While both teams might not be explicitly saying it, the Ole Miss women and Pepperdine men each made a statement, loud and clear, to the college golf world.
Both teams claimed the title at the East Lake Cup on Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta, each in their school’s first appearance at the college event normally reserved for the semifinalists from the previous season’s NCAA Championship. Due to the pandemic, this year’s East Lake Cup field was built based on the final spring Golfstat ranking, with teams not playing because of COVID-19 weeded out.
The Rebels defeated South Carolina, 3-2, while the Waves crashed over Oklahoma, 4-1.
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Rebels revel in Atlanta
Early points went on the board, first for Ole Miss with stroke play co-medalist Ellen Hume blowing the doors off her match with senior transfer and former Kent State star Pimnipa Panthong, 7&6. South Carolina’s Mathilde Claisse then defeated Chiara Tamburlini, 3&2, earning a crucial early point for the Gamecocks.
“I didn’t really make any mistakes,” said Hume of her impressive final match. “One birdie and the rest pars. (Panthong) made a couple mistakes, and I kind of jumped on those. So I went up pretty early, which helped.”
Hume’s stroke play co-medalist and the Rebels’ fifth-year senior leader Kennedy Swann usually goes out first for Ole Miss, but her coaches sent her out second to set up an All-Star match against the third-ranked player in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, South Carolina’s Pauline Roussin-Bouchard. The Gamecocks’ sophomore star held a 1 up lead through five holes and never looked back, consistently weathering Swann’s advances en route to a clean 3&2 win.
Ole Miss never trailed in the final two matches, with Andrea Lignell earning the second point thanks to a 3&2 win over Paula Kirner. In the final match on the course, South Carolina senior Lois Kaye Go tried to muster up some late-match heroics – like when she won her semifinal match after never leading until the final hole – but fell short by one in an 18-hole gem of a match to Julia Johnson.
Waves wash away any doubt
On paper, the men’s match between Pepperdine and Oklahoma could very well have been a preview for next spring’s NCAA Championship. If so, advantage Waves.
The Sooners came back in the semifinals to defeat their rival Texas Longhorns but didn’t have enough horse power to do so again on Wednesday, with Pepperdine rolling to a 4-1 win.
The Pepperdine men’s golf team poses with the trophy after winning the 2020 East Lake Cup. (Photo: East Lake Cup)
“It gives us a lot of momentum,” said Pepperdine’s Dylan Menante. “It proves to us that we can still be No. 1 or a top-5 school in the country and that we’re good enough and that we can compete with anyone no matter who’s on the team.”
Men’s stroke play medalist and Oklahoma junior Patrick Welch ran into a pair of 5&4 losses in match play, first on Tuesday to Texas’ Cole Hammer and again on Wednesday in the finals against Pepperdine’s Joe Highsmith. Derek Hitchner added a second point for the Waves, taking down Logan McAllister, 3&2. Jonathan Brightwell, a UNCG transfer, earned the sole point for the Sooners in a tight match with William Mouw, but shortly after Menante made it official for the Waves with a 5&4 win over Garett Reband.
“Coach has done a really good job helping us with an overall mentality of making sure that we’re kind of staying aggressive and committed and not being fearful on the golf course is kind of a big thing that we stand for at Pepperdine,” said Hitchner. “So that mindset out here has really worked well.”
In the other women’s match, Florida defeated Texas 4-0-1. On the men’s side, however, the Longhorns cruised 5-0 over Texas Tech.