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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.

Men’s Golf NCAA Championship preview: Commodores hope to stay hot in the desert

Can Scott Limbaugh’s squad win their first National Championship in program history this year?
Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt Men’s Golf tees off at the Auburn Regional on May 17, 2023 (Vanderbilt Athletics).

The end of May has arrived. It is championship season, and the Vanderbilt Men’s Golf team is hungry for their first national title. After a heartbreaking loss in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships in 2022, the Commodores hope to conquer the college golf world this year and bring a National Championship trophy to Nashville. 

From the outset of the season in September of 2022, the goal for head coach Scott Limbaugh’s team was simple: win a NCAA Championship. However, what seemed like a distant dream in September is now, almost nine months later, an even more achievable goal. The team will be traveling to Scottsdale, AZ, to compete in the NCAA Championships starting on May 26. The tournament will be held at the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club. 

The Vanderbilt Men’s Golf team has won a record six tournaments this year, capped off by a second-place finish in the NCAA Regional to punch its ticket to the NCAA Championships. Vanderbilt is the No.1 team in the country and hopes to remain red hot to finish the postseason.

Tournament Format and Participants

The format for the NCAA Championships is quite unique. Since the top five teams from each of the six regionals qualify for the National Championships, there are a total 30 teams competing. The tournament starts with the 30 schools competing in 54 holes of strokeplay. The top 15 teams after this initial 54 holes enter a fourth round of strokeplay. 

After this fourth and final round of strokeplay, an individual champion is crowned and the top eight teams advance to head-to-head matchplay. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played on May 30 and the finals on May 31. 

This extended format can be tiring and Limbaugh will need to ensure his team stays patient and focused. It is a marathon, not a sprint. In most of the regular season tournaments, teams compete in a 54-hole strokeplay tournament, with a team and individual winner crowned after the three rounds. For the National Championship, the eventual winners will have to play nearly seven rounds of golf over six days. This can be grueling and players will need to focus on the shot at hand rather than the rounds ahead.

The field of the tournament is provided below (with pre-regional rankings):

1. Vanderbilt
2. North Carolina
3. Illinois
4. Arizona State
5. Texas Tech
6. Pepperdine
7. Florida State
8. Stanford
9. Oklahoma
10. Florida
11. Georgia Tech
13. Auburn
14. Texas A&M
15. Texas
16. Virginia
17. Alabama
18. Mississippi State
22. Oregon
24. Colorado State
25. Ohio State
31. Baylor
32. Duke
33. East Tennessee State
34. Georgia
35. Arkansas
43. BYU
45. San Francisco
47. New Mexico
48. Chattanooga
52. Colorado

Team Accomplishments

This season has been one for the record books for the Commodores. Vanderbilt has won a program record six tournaments this season and hasn’t placed worse than fifth in any competition. Furthermore, the team has held its No.1 national ranking for a majority of the season. The reason for Vanderbilt’s success this season is credited to the team’s deep roster. Every player, one through five, has an opportunity to win the individual title each tournament. 

Gordon Sargent, the sophomore from Alabama and Masters participant, is the No.1 ranked college golfer in the country and has already won five individual titles as a sophomore (the most in Vanderbilt men’s golf history). Sargent has placed in the top-10 in every tournament he has played this year, an extremely impressive achievement. Similarly, he was selected as a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award which is given to the best college golfer across DI, DII and DIII. 

While it is hard to follow such an impressive player like Sargent, Cole Sherwood has made his name known in the college golf world. Sherwood, the junior from Texas, has been impressive this year and continues to produce consistent golf. He was named Second Team All-SEC and has numerous top-10 finishes this year. Sherwood has remained a consistent contributor for this team and has not been taken out of the lineup this season. 

William Moll has had another stand-out season for the Commodores. The senior was named First Team All-SEC for his incredible golf this year. He won the Frederica Cup individual title earlier this season and has proved why he is so critical to this team’s success. 

Reid Davenport, the fifth-year senior from Texas, is the veteran leadership this roster needs. While he hasn’t won an individual title this season, he plays to a high level and always seems to be near the top of the leaderboard. 

Senior Matthew Riedel was named First Team All-SEC and took medalist honors at the 2022 SEC Matchplay. He has had six top-10’s this season, the second most on the team. 

This is the lineup head coach Limbaugh will go with for the National Championships this week, barring any unexpected injuries.

Recipe for Success

What is the one thing that no other team has? A proven winner at Grayhawk Golf Club. Vanderbilt has this in Sargent. In a stunning display of golf last May, Sargent triumphed at Grayhawk to win the NCAA individual title. In a playoff that Vanderbilt golf fans will remember for a long time, Sargent hit a wedge from 140 yards to a mere five feet to win against impressive competition. 

Hopefully, Sargent can rekindle this magic and make another run in the desert. 

While having Sargent on the roster is definitely an advantage, you can’t win a national championship with just one man. Sherwood, Moll, Davenport and Riedel will need to be at the top of their games and continue their great play. 

The Raptor Course at Grayhawk is a tough test. In the matchplay, pars will often win holes and birdies are an added bonus. In last year’s strokeplay portion, even-par secured Sargent’s place in the playoff for the individual title. 

In what will be Vanderbilt’s biggest test this year, the Commodores have the depth and talent to win the NCAA Championship for the first time in program history. 

Live scoring can be found here.

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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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