ATLANTA – The finals are set at the East Lake Cup. From Dylan Menante's anchor win for Pepperdine to Ole Miss' shutout, here’s a recap of Tuesday’s semifinal action in Atlanta:
Menante seals it for Waves
Pepperdine has found its anchor man.
On Monday evening, Waves sophomore Dylan Menante went up to head coach Michael Beard and said, “Give me their best player.” A day later, he dispatched Andy Lopez, the de facto No. 1 for a shorthanded Texas Tech squad, in the last match out of Pepperdine’s semifinal bout to send the Waves, 3-2 winners, to Wednesday’s championship match against Oklahoma at East Lake.
“My game is at its peak right now, so I knew that I could take on their best player,” Menante said. “It should be a challenge, but I should dominate.”
Menante has long been overshadowed by fellow sophomore William Mouw, a first-team All-American last season. But Pepperdine head coach Michael Beard describes Menante as possessing an “I’ve-got-to-earn-it mentality,” adding that he’s progressed consistently since high school.
Last February, Menante broke out with an eagle-birdie-eagle finish to help Pepperdine win the Amer Ari. This fall, he lost in a playoff to teammate Josh McCarthy to open the season at Pasedera and then followed that performance with a T-2 showing at Maridoe, where he chipped in for birdie on the penultimate hole.
“You throw him into a team full of competitive people and he’s going to be forced to step up his game,” Beard said, “and I think that’s what’s happened the last 12 months.”
Menante’s confidence is sky high at the moment, a stark contrast to the normally reserved kid, and he showed it against Lopez. He was tied with two holes to play when he clutched up with a par-birdie finish. His birdie at the par-5 18th came after he hit a beautiful 40-yard pitch close despite having some grass clumped up behind the ball.
“He’s got some serious guts,” said Beard, who again threw Menante out last in the final opposite Oklahoma's Garett Reband. “He always kinds of holds things in internally, but he wanted this.”
As Quade Cummins stood in the 18th fairway, facing a 270-plus-yard second shot, Oklahoma head coach Ryan Hybl turned to his sixth-year senior and said, “This is why you came back.”
Cummins, a returning first-team All-American, may have hooked his next shot into the rough left of the green for the second straight day at East Lake, but this time he was able to save par to seal a 1-up victory over Texas’ Christoffer Bring. The win capped a 3-2 comeback win for the Sooners and sent them into Wednesday’s final against Pepperdine.
“You could feel it out there, and you could see it in the guys’ eyes,” said Cummins, who was among four Oklahoma players who trailed simultaneously on the back nine. Cummins notched birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 (the latter was conceded) to take a 2-up lead and never looked back.
“To have it come down to my match, it was special to finish it off.”
Now, Cummins and the Sooners, who also got 19-hole wins from Logan McAllister and transfer Jonathan Brightwell, turn their focus to the Waves and a potential NCAA Championship preview.
“We like going up against the best teams and there’s no better place to do it than East Lake,” Cummins said. “This could be the national championship this June.”
Gamecocks' No. 1 keeps getting better
South Carolina sophomore Pauline Roussin-Bouchard may have earned first-team All-America honors last season as a freshman, but she hasn’t stopped trying to find ways to improve.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Roussin-Bouchard spent two months in complete lockdown back home in Marseilles, France. Joining her was her boyfriend, Julien Sale, who plays college golf at Arkansas State. Together, the two worked out twice a day, using the few free weights they had and mapping out a one-mile route around Roussin-Bouchard’s home. For golf, they found a field to hit balls in.
When Roussin-Bouchard returned to school this fall, she discovered her swing speed had risen from 98 mph to 102 mph, allowing her to gain some 10 yards of added distance. A ball changed helped, too, she said.
“I wasn’t even thinking about speed at the time,” Roussin-Bouchard said, “but working out with someone like that and then going out and playing, it really helped.”
Roussin-Bouchard also changed her diet, taking an allergy test to discover which foods her body did not react well with. The results determined that she needed to cut out gluten, wheat, flour and some dairy.
“Before that I didn’t know and I was eating three eggs in the mornings for protein, and my body wasn’t reacting the right way,” Roussin-Bouchard said. “I’ve been trying for the past five, six weeks and I feel much better.”
After a seven-shot victory last week at The Ally, Roussin-Bouchard drew Florida’s top player, Annabell Fuller, in the leadoff match Tuesday at East Lake. After combining to make no birdies in the first 11 holes, Roussin-Bouchard and Fuller posted nine birdies in the last seven holes. Fuller birdied five of her last seven while Roussin-Bouchard birdied four of her final five, including each of the closing three holes to earn the 1-up win.
“It was a really, really good match, especially at the end,” Roussin-Bouchard said. “The end was pretty exciting.”
Roussin-Bouchard's victory set the table for the Gamecocks' 3-1-1 victory, which was clinched with a 19-hole triumph by Lois Kaye Go over Clara Manzalini. South Carolina now gets Ole Miss in the women's final on Wednesday.
And Roussin-Bouchard? She'll draw the Rebels' hottest player, Kennedy Swann.
The Ole Miss women didn’t drop a match against Big 12 heavyweight Texas, winning 4-0-1 to advance to the final against South Carolina.
Senior Kennedy Swann and junior Ellen Hume, who shared the stroke-play medal on Monday, went out first and second, respectively, and defeated arguably the Longhorns best two players. Swann took down Sophie Guo, 1 up, while Hume, who was 3 down at the turn, beat Kaitlyn Papp, 2 and 1.
“Kennedy is usually a quick player and likes to go out early and get a point on the board for us, so we thought we’d give her a shot and see how it panned out,” Ole Miss head coach Kory Henkes said. “And Ellen was 3 down through nine, and walking down 10 fairway I said to her, “This is the nine you played great yesterday, let’s step on the gas.’ She came in with five birdies; that was pretty clutch. I’m really proud of her fight.”
Because of expected inclement weather, the women's championship match will begin at 8:30 a.m. ET. The men's will start at 8:40 a.m. ET. TV coverage will run from 11:30 a.m. ET to 2:30 p.m. on Golf Channel.