SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Pepperdine supposedly missed its national championship window a year ago.
The Waves were the nation’s No. 1 team, but didn’t get to play for a title due to the pandemic and lost three-time All-American Sahith Theegala.
The chip on their shoulder carried them a long way — straight to their first national championship in 24 years.
Pepperdine capped an impressive run at Grayhawk Golf Club with a series of clutch shots down the stretch Wednesday, clinching a 3-2 win over Oklahoma on Clay Feagler’s two-putt from 35 feet on the Raptor Course’s difficult 18th hole.
“Everyone said our year was last year,” Feagler said. “Coach (Michael Beard) said at the beginning of the year, ‘a lot people don’t think you can do it this year.’ That gave us a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and motivation. Look as now, national champions. It’s kind of crazy.”.
Pepperdine took an early lead on a sizzling day in the desert, allowed Oklahoma to rally, then closed with a flourish for its second national championship.
Oklahoma’s Jonathan Brightwell won the opening match 1 up over Dylan Menante, but Pepperdine won the next two, setting up Feagler to close out the championship and his senior season.
Leading 1 up, Feagler had to back off when someone popped open a drink before his approach shot on 18, but gathered himself and hit a 7-iron from 195 yards to the front of the green. He cozied the putt close enough that Oklahoma freshman Ben Lorenz conceded the match — and the title.
“To have a 35-footer and to two-putt that is nuts,” Feagler said. “I don’t really know how to feel right now.”
As the Waves raced onto the green to celebrate with Feagler, Joey Vrzich sprinted up the No. 18 fairway carrying his bag to join them. Logan McAllister, who had his second ace in three days to take an early lead, won the final match 1 up over Vrzich, but it didn’t matter.
Pepperdine had its first national title since 1997.
“That was there all the time,” Beard said. “It felt like we just didn’t get to see it through last year and these guys came back better.”
The Waves needed a huge rally on the final day of qualifying to go from outside the cut line to the No. 3 seed in match play. The Waves rolled into the title match, beating Florida State in the quarterfinals and powerhouse Oklahoma State in the semifinals.
Oklahoma edged Illinois, then closed out Arizona State 3-2 in the semifinals
Brightwell earned the first point of the title match, using consecutive birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 to take a 1-up lead. He closed it out by getting up and down from short of No. 18.
One match for the Sooners, but the Waves were leading the other four.
Joe Highsmith started strong and never stopped rolling against Garett Reband.
The Pepperdine junior won three straight holes, the first two on bogeys by Reband — he hit near the 12th fairway on No. 11 — then a 10-foot birdie on the 12th to go 5 up.
Highsmith closed out the 4-and-3 win with a par on No. 15.
Pepperdine’s William Mouw wanted to face Quade Cummins, a member of OU’s 2017 national championship team, in the anchor match and made the most of it.
Mouw made a 4-foot birdie putt to go 2 up on the par-5 11th and stretched the lead with consecutive wins on Nos. 13-14. He clinched Pepperdine’s second point 4 and 3 when Brightwell just missed a birdie putt on No. 15.
“We definitely had some giveaways in early in some matches from what I was seeing and hearing,” Oklahoma coach Ryan Hybl said. “But our guys were always going to fight to the bitter end.”
Pepperdine led 2-1 after Mouw’s win and the last two matches were close.
McAllister seemed to take control of his match with the fifth hole-in-one of the tournament on No. 8 — he also aced the 205-yard fifth hole Monday — and stretched his lead to 3-up on a bogey by Vrzich on No. 9.
The Pepperdine senior still had some fight in him.
Vrzich won four straight holes, going 1 up with the only birdie of the day on the firm-greened, 230-yard 13th hole. McAllister tied it with a short birdie on No. 15 and two-putted for birdie to go 1 up on the drivable par-4 17th, but the match ended on the 18th tee when Feagler two-putted ahead of them.
“We are obviously disappointed we didn’t get the job done today,” Hybl said. “We knew if we didn’t play our best golf we were going to get beat. We fought so hard.”
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