If this were any other year, we’d soon be crowning an NCAA Division I men’s golf champion.
This year, on this very Wednesday, it was supposed to be at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.
So, instead of just letting a shortened season disappear into the history books, our college golf experts at Golf Channel teamed up with other top college-golf voices to ask this burning question: What if?
In this simulation, our panel – comprised of Golf Channel’s Steve Burkowski and Brentley Romine, Golfweek’s Lance Ringler and Julie Williams, Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington, Andy Johnson and Will Knights from The Fried Egg and No Laying Up’s Big Randy – crunched the numbers and traded opinions for multiple weeks to come up with a consensus champion.
Using the top 24 teams in Golfstat as a starting point, each expert came up with their top 8 teams and top 5 individual finishers. Using this data, Golf Channel researcher Kevin Casey, our human super computer, averaged out the picks to come up with final team and individual leaderboards, as well as the quarterfinal matchups.
Our panel then combed through the matches, one by one, from the quarterfinals to the semifinals to the championship match. Finally, only one team remained.
On the men’s side, that team was Texas, which took down Pepperdine in the final match to win its first NCAA title since 2012.
Here’s a closer look at the final simulated results:
After finishing the shortened season ranked No. 1 by Golfstat, Pepperdine wins the simulated stroke-play portion behind top-10s from Theegala and Mouw. Even without its two seniors in the lineup, Josh McCarthy and Clay Feagler, the Waves beat home favorite Arizona State by four shots. Vanderbilt qualified for match play for the fifth time in six years by grabbing the eighth seed by two shots over Texas A&M. Among the surprises not making it to Monday were Georgia, led by Trent Phillips, Davis Thompson and Spencer Ralston, and Notre Dame, which won four times in the fall.
- 1. Pepperdine (-12)
- 2. Arizona State (-8)
- 3. Texas (-7)
- 4. Oklahoma (-6)
- 5. Georgia Tech (-4)
- 6. Wake Forest (-1)
- 7. Texas Tech (+1)
- 8. Vanderbilt (+3)
- 9. Texas A&M (+5)
- 10. Florida (+8)
- 11. Baylor (+11)
- 12. SMU (+13)
- 13. Washington (+14)
- 14. Auburn (+15)
- 15. Colorado State (+16)
Teams missing 54-hole cut
- 16. Georgia
- 17. East Tennessee State
- 18. Duke
- 19. Louisville
- 20. BYU
- 21. North Carolina
- 22. Arizona
- 23. Notre Dame
- 24. Clemson
- 25. Tennessee
- 26. UCLA
- 27. Oklahoma State
- 28. San Diego State
- 29. USC
- 30. New Mexico
No surprise, as the Haskins Award winner, Theegala, scorches Grayhawk for the NCAA title. Theegala ran away from Phil Mickelson Award winner, Florida's Ricky Castillo, in the final round to win by five, marking the second straight year with a runaway, five-shot individual victory (Matthew Wolff of Oklahoma State won the 2019 title by five shots). All-Americans highlighted the top 10, including Arizona State's Chun An Yu, who finished seventh.
- 1. Sahith Theegala, Pepperdine (-14)
- 2. Ricky Castillo, Florida (-9)
- 3. John Augenstein, Vanderbilt (-8)
- 4. John Pak, Florida State (-7)
- 5. Davis Thompson, Georgia (-6)
- 6. Garett Reband, Oklahoma (-5)
- 7. Chun An Yu, Arizona State (-4)
- 8. Pierceson Coody, Texas (-3)
- 9. Cooper Dossey, Baylor (-2)
- 10. William Mouw, Pepperdine (-1)
The four top seeds all advanced, though Arizona State and Texas shined in the first round of match play. The Sun Devils won the first four matches against Texas Tech, with freshman David Puig earning the big scalp with a win over Sandy Scott. The Longhorns took the last four matches against Wake Forest, as Cole Hammer downed Alex Fitzpatrick in a Walker Cup rematch. Pepperdine overcame a Theegala loss as Mouw rolled against fellow freshman William Moll. Seniors Quade Cummins and Garett Reband led Oklahoma to the next round with wins over Georgia Tech's top two players.
