Pepperdine men’s golf season ends in NCAA semifinals

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The Pepperdine Waves men's golf team is shown at the NCAA Division I Golf Championship, where they advanced to the match-play semifinals before losing to Arizona State. Photo by Roger Horne

The Pepperdine Waves men’s golf team’s bid for a second consecutive national title ended in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships on May 31 under the scorching Arizona sun. 

The Waves were defeated by Arizona State 4-1 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. Arizona State lost the national championship match to Texas the next day.

Pepperdine head coach Michael Beard said he was proud of how the Waves played. 

“When they were down they found a way to get back,” he said. “We didn’t win today but it was close and sometimes the score doesn’t do it justice. I can’t say enough about this team. It’s a unique, special group that I’ve been so thankful to be a part of.” 

The Waves advanced to the semifinals by downing North Carolina 3-2 in the quarterfinals earlier on the same day they faced off against Arizona State. Pepperdine was one of eight teams to qualify for match-play finals of the NCAA Championships. The team has now advanced to the NCAA finals for three straight seasons, the first time in program history, and for the 12th time overall. The bunch tied for third place in the finals, which is its third-best result ever, sitting behind the national championship wins in 1997 and 2021. 

Junior William Mouw nabbed Pepperdine’s only point against Arizona State. He took the lead over James Leow on the fourth hole and didn’t relinquish it. The match was abandoned on the 16th hole when Arizona State clinched the victory. 

In the other match-play sets, Dylan Menante, a Pepperdine junior, was defeated in 19 holes by Mason Andersen. Menante had a lead with three holes remaining, but Andersen made a comeback. Pepperdine redshirt senior Joey Vrzich was defeated by David Puig for Arizona State’s second point. Vrzich never led after the sixth hole. Waves senior Joe Highsmith was defeated by Preston Summerhays. The match was tied at the 16th hole, but Summerhays hit two consecutive birdies to claim victory and the decisive third point for Arizona State. Pepperdine senior Derek Hitchner was down to Cameron Sisk at hole 13 when the match was ended. 

Menante got the Waves their first point in their quarterfinal win over North Carolina. He defeated Ryan Burnett in a back-and-forth match, which ended when Menante birdied and then Burnett bogeyed on the 19th hole. Vrzich recorded Pepperdine’s second point by rallying from behind, then going two up before closing the match when he put his tee shot on 8 within inches of the cup. Highsmith and Mouw were downed in their matches. David Ford beat Highsmith to give North Carolina their first point, then Austin Greaser defeated Mouw. Hitchner never trailed in his match against Ryan Gerard. The contest was tied with three holes to play, but Hitchner birdied 7 to go up one, and par was enough to win on 8 and claim the match-clinching victory.

The Waves qualified for match play after finishing in sixth place in stroke play at the NCAA Championships on May 30. A day before, Hitchner, Highsmith, Menante, Mouw, and Vrzich were all named to the PING All-West Region team. The five had previously been named to the All-West Coast Conference first team, and Menante was the conference’s Player of the Year. Additionally, on June 2, it was announced that Blaine Woodruff would leave his role as Waves men’s golf associate head coach and take the head coaching position at Chattanooga. Woodruff, who was at Pepperdine for five seasons, said his years at Pepperdine have meant alot to him and thanked Beard for giving him an opportunity to coach with him. 

“Great players make great coaches and I’m so grateful for the guys I’ve been able to coach these last few years,” Woodruff said. “I’m excited to follow each of them at the next level. Pepperdine will always hold a special place in my heart and I am blessed to have been part of the family.”

Beard said he was glad to be part of the Waves’ season.

“This group’s never been defending national champs before, and we were able to tackle all that and absorb some of the stuff that we had going on,” he said. “To be able to come in and make such a good run here — to make match play alone is an accomplishment, and then to win the first match; we played great today.”