th green to extend the match as well. Vanderbilt still had the advantage as they only had to win one of the two matches, whereas Tennessee had to win both. 

Both Davenport and his opponent drove the ball into the rough, leaving difficult second shots into the green. Davenport’s opponent played first, ending up 10 yards short of the green. Davenport played second and hooked the ball left of the green, leaving a tough chip to save par. 

With a great chip shot to a few feet, Davenport was in good position to at least tie the hole. With a missed putt from his opponent, he cashed in his short putt for par to triumph against the rival team. 

The final was set. Florida vs. Vanderbilt, the same final matchup as the SEC Championship in 2022. With coverage on SEC Network starting at 7 a.m. CDT, Vanderbilt golf fans huddled around their TV’s to catch a glimpse of the No. 1 team in the country. 

Riedel lost his match 5&4 early, giving the Gators an early 1-0 lead. However, stellar play from Moll led to a 5&3 victory to tie it up. His victory was made even sweeter with an eagle hole-out on the par-4 14th.

Sherwood lost his match 5&4. 

It was down to Sargent and Davenport to win the remaining two matches. Sargent battled back from being 3 down through 10 holes to tie his match going into the 18th hole. Similarly, Davenport’s match was tied going into 18. 

Davenport missed a six-footer on the 18th green to lose his match, giving Florida the victory. 

“These matches are tough to win and you have to be willing to put it all out there and sometimes you still may not get it,” head coach Scott Limbaugh said. “I am super proud of the fight we showed and the character our guys played with.”

Vanderbilt will now wait to see where it is headed for the NCAA Regionals in May. 

“The guys will get some time off and then we will begin preparation for the NCAA Tournament,” Limbaugh said. “How the team moves forward from today will say a lot about this team’s leadership.”

The NCAA Regionals will be from May 15-17, with the top five teams from each regional tournament qualifying for the NCAA Championship in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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About the Contributor
Henry Oelhafen
Henry Oelhafen, Deputy Sports Editor
Henry Oelhafen (‘26) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in business. Henry grew up as a Vanderbilt sports fan and loves to talk about both professional and amateur golf. In addition to writing, he loves to play golf with friends, hike and try new restaurants. He can be reached at [email protected].
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