SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Two years ago the Arizona State men’s golf team came oh-so-close to a national championship. Last year the Sun Devils were even closer.
Coach Matt Thurmond’s squad will try to get over that last hump when the 2023 NCAA National Championship tees off Friday at Grayhawk Golf Club, which will be hosting the event for the third straight year.
The Sun Devils head into the event ranked No. 5 nationally in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. Among others in the 30-team field are No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 2 Illinois, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 4 Georgia Tech.
ASU is coming off a convincing victory at the NCAA’s Las Vegas Regional, posting a score of 59-under with Preston Summerhays leading the effort by going 19 under that placed him third individually.
“We had a great tournament,” Thurmond said. “It definitely was an easier course. How that compares to a 30-under on a tougher course, that’s hard to say. I can say our guys are prepared and they’re playing well.”
Last season the Sun Devils lost in the championship match to Texas. The previous year they came up short against Oklahoma in the semifinals. Thurmond is hoping the third time’s the charm but isn’t putting any extra pressure on his quintet.
“All these teams are good, really good,” he said. “You never know what is going to happen, especially when you get to match play. That’s always 50-50. Of course we want to win but if we don’t we’ve had a great season and it’s not a failure.”
The team features two players who were in the starting lineup last season in Summerhays, a finalist for the Haskins Award, and fellow sophomore Josele Ballester.
Senior Ryggs Johnston was not in the starting lineup last year but was in 2021. He even placed third individually with his tournament highlighted by a career-best 7-under 63 in the second round.
Rounding out the starting five are freshmen Luke Potter and Michael Mjaaseth, whom Thurmond says seem unaffected by pressure situations.
While the match-play format isn’t necessarily the norm in college golf during the regular season, Thurmond says his players are used to playing in that pressure-paced scenario. They competed in the East Lake Cup the last two years. This season the Sun Devils defeated Pepperdine, another team in this week’s field, then lost to Vanderbilt 3-2.
Thurmond said his players have also played in amateur events that have match play.
Last year, the Sun Devils finished the stroke play portion of the NCAAs in first to earn the top seed in the match play portion of the event.
“It’s not something new for our guys,” Thurmond said. “They’re all pretty comfortable in that scenario. I’m very pleased with how we’re playing. Now we just have to go out there and do it for six more days.”
NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships
Site: Grayhawk Golf Club, Scottsdale.
Raptor course: 7,289 yards, par 70.
Defending champion: Texas (defeated ASU in the final, 3-2).
Format: Four rounds of stroke play with the field cut from 30 to 15 after Sunday’s third round and cut to eight after Monday’s fourth round. The individual champ is also crowned Monday. Match play quarterfinals and semifinals on Tuesday, championship match is set for Wednesday.
Teams: Arizona State, Stanford, Virginia, San Francisco, East Tennessee State, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Chattanooga, Ohio State, Colorado State, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, Florida, Texas, Mississippi State, Brigham Young, Florida State, Baylor, Pepperdin, Alabama, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas Tech, Duke, Georgia Tech, Arkansas, North Carolina, New Mexico, Texas A&M.
Individual qualifiers: Drew Salyers, Indiana; Luke O’Neill, Kansas State; Jonas Baumgartner, Oklahoma State; Riley Lewis, Loyola Marymount; Will King, Kansas; Sam Lape, Furman.
Notes: Eleven teams in the field have won a national title, led by Stanford with eight, the most recent coming in 2019. Florida and Texas each have four. ASU has two titles, in 1990 and 1996. Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent won the individual championship last season as a freshman and returns with the Commodores. The current format of stroke play followed by match play was adopted in 2009.