After long road to recovery, Theegala goes out on top
15 May 2020
by Brayden Conover of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Sahith Theegala Rankings

- Pepperdine photo
- Pepperdine photo

2020 Haskins Award winner Sahith Theegala could not even make a full swing this time a year ago.

Having surgery on his left wrist last January, Theegala was kept away from the game he so loved for months.

“At first it was brutal,” Theegala said to AmateurGolf.com in a Zoom interview. “Obviously I haven’t gone that long without golf for any reason. Mentally at first, it was just like ‘C’mon I can’t play the thing I love’. Even when I’m not playing golf I usually like to do other stuff like play basketball and I couldn’t even do that.”

Despite the long recovery that kept him off the course, Theegala stayed positive throughout the process.

“That was the whole point of taking the redshirt year. Obviously I needed the surgery but I was thinking about the long term… I gained a new perspective during my rehab time where it really helped me take my mind off golf a little bit.”

With a refreshed outlook on life and his game, Theegala’s game took a turn for the better at the Southern California Amateur after knocking the rust off.

“I think I literally swung it the best ever,” Theegala said. “My rhythm was just so keyed in. It was so little stress because funny enough I don’t think I putted or chipped as well as I did the previous three events but I hit the ball so well… It felt like through four days I hardly missed a shot. I knew I certainly found something with the way I was swinging. It definitely turned it around for me.”

Theegala kept the momentum riding from his July win through the fall season and well into the winter as he picked up a win at the Australian Master of the Amateurs in January. With Victoria Golf Club playing hard and fast, the final round proved to be a true test with winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour. With a five-shot lead heading into the final round, Theegala squandered his lead on the front nine posting a six-over-par score through seven holes.

“The turning point in that round was hole eight,” Theegala said. “I killed a drive into the wind. I think I had a four iron like 200-yards straight into the wind and ended up hitting that to eight-feet and made [an] eagle and that turned it around.”

Theegala settled in after that, making a birdie on nine and closing the door on the back nine with seven straight pars giving him a five-shot lead on 17 where he closed with a birdie and bogey to take home the Green Jacket.

Theegala almost took the collegiate winter break off to rest and let his body heal but his competitiveness simply would not let that happen.

“I initially thought I was going to go winter break without playing,” said Theegala. “But I’ve always been a competitor and I was like ‘Oh man, I don’t think I can do that’... ‘How about I challenge myself and go to Australia and gain a lot of experience [playing internationally]’.”

That competitor mentality stems from one of his childhood idols, Kobe Bryant. Theegala famously won the Southwestern Invitational while wearing a Bryant jersey to tie a Pepperdine record of four solo wins.

“Just like so many others, he was my childhood idol and a large part why I play sports the way I do,” Theegla said. “I had the thought that it would be cool if I could honor Kobe in some way on the final day [of the tournament]… for me to have that one-shot lead coming to 18 and get the victory there, it couldn’t have been a better ending. It worked out perfectly. I was just really glad I was able to pay respects to Kobe; obviously, I wish I never had to do that.”

Midway through the spring season, Theegala and his Pepperdine teammates were poised for a deep postseason run, having ascended to the No. 1 ranking in the College Coaches Poll. But with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic cutting his senior season short, Theegala will have to take consolation in the wave of awards coming his way. In addition to the Haskins Award, he is a First Team All-American and a favorite to win the Hogan Award. He now looks forward to turning professional once golf and the rest of the world returns to a new normal.

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