Arizona State hosts NCAA championship after successful spring

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Arizona State men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond can only hope his team didn’t peak a little too soon.

The Sun Devils clinched victory in the NCAA Stockton Regional last week to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship, which begins Friday at Grayhawk Golf Club.

How good were the No. 5 Sun Devils? Well, Thurmond’s team went to 38 under as a team, winning by 10 strokes. They went to 17 under in the third and final round alone with four individuals making it into the top 10.

The trick will be to replicate that feat against an even tougher field this week. Among those in the 30-team group are Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State and Pepperdine, the only teams ranked ahead of ASU in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

“Usually you go into a tournament hoping you have two or three guys who can carry you,” Thurmond said. “We had some really good rounds before, but for this one to come when we really needed it, the third round of the regional. Everyone played very well. »

The top five from each of the six regions earned the right to compete in the championship event. ASU is one of five Pac-12 representatives, the others being Arizona, Oregon, Stanford and Utah.

Golfweek/Sagarin rankings: Men’s team | Individual men
After: What we want to see at the 2022 NCAA Championship

The ASU quintet will likely consist of graduate student Mason Andersen, senior Cameron Sisk, junior David Puig and freshmen Preston Summerhays and Jose Luis Ballester. The team is so deep that junior Ryggs Johnston, who finished third individually at 5-under 275 in last year’s championship, won’t be in the starting lineup this time around.

Puig, Sisk and Andersen were part of ASU’s entry last year that advanced to the match play semifinals before losing to Oklahoma, who then lost the title game to Pepperdine. The Sun Devils entered match play as the top seed after finishing as the top team in all four rounds of move play.

Ballester, a native of Castellon, Spain, was the star of the team this spring. He wasn’t in the starting lineup in the fall, but Thurmond decided to give him a shot after doing well in an individual event that took place at the same time the Sun Devils team were playing in a test in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Ballester then had strong showings with a fourth-place finish at the Pac-12 tournament in Washington and a fifth-place finish at the regional event.

Andersen finished second overall individually with a three-day total of 10-under 206 that was just one stroke behind the medalist.

Puig made a triumphant return to regional training after missing the previous two tournaments with a back injury. Senior James Leow played in the first round but Thurmond replaced him with Puig in the second round and his No.1 player responded with rounds of 69 and 67.

“I wanted (Puig) to be able to get a round or two before this tournament,” Thurmond said. “I wasn’t sure what he would do, but I felt like he needed to see where he was and it was really great to see how he performed.”

Much is expected of ASU based on their arrival at the national event a year ago, the results the Sun Devils have achieved this season as well as the fact that they have a home course advantage, although Grayhawk’s Raptor course is not the one they play on a daily basis.

Thurmond said his team isn’t putting too much pressure on themselves to win, though.

“I don’t think you can think of it as victory or failure. There are a lot of really good teams here and going there thinking you have to win or it’s a failure is the surest way to make sure you don’t win,” Thurmond said.