The 13th edition of the Cabo Collegiate unfolds at the Twin Dolphin Club in Los Cabos, Mexico on March 5-7 with 15 teams vying for the title at an event that is always circled by head coaches as a ‘must-play.’
“Initially, we liked the Cabo Collegiate because the field was amazing, and being in Cabo at that time of year was a great trip as a destination,” said coach Alan Bratton, whose Oklahoma State Cowboys won the event in 2017, 2018, and 2019. “But with all the little details taken care of, like trips from the airport, the field, and being in Mexico brings it all together and says it all.”
A decorated and respected veteran Bratton points to the overall experience for everyone in the Cowboys’ traveling party.
“Rodger and B.A. Kline have a passion to make it special,” Bratton said of the Cabo Collegiate founders and organizers. “They have gone over and above to get to know the kids and
to make it a great experience for the kids, the coaches, and their wives.”
Brad McMakin, head coach of the host Razorbacks, completely agrees with Bratton.
“First and foremost, Rodger and B.A. Kline does a fantastic job and that is why all the top teams come here year after year,” McMakin said. “This event always ranks among the top 10 toughest events in college golf. Then, you ask the players, and they will say they are treated like kings. Just everything about it is done in such a first-class manner. Lastly, you mix in the location, and it is easy to see why teams look forward to this event.”
Twin Dolphin Club, designed by Fred Couples, will be the site of the 2023 Cabo Collegiate because of revision work at the Cove Club at Cabo De Sol while the club also continues its facility construction project.
“Obviously, the weather in Fayetteville and weather in Cabo is a bit different this time of the year,” McMakin said. “That is another reason we want to leave a little earlier. Serving as the host school and facing many of these teams year and year, we know the challenge that is ahead of us. We have a veteran group and a group that has seen its share of individual success. Our key is getting them to come together.”
The teams slated for the 54-hole tournament include defending champion and No. 1 ranked Vanderbilt and Abilene Christian, No. 17 Alabama, host Arkansas, No. 19 Arizona, No. 6 Arizona State, No. 21 Baylor, No. 10 Florida State, Houston, Mississippi, No. 18 Oklahoma State, Rice, No. 13 Tennessee, No. 3 Texas Tech, and No. 5 Stanford (using Feb. 21 GolfStat rankings).
The other past champions in this year’s field are Arkansas (2010 and 2011), Arizona State (2020), Florida State (2015), Ole Miss (2012), and Houston (2014).
With a strong final round paced by Cole Sherwood’s 10-under-par 61 at the Cove Club in 2022, Vanderbilt won the title by two strokes over hard-charging Texas Tech, who shot 22-under in the last round.
The field also enticingly boasts the top 3 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (dated Feb. 22). Gordon Sargent of Vanderbilt, the 2022 NCAA individual champion, is #1, Michael Thorbjornsen of Stanford, who was the low amateur at the DP World Tour event in Dubai (tied for the lead through 36 holes). Sherwood is currently #9.
Thorbjorsen was second on the individual leaderboard at the 2022 Cabo Collegiate.
The others with top 25 WAGR rankings in the field are No. 12 Caleb Surratt of Tennessee, the 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up, and No. 25 Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira of Arkansas, who won the 2023 Latin America Amateur in Puerto Rico in January.
He and Sargent are slated to play in the 2023 Masters and U.S. Open with their ‘major’ victories earning those exemptions. Fernandez de Oliveira will also play in the 2023 Open Championship with this LAAC championship.
Commodores’ coach Scott Limbaugh politely sidesteps the defending champion status by saying: “We won’t talk about it at all. That was a different team on an entirely different course. We will certainly be excited to play Twin Dolphin as we’ve heard so many great things about it. However, we know we just need to be our best and see where that stacks up.”
Vanderbilt, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, claimed the team title at The Hayt at TPC Sawgrass in mid-February with Sargent taking medalist honors. The Commodores followed that victory with another at the Watersound Invitational on Feb. 21, which included other Cabo Collegiate entrants Florida State, Alabama, and Oklahoma State, who finished third, fourth, and T6th, respectively. FSU’s Fredrick Kjettrup won individual honors by five strokes over Sargent.
“We want to keep improving and growing as a team,” Limbaugh said. “We played well (at The Hayt), but we have a lot of improving to do if we want to be the best version of ourselves.”
Three of the four past U.S. Junior Amateur champions are in the field: Thorbjornsen (2018), Preston Summerhays of Arizona State (2019) and Nick Dunlap of Alabama (2021).
Special to AmateurGolf.com by Pete Kowalski