Pepperdine settles a debate a year later by winning the NCAA men’s championship
It was a day of reckoning that ended a long week a year late for the Pepperdine and Oklahoma men’s golf teams, who on Wednesday settled a lingering question: Which had the best team? On any given day the answer likely would fluctuate, but on this day, well, score one for “the Waves of Malibu,” as the Pepperdine fight song goes.
On another warm desert day in Scottsdale, Ariz., the Waves won the NCAA Division I men’s team championship, defeating Oklahoma, 3-2, at Grayhawk Golf Club. It was the Waves’ second national championship, 24 years after their first.
“It all started when I was at Pepperdine [as a player] and got to play four years,” Pepperdine coach Michael Beard, son of former PGA Tour star Frank Beard, said. “I always felt we could be the best team in the country, and when I came back as coach I still felt that way. I’m so proud of these guys. Unbelievable.”
When COVID-19 prematurely ended the 2020 season more than a year ago, these two teams were considered the two best in the NCAA. “They all felt like we didn’t get to see it through last year and they came back better,” Beard said. “They came back with more fire, more determination and more motivation.”
The dynamics of the teams, however, had been altered by the pandemic with the NCAA allowing seniors an additional year. It resulted in one sixth-year senior, Quade Cummins of Oklahoma and several fifth-year seniors, including the Sooners’ Jonathan Brightwell, who came to Norman after transferring from UNC-Greensboro.
Talent was in even greater supply as a result, including each team featuring a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team that prevailed over Great Britain & Ireland at Seminole Golf Club in May, Cummins and Pepperdine’s William Mouw. The two were matched against one another in the finals on Wednesday, the last match to start, but the second to finish. Mouw prevailed, 4 and 3, over an opponent who was No. 16 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
“I had a great time out there,” Mouw said. “Coach put me in the anchor match for a reason. I wanted to get a point for Pepperdine early. Quade’s a great player. I played really solid today. I executed my game plan today and got the job done.”
Mouw’s point was the second for the Waves. The first came from Joe Highsmith, a Washington state native who counts Seattle native Fred Couples as a friend and frequent golf partner. Highsmith produced a 4-and-3 victory over Garett Reband, No. 6 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
“It’s so cool that he’s been supporting me and texting me,” Highsmith said of Couples. “It’s great to have the support of him.”
The winning point came from Clay Feagler, one of those fifth-year seniors, whose two-putt par on the difficult par-4 18th hole gave him a 1-up victory that set off a celebration. “It’s past surreal, to come down to the 18th hole and have the last point,” he said. “I didn’t think I would be the final point here. It was crazy."
Brightwell, meanwhile, starred for the Sooners. He saw an opportunity to bolster an already strong Oklahoma team, giving him and his new teammates a chance at a national championship. He delivered on behalf of his new team, giving the Sooners the first point of the match with a 1-up victory over Dylan Menante, the West Coast Conference player of the year.
“It was really, really fun,” Brightwell said. “The most intense round I’ve ever played in my career, the amount of pressure, the amount of nerves. I kind of felt it all. I didn’t play my best, but I knew I had to do something. It was kind of cool to see what I was made of.”
Another Oklahoma bright spot was Logan McAllister, a burgeoning human highlight reel, who made a hole-in-one on the eighth hole, his second ace in three days. In the final round of individual play on Sunday, he made a hole-in-one on the fifth hole. He won his match with Joey Vrzich, 1-up.