Sahith Theegala (Photo by Jeff Golden)
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – There will be no heroically aggressive shots around Sunnehanna Country Club for Sahith Theegala this week. Theegala, a 21-year-old from Chino Hills, Calif., just finished redshirting his true senior season at Pepperdine. After a January wrist surgery, he’s only been 100 percent on the golf course for roughly a week and a half. He’s still testing his limits.
Given the circumstances, it’s somewhat remarkable that Theegala is tied for 16th at the halfway point of the Sunnehanna Amateur after rounds of 73-68 at the par-70 Sunnehanna Country Club. He hasn’t played competitively since the U.S. Amateur last August.
“Every major athlete out there deals with big injuries like this. I just took it and tried to be as positive as possible,” said Theegala, who once climbed as high as No. 24 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He was a quarterfinalist at the 2016 U.S. Amateur, then won the Sahalee Players Championship and qualified for the U.S. Open the next summer.
Theegala knows last year’s U.S. Amateur start was probably ill-advised. But it was Pebble Beach and he was planning to take some time off in the following months so he played. He had rounds of 79-78 and missed the cut.
A post-tournament MRI showed a TFCC tear in his left wrist as well as tendon damage. Doctors also told him it couldn’t get any worse.
“It was popping in and out. It was gross,” he said.
Theegala took two months off, started playing again in October and all the while worked to re-groove his swing into a motion that included more rotation and thus would put less tension on his wrist.
Ultimately, Theegala had surgery in January. The conservative estimate was that he’d be away from the game for four months. He started putting near the beginning of March, slowly progressed to chipping and started hitting full iron shots a little over a month ago. He only put the driver in his hands two weeks ago.
Given the break, he was itching to get back to tournament golf this week.
“I was so excited to play in my first event. I was waiting for 10 months,” he said. “I had so much competitive built up in me, I just wanted to go out and play.”
Theegala’s feel isn’t totally back, and consequently there were some start-of-the-day jitters in Wednesday’s opening round.
“Think it’s just going to take a little time moving forward,” he said. “I think my golf game is definitely good enough to compete and again, just going out and having fun I think is the main point.”
Theegala has historically played well at the Sunnehanna. He was 11th here a year ago even though he was already feeling twinges in his wrist. The hardest part of Sunnehanna CC is the greens. You’re going to have three-putts out here, Theegala says. Mentally, Theegala has been able to adapt to this course.
“My speed putting has always, I’ve thought, been a strength of mine,” he said.
The past year has certainly tested Theegala’s patience. Pepperdine ended the season ranked No. 16 in the Golfweek
/Sagarin Rankings after an 11th-place finish at the NCAA Championship. Theegala traveled with the team to that tournament, and to regionals. He followed the Waves’ home event, the Southwestern Invitational, and he watched live-stream coverage of the Prestige and Golf Channel coverage of the Western Intercollegiate.
“I’ve watched more golf than I ever have,” he said. “…It was a double-edged sword for sure.”
Theegala also completed a degree in sports administration this past year. With another year of eligibility left at Pepperdine, he’ll tackle a marketing minor and an outside concentration in finance next year. It should be a relatively light class load.
And that leaves maximum time for golf.
ABOUT THE Sunnehanna Amateur
The Sunnehanna Amateur was inaugurated in
1954 -- it was the first country club
sponsored 72-hole stroke play competition for
in the United States. The
tournament is played on a classic A.W.
design. Only one other amateur
tournament in the United States can list the
Chick Evans, Arnold Palmer, Julius
Boros, Art Wall, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson,
Woods, and Rickie Fowler as
contestants: the United States Amateur. Its
format has been emulated by
countless amateur tournaments across the
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