The par-5 18th at Southern Highlands (Conner Penfold photo)
Collegiate golf returns to Southern Highlands Golf Club, host of one of the most consistently strong fields during the spring season. After a one-year hiatus, seven squads from the Golfweek/Sagarin top-25 will be on hand in Las Vegas, including three squads that are coming off momentum-building victories.
For the second time, the tournament’s individual champion will earn an exemption into the PGA TOUR’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open which will take place Oct. 6-9, 2022, at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.
The tournament follows the traditional collegiate 54-hole, 5-count-4, stroke-play format, with 18 holes each Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at Southern Highlands Golf Club, which will play at a meaty 7,510 yards and a par of 72 for this event.
Second-ranked Oklahoma, which has finished third or better in all six of their events this season, wrapped up their third title with an unbelievable 59-under par showing at Purdue’s annual Puerto Rico Classic. Senior transfer Chris Gotterup
went bogey-free over his final 39 holes to win the individual title by four strokes, and climb to the No. 1 spot in Golfweek's collegiate rankings.
"It sounds pretty good to me, but there is a lot of golf left for both me and the team," Gotterup said. "I'm excited for the next couple of events. Hopefully that number doesn't change but it's exiting and it validates the hard work I've been putting in."
Georgia senior Trent Phillips
, the highest-ranked player in the tournament, was one of two Bulldogs inside the top-5 in Puerto Rico. The No. 7-ranked amateur in the world (Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Rankings) secured his third consecutive top-10 finish, which includes a six-shot win at the Williams Cup in October.
Freshman Maxwell Ford
tied for second alongside Tennessee’s Bryce Lewis
, though he outdid Gotterup with his bogey-free streak of 48 holes. The two-time Southeastern Conference Freshman-of-the-Week fired rounds of 67-67-66 – the third-lowest 54-hole mark in school history – and credits “willing the ball into the hole” for the best finish thus far in his young college career.
“I putted really well though I feel like I could have made a few more,” Ford said in a phone interview shortly before hopping on a plane from Atlanta to Las Vegas. “I think I missed maybe one putt inside eight or ten feet.”
The lengthy track at Southern Highlands will be a new challenge for Ford and three of his traveling teammates. Though Phillips, who shot the second-lowest round of the tournament in 2020, and the coaching staff of Chris Haack and Jim Douglas have provided helpful insight.
“Our assistant coach has been talking about it for, like, a week and a half,” Ford said. “He’s been saying how good the greens are and just how good of a course it is. I’m really excited.”
Two players who earned top-10 finishes two years ago in this event are back at Southern Highlands, including defending individual champion Parker Coody
of Texas. Coody was the recipient of the event’s inaugural PGA Tour exemption as the Longhorn twin secured entry into the 2020 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open thanks to a playoff triumph over USC’s Yuxin Lin.
, who won twice for the Florida Gators in 2020, tied for sixth two years ago and is in polished form after lining up a 1-2 finish with teammate Fred Biondi
at their host tournament at Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville. The squad successfully defended their title, winning for the third straight season, this time by 12 strokes over Oklahoma State.
Georgia Tech grabbed top honors at Florida State’s Watersound Invitational, their third win of the year, while New Mexico captured victory No. 2 with an impressive showing at the John Burns on Hawaii’s northernmost island of Kauai.
Five teams made the relatively short drive from PGA West through the Mojave Desert into Las Vegas after battling surreal conditions at The Prestige. Northwestern’s eighth-place finish was best among the group, including a top-10 for senior David Nyfjall
following a final-round 67.
The wind-driven dust was affecting play to the point where the second round had to be postponed.
"That was the first time I've seen a dust storm or anything like that," Nyfjall said.