Courtesy of East Lake Golf Club
There are a handful of golf events that are synonymous with a certain time of year. All eyes turn to Augusta National during the third week in April for the playing of the Masters, a U.S. Open champion is crowned on Father’s Day and in mid-July the best players in the world can be brought to their knees by the unpredictable summer conditions in the United Kingdom.
On the collegiate golf calendar, the last weekend in October is reserved for the East Lake Cup, which gets underway on Monday at the home course of the legendary Bobby Jones in Atlanta.
Featuring the final four teams from last year’s NCAA Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships, the East Lake Cup has become an annual staple on collegiate golf’s fall calendar. This year’s men’s field is made up of defending NCAA Champion Pepperdine, the nation’s top-ranked team in Oklahoma, second-ranked Arizona State and fourth-ranked Oklahoma State. NCAA women’s champion Ole Miss will have its hands full with No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Arizona and No. 19 Duke.
Teams will play one round of stroke play on Monday to determine individual champions and seedings for the match play portion of the event, which runs Tuesday and Wednesday. GOLF Channel will provide live, three-day coverage of the event beginning on Monday.
While the East Lake Cup rewards past accomplishments by reconvening the semifinal teams from both women’s and men’s NCAA Championships from a year ago, it can also dish out a big spoonful of confidence to a team that has hopes of an extended stay in Scottdale in May.
Pepperdine defeated Oklahoma to win last year’s East Lake Cup title, and then downed the Sooners for a second time to win the NCAA Men’s Championship in the spring. Ole Miss, which was outside the original qualifier but earned a trip to Atlanta due to many teams not being able to play last fall, made the most of its opportunity and showed they belonged on the national stage, defeating top-ranked South Carolina for the team title. Seven months late, Kennedy Swann, Julia Johnson and the rest of the Rebels were celebrating a national championship at Grayhawk.
"Last year’s win at East Lake was very special to us,” said Pepperdine head coach Michael Beard. “To win at East Lake in a match play format helped our confidence and solidified our thoughts that we had the makings of being a strong match-play team.
“The experience last year definitely helped us once we got to into match play at the NCAA Championships. We are very thankful our program gets another opportunity to play such a prestigious event.”
Here’s a look at the teams that will be participating in the 2021 East Lake Cup.
The second-ranked Sun Devils are loaded at the top of their lineup with returning All-Americans Cameron Sisk, David Puig and Ryggs Johnston. Sisk won his first start this season at Maridoe and held the 36-hole lead last week at Isleworth before stumbling to a final round 77, although the Sun Devils did win the team title. The leadership of fifth-year senior Mason Andersen can’t be underestimated while the first-year player Preston Summerhays, who has competed in the last two U.S. Opens, is one of the top freshmen in the country.
The Sooners haven’t skipped a beat despite the losses of Jonathan Brightwell, Quade Cummins and Garrett Reband. The nation’s unanimous No. 1 team in the nation ascended to the top spot after winning the Maridoe Collegiate Invitational along with second-place showings at the Carmel Cup and Colonial Invitational. Seniors Logan McAllister and Chris Gotterup have combined for four top-five finishes, and neither has finished outside the top 25 this year. McAllister won the season-opening Carmel Cup by winning a playoff, and Gotterup posted back-to-back third place finishes at Colonial and Maridoe. Redshirt freshman Jaxon Dowell made his college debut at the Colonial Collegiate Invitational and finished tied for seventh and then followed that performance by posting three wins at the Big 12 Match Play Championship.
The Cowboys, currently ranked fourth nationally by Golfweek/Sagarin, opened the season with a win at the Carmel Cup then followed with a pair of third-place finishes at the Illini Invitational and the Colonial Collegiate and finished fourth at the Big 12 Match Play. Never underestimate the Cowboys. With seniors Eugenio Chacarra and Leo Oyo, junior Brian Stark and sophomores Jonas Baumgartner and Bo Jin, Alan Bratton’s team has plenty of firepower to win its 12th national championship at Grayhawk in June.
Last year’s NCAA champions remain largely intact, as familiar names such as Joe Highsmith, William Mouw, Dylan Menante, Joey Vrzich and Derek Hitchner anchor a deep and talented squad that is certainly capable of a successful title defense. Ranked ninth by Golfweek/Sagarin, the Waves finished tied for eighth at the Fighting Illini Invitational and fifth at the Colonial Collegiate. Menante and Mouw were named to the Haskins Award watch list.
Currently ranked 16th by Golfweek/Sagarin, Arizona has a history of making deep runs at the NCAA Championships as the Wildcats are the only program in the nation to reach the national semifinals in each of the last three NCAA Championships, highlighted by its national championship in 2018. The Wildcats opened the fall with a sixth-place finish at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate and followed with a fourth-place showing at The Blessings. Laura Ianello’s squad will be without the experienced duo Vivian Hou, runner-up at this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur and her sister, Yu-Sang, who participated in the second stage of LPGA qualifying last weekend.
The Blue Devils return five letterwinners from its squad that won the 2021 ACC Championship and advanced to the semifinals of match play at the NCAA Championship. Ranked as high as second in the preseason rankings, head coach Dan Brooks, now in his 38th season in Durham, is leaning heavily on the services of seniors Gina Kim, junior Erica Shepherd and sophomore Phoebe Brinker, all of whom earned All-America accolades last season. Anne Chen and Megan Furtney also return while the Blue Devils added a pair of talented newcomers in Sophia Bae and Rylie Heflin. Duke opened with a solid second-place finish at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, placed ninth at the Windy City Classic and tied for fifth at the Tar Heel Invitational, where Shepherd finished second at 10-under par. The Blue Devils have won seven NCAA titles under Brooks, last in 2019.
The second-ranked Cowgirls have won all three of their events this fall, taking titles at the Samual P. Golden Invitational, the Schooner Classic and most recently, at the Jim West Challenge. Oklahoma State was able to absorb the loss of first team All-American Maja Stark by adding transfer Caley McGinty to the roster. McGinty, who earned second-team All-America honors last year at Kent State, has won this fall at the Schooner Fall Classic and the Jim West Challenge. She joins returnees Isabella Fierro, Lianna Bailey, Rina Tatematsu and Maddison Hinson-Talchard on a deep and experienced roster.
The defending national champions have had a so-so start to their 2021-22 campaign, finishing ninth at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate, fifth at The Blessings and taking third at the recently concluded Stephens Cup, where they defeated second-ranked Arkansas, 3-2 in the third-place match. Minus the talents of Kennedy Swann, Ole Miss returns three players who were in the lineup that delivered the school’s first national championship last year at Grayhawk, including first-team All-American Julia Johnson, along with juniors Chiara Tamburlini and Andrea Lignell. Redshirt freshman McKinley Cunningham has been in the lineup for all three events this fall.
East Lake Cup Quick Facts
East Lake Golf Club; Atlanta, Ga.
Arizona State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pepperdine
Arizona, Duke, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss
Single round of stroke play on Monday followed by two days of match play
GOLF Channel will have live coverage each day from 12-3:00 p.m. PT
>> Men's Stroke Play
>> Women's Stroke Play
>> Men's Match Play
>> Women's Match Play