No. 1 Pepperdine def. No. 8 Vanderbilt, 3-2
- Joe Highsmith, Pepperdine, def. Reid Davenport, 3 and 2
- John Augenstein, Vanderbilt, def. Sahith Theegala, 19 holes
- William Mouw, Pepperdine, def. William Moll, 5 and 4
- Dylan Menante, Pepperdine, def. Matthew Riedel, 1 up
- Harrison Ott, Vanderbilt, def. Joey Vrzich, 2 and 1
No. 2 Arizona State def. No. 7 Texas Tech, 4-1
- Mason Andersen, ASU, def. Kyle Hogan, 4 and 3
- Cameron Sisk, ASU, def. Ludvig Aberg, 20 holes
- Chun An Yu, ASU, def. Markus Braadlie, 3 and 1
- David Puig, ASU, def. Sandy Scott, 20 holes
- Andy Lopez, Texas Tech, def. Alex del Rey, 2 and 1
No. 3 Texas def. No. 6 Wake Forest, 4-1
- Eric Bae, Wake, def. Spencer Soosman, 1 up
- Cole Hammer, Texas, def. Alex Fitzpatrick, 2 up
- Pierceson Coody, Texas, def. Eugenio Chacarra, 3 and 1
- Parker Coody, Texas, def. Parker Gillam, 5 and 4
- Travis Vick, Texas, def. Mark Power, 5 and 4
No. 4 Oklahoma def. No. 5 Georgia Tech, 3-2
- Quade Cummins, Oklahoma, def. Tyler Strafaci, 1 up
- Garett Reband, Oklahoma, def. Andy Ogletree, 1 up
- Luke Schniederjans, Georgia Tech, def. Patrick Welch, 1 up
- Connor Howe, Georgia Tech, def. Jake Holbrook, 2 and 1
- Logan McAllister, Oklahoma, def. Bartley Forrester, 3 and 2
Hammer catches fire by routing Cameron Sisk as the Longhorns eliminate the host Sun Devils. Pierceson Coody earned the clinching point for Texas in a 22-hole thriller against Puig. Pepperdine cruised against a tough Oklahoma team, winning each of the first three matches.
No. 1 Pepperdine def. No. 4 Oklahoma, 4-1
- Joe Highsmith, Pepperdine, def. Patrick Welch, 3 and 2
- Sahith Theegala, Pepperdine, def. Quade Cummins, 1 up
- William Mouw, Pepperdine, def. Garett Reband, 3 and 1
- Logan McAllister, Oklahoma, def. Dylan Menante, 2 and 1
- Joey Vrzich, Pepperdine, def. Jake Holbrook, 5 and 3
No. 3 Texas def. No. 2 Arizona State, 3-2
- Cole Hammer, Texas, def. Cameron Sisk, 6 and 5
- Chun An Yu, ASU, def. Travis Vick, 3 and 2
- Mason Andersen, ASU, def. Spencer Soosman, 1 up
- Pierceson Coody, Texas, def. David Puig, 22 holes
- Parker Coody, Texas, def. Alex del Rey, 5 and 4
The final matchup everyone wanted. Soosman won the final match of his college career to set the tone. We then received 19 holes of Theegala-Hammet, with the Player of the Year earning the win. Mouw gave Pepperdine the 2-1 advantage with a big win against Pierceson Coody right around the time Vick closed out Menante. That left only Parker Coody and Vrzich, who battled back and forth all the way to the 18th hole, where Coody's birdie make sealed the NCAA title for Texas.
No. 3 Texas def. No. 1 Pepperdine, 3-2
- Spencer Soosman, Texas, def. Joe Highsmith, 4 and 2
- Sahith Theegala, Pepperdine, def. Cole Hammer, 19 holes
- William Mouw, Pepperdine, def. Pierceson Coody, 2 up
- Travis Vick, Texas, def. Dylan Menante, 3 and 1
- Parker Coody, Texas, def. Joey Vrzich, 1 up