Men’s Golf: Commodores lose to Oklahoma State in NCAA Championship quarterfinals, 4-1

Despite surviving stroke play, the Commodores fell to Oklahoma State in the match play quarterfinals on Tuesday.

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The Commodores’ season ended on Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to Oklahoma State. (Twitter/@VandyMGolf).

Justin Hershey, Sports Editor

After four rounds of stroke play at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, the No. 11 Vanderbilt Commodores qualified for the match play quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship before falling to No. 3 Oklahoma State, 4-1 on Tuesday.

Head coach Scott Limbaugh brought freshman Cole Sherwood, sophomores William Moll and Matthew Riedel and juniors Reid Davenport and Michael Shears to Scottsdale to compete alongside the nation’s best golfers. 

The original field of 30 teams featured 141 players. The team field was trimmed to 15 on Sunday for one more round of stroke play before being cut to eight on Monday in advance of match play. The Commodores made both cuts before falling to Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals.

The tournament began Friday with three rounds of stroke play before the first cut. The SEC champion Commodores dug themselves a hole in the first round, with Shears being the lone Commodore to shoot below 74. Vanderbilt found itself in a tie for 23rd after round one—on the outside looking in for the first cut of teams.

But under-par second rounds from Sherwood (-4) and Riedel (-2) put the Commodores back in position to make the initial cut. Sherwood’s second-round 66 helped him into the top 30 of the individual leaderboard, and Vanderbilt closed the day with an even-par 280 to climb into tenth place.

Round three was much of the same for the Commodores, as they ended the day in a tie for sixth place overall, largely thanks to a pair of 1-under 69s from Moll and Shears. The team combined for 17 birdies in round three, including five from Shears alone.

Vanderbilt sat at 13-over through 54 holes, which helped them survive the first cut and advance into the final round of stroke play on Monday. 

Round four was a test for all 15 remaining teams, with both winds and heat ramping up in Scottsdale, but the Commodores were able to put together an 11-over 291 in order to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals. With a cumulative score of 24-over, Vanderbilt secured the No. 7 seed in match play and competed against the No. 2 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys on Tuesday morning.

The Cowboys—winners of 11 men’s golf National Championships—boasted a lineup consisting of four players ranked in the top 100 of the World Amateur Golf Rankings and proved to be too much for the Commodores. 

As the match’s final group—Vanderbilt’s Riedel and Oklahoma State’s Bo Jin—turned to the back nine, the Commodores held an early lead. Davenport and Moll both led their matches at the time, propelling Vanderbilt to an early 2-1-2 advantage. Riedel and Sherwood remained all square in their matches while Shears stared down a three-hole deficit. 

Sherwood remained even with Brian Stark through 14 holes, but dropped three holes in a row to end his day. Stark made birdies on both the 15th and 16th holes before a costly bogey from Sherwood gave the Cowboys their first point of the day with the 3&1 victory.

Moll’s day quickly took a turn for the worst despite leading through ten holes. The All-SEC first-teamer lost holes 11, 12 and 13 to Oklahoma State’s Austin Eckroat. Eckroat made birdies on both par-3s on the back nine, helping him to a 3&2 victory for the Cowboys’ second point.

Oklahoma State clinched the match after Shears was unable to get up and down on the par-4 17th hole. Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra secured the Cowboys’ final necessary point 2&1 to advance his team to the semifinals against Pepperdine. 

Davenport picked up Vanderbilt’s lone point of the match after notching a birdie on the drivable par-4 17th hole. Davenport made a solid up-and-down birdie from in front of the green to go 1-up in the match before the players halved the 18th.

Vanderbilt’s successful 2020-21 season has now concluded. The Commodores won the program’s second SEC Championship April 25, and Limbaugh claimed the league’s Coach of the Year award. Moll earned All-SEC First Team recognition, while Sherwood earned All-SEC Freshman honors. The Commodores also continued their seven-year streak of advancing to the NCAA Championship, which leads the SEC.