Vanderbilt Men’s Golf is the best team in the country. I’m not even going to provide a source. At this point it’s just a universal, objective truth that needs no introduction. Oh, what’s that? You haven’t been keeping up with the best collection of golfers in the Milky Way this year? Well I guess I’ll run you through what they’ve done and what’s up next.
The ‘Dores, fresh off an NCAA semifinals run, started the year in September with a win in the Frederica Cup where senior William Moll notched his first ever collegiate victory. A few weeks later, the team led wire-to-wire in SEC Fall Preview stroke play where senior Matthew Riedel notched his own first ever collegiate victory. In both tournaments, Vanderbilt golfers also finished as runners-up. While Vanderbilt fell to Orange School in the first round of match play, it was still clear that the team was something special. Both events featured top schools, so they weren’t empty victories by any means.
Vandy seemingly sputtered with a fifth place finish at the Ben Hogan Collegiate Invitational salvaged from an abysmal first day against what head coach Scott Limbaugh called “an NCAA Championship type field” where Vandy had started off tied for 13th of 16 teams. The team redeemed itself at the end of October with a win in East Lake Cup match play in a field comprised solely of last year’s 4 semifinalist teams. Reigning National Champion Gordon Sargent claimed the stroke play victory. After quite the successful fall season, the Commodores arrived at the break with a few more trophies in the cabinet and plenty of time to prepare for the rest of the year ahead.
The team began the second half of their season in early February with a win in the John Hayt Invitational where Gordon Sargent claimed yet another individual title. At the end of the month, they won the Watersound Invitational in a close one despite no Commodore winning the individual title; the team is very well-balanced. Through six competitions, the team had had three different golfers win tournament titles and had done very well even when their best players had off days, and the winning wouldn’t stop there. The team won the Cabo Collegiate in March where Freshman Wells Williams secured his first ever individual victory. At the end of that tournament, Vanderbilt had won four events in a row, most of them against the elite of the sport, and led at the end of every single one of the team’s last eight rounds.
Late March brought with it hiccups for the Commodores, though, who would finish 3rd in the Linger Longer Invitational and 4th in the Calusa Cup despite many great individual performances, especially from William Moll. That brings us to last week, where the Commodores dominated their home tuneup, winning the Mason Rudolph Championship (and more importantly beating out second-place Tennessee by a whole 23 strokes) and seeing Gordon Sargent become the Vanderbilt all-time winningest men’s golfer. This was AFTER he had participated in the Masters the same weekend. There’s no reason he couldn’t repeat as national champion this year.
The Path Ahead
That brings us to today, six team wins and five individual wins later, at the start of the postseason and the quest for the school’s first title in men’s golf. The No. 1 ranked Commodores tee off in the SEC Championship at 7AM Central Time against No. 8 Auburn and T-No. 9 Florida. The tournament consists of three days of stroke play followed by three days of match play between the top eight teams remaining. At the end of all of that, hopefully the Commodores will end up on top just like both last year and the year before. Soon after that, the team will be placed at one of six regional sites (I’m predicting Clemson, looking at both geography and conference/seed distribution, although Auburn also makes sense) where they will have to compete for a spot at the national championship. For now, though, just check for updates from Sea Island Golf Club here and @VandyMGolf.