Pepperdine Waves men’s golfers receive All-American Honor

Pepperdine golfer Derek Hitchner tees off earlier this year in the NCAA Championships in Tempe. Hitchner is one of three honorable selections from Pepperdine in Golfweek's All-American lists. Photo by Roger Horne.

A trio of Pepperdine Waves men’s golf team members received Golfweek All-American honors on June 20. 

Seniors Joe Highsmith and Derek Hitchner, and junior Dylan Menante were named honorable mention All-Americans. The three were among 20 college golfers from across the nation that received the distinction. Thirty other golfers were named to Golfweek’s first, second, or third team All-American lists. 

Highsmith, who ended the season ranked 47th nationally by Golfweek/Sagarin and 97th by Golfstat, was an honorable mention All-American last season also. He won the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate and the NCAA Bryan Regional tournaments this season. He finished with a 71.51 scoring average and began his professional career with a tie for second place at the PGA Tour Canada’s ATB Classic on June 19 in Edmonton, Alberta. 

Hitchner, a first-time All-American honoree, ended the season ranked 48th by Golfweek/Sagarin and 61st by Golfstat. He had a 71.34 scoring average this season. 

Menante was a Golfweek All-American third-teamer a season ago. He won the Valspar Collegiate Invitational and the Western Intercollegiate tournaments this season and his second consecutive WCC Player of the Year award. He finished the season with a 71.20 scoring average and ranked 39th by Golfweek/Sagarin and 42nd by Golfstat. 

Highsmith and Menante were also named PING and Golf Coaches Association of America All-American honorable mentions with William Mouw, a junior. 

Mouw was an honorable mention All-American in 2021 and a first-team All-American as a freshman. He tied for second at the WCC Championships and the NCAA Bryan Regional. Mouw also tied for fifth at the NCAA Championships. He finished the season ranked 50th by Golfstat and 65th by Golfweek/Sagarin. Mouw had a 71.41 scoring average. 

Highsmith was a PING All-American honorable mention last season also, and Menante was PING All-American third teamer. 

The All-American statuses rolled in for the Waves after their 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 was proud of how the Waves played. 

“When they were down they found a way to get back,” he said. “We didn’t win 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 the 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. 

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 match.

In the other match-play sets, Menante 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. 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. 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 went on for 19 holes. Menante birdied and then Burnett bogeyed on the 19th hole. 

Vrzich recorded Pepperdine’s second point by rallying from behind, then going two points up before closing the match when he put his tee shot on eight within inches of the cup. 

Highsmith and Mouw were downed in both of 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 the seventh hole to go up one, and par was enough to win on the eighth hole 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. 

Additionally, on June 16, Chris Zambri, a Pepperdine volunteer assistant coach for the past two seasons, was promoted to associate head coach. 

Beard said Zambri has a deep understanding of the game and loved helping players improve. 

“His record speaks for itself,” Beard said. “I’m beyond excited to work together with him in this role. Not only is he a great coach, but a close friend and a very special person. We’re excited to have Chris and his wife Kim be an even bigger part of the program.”

Zambri, USC’s head men’s golf coach for 14 years, replaces Blaine Woodruff, who left the associate head coach position on June 2 to take the heading coaching gig at Chattanooga. 

Zambri’s USC squads went to the finals of the NCAA Championships 12 out of a possible 13 times from the 2006-07 season to the 2019-20 season. The teams won three conference titles and three NCAA Regional titles. Zambri won the Dave Williams Award as the National Coach of the Year in 2008 and was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year the same season. 

He said he is excited to work with Beard and Pepperdine Director of Athletics Steve Potts to continue the Waves’ winning ways.

“They have built a powerhouse program, and my wife Kim and I are happy to be on board,” Zambri said. 

When Woodruff left Pepperdine, he said his five years as a Wave meant a lot to him. He 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 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.