Men’s Golf Gets Season Started in Illinois

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MALIBU, California — After a national championship and an NCAA semifinals appearance the past two years, the #9 Pepperdine men’s golf program looks ahead to another successful season, although with a very different roster. The 2022-23 campaign begins with this week’s OFCC/Fighting Illini Invitational.

EVENT INFO — The tournament will be held at the par-70, 7,310-yard North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Illinois. There will be a single round each day between Friday and Sunday (Sept. 16-18). Live scoring will be available via Golfstat. 

FIELD — In addition to Pepperdine, the 15-team field also includes host Illinois, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Army, Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Indiana, North Carolina, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Texas.

The tournament features each of the last four national champions. The field includes six of the top 10 teams in the preseason coaches poll, and 10 of the schools are in the top 25.

LINEUP — Pepperdine’s lineup consists of senior William Mouw (Chino, Calif./Ontario Christian HS), graduate Sam Choi (Anaheim, Calif./New Mexico), graduate Derek Hitchner (Minneapolis, Minn./The Blake School), graduate Luke Gifford (Boca Raton, Fla./South Florida) and graduate Roberto Nieves (Miami, Fla./Delaware).

RANKINGS — In the preseason rankings, Pepperdine is #9 by the Golf Channel, #10 in the Bushnell/Golfweek coaches poll and #13 by Golfweek.

PGA Tour University rankings: William Mouw #11, Sam Choi #19, Derek Hitchner #28.

World Amateur Golf Rankings: William Mouw #22, Sam Choi #32, Derek Hitchner #42.

EVENT HISTORY — The Waves have played at the Fighting Illini Invitational twice, taking third place in 2019 and tying for eighth in last season’s opening tournament.

HONORS — William Mouw was named to Golfweek’s preseason All-American first team and the Golf Channel’s second team … Derek Hitchner was named to the preseason All-American third team by both the Golf Channel and Golfweek … Hitchner is one of three nominees for the Ben Hogan Award’s Player of the Month for August … Hitchner, Mouw, Sam Choi and Ian Maspat were named preseason All-WCC.

RECORDS WATCH — William Mouw ranks #4 all-time in scoring average (71.10) and #8 in below-par rounds (48) … Derek Hitchner is #8 all-time in scoring average (71.78).

ROSTER — A new-look roster includes three returners and four newcomers. The veterans include a pair of All-Americans in William Mouw and Derek Hitchner, as well as sophomore Ian Maspat. The Waves brought in three graduate transfers in Sam Choi (New Mexico), Luke Gifford (South Florida) and Roberto Nieves (Delaware), plus freshman Brady Siravo. Choi is also a returning All-American, giving the Waves three in all. The breakdown is four graduate students, one senior, one sophomore and one freshman.

WCC — The Waves are the unanimous favorite to win their fifth straight conference title. After Pepperdine, the coaches’ poll went as follows: BYU, Loyola Marymount, San Diego, San Francisco, Saint Mary’s, Santa Clara, Pacific, Gonzaga.

SUMMER 2022 HIGHLIGHTS — Derek Hitchner made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur … Sam Choi, Luke Gifford and William Mouw also competed at the U.S. Amateur … Mouw won the Trans-Mississippi Championship (giving the Waves two in a row as Hitchner won the tournament in 2021).

2021-22 RECAP — A year after winning the national championship, the Waves made another run at a title, though it eventually came to an end in the NCAA semifinals. Four players earned All-American honors and all five in the lineup were All-West Region. The Waves won three tournaments, including their fourth consecutive WCC title and their 22nd overall, and had their best-ever finish at an NCAA Regional, placing second in Bryan, Texas. Pepperdine finished with national rankings of #4 by Golfweek/Sagarin, #5 in the Bushnell/Golfweek coaches poll and #6 by Golfstat.

PEPPERDINE GOLF — Thanks to its victories at the 1997 and 2021 NCAA Championships, Pepperdine has clinched a spot among the sport’s elite. The Waves have made 12 appearances at the NCAA finals since 1993, and have achieved NCAA Regional berths in 26 of the last 30 tries. In the West Coast Conference, the Waves have won a league-best 22 championships since 1987 and have finished either first or second in 28 of the last 35 tournaments. Pepperdine has had 18 student-athletes earn All-American honors a total of 29 times. Sahith Theegala was the unanimous national player of the year in 2020, and the Waves have had two Byron Nelson Award winners (Jason Allred in 2002 and Michael Putnam in 2005). Theegala became the seventh Wave to play on the PGA Tour in 2021-22. Andrew Putnam is the other alum currently competing on the PGA Tour.

BEARD — Former Pepperdine All-American Michael Beard is in his 11th season as the Waves’ head coach. He earned the Dave Williams Award as the Division I National Coach of the Year in 2020 after leading the Waves to the #1 ranking before the pandemic cancelled the season, then led Pepperdine to the NCAA title in 2021. He became the first WCC men’s golf coach ever to earn WCC Coach of the Year honors three consecutive years (beginning in 2016) and he extended that streak to six straight in 2022 (he and Gonzaga’s Mark Few are the only WCC coaches to win six straight Coach of the Year awards). Beard competed for the Waves between 1999-2002 and was a GCAA All-American honorable mention selection in both 2000 and 2002. He was the medalist at the 2000 NCAA West Regional and the 2002 WCC Championships and was a four-time All-WCC first teamer. After playing professionally for several years, he served as an assistant coach at Pepperdine for one season and helped the Waves to make the 2011 NCAA Championships. Beard returned to Pepperdine in December 2012 after spending the previous season-and-a-half as an assistant at Arizona State. 

ABOUT PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY — Pepperdine boasts a one-of-a-kind athletic department with unprecedented success for a school of its size. The Waves have won NCAA Division I championships in five different men’s sports — one of just 20 schools to have accomplished this feat — and 10 overall. Of this elite group, Pepperdine has the smallest undergraduate enrollment, is the only school without football and is the only university that has not been affiliated with a “major” conference. The Waves have won a total of 26 team or individual national championships in their history. Pepperdine has also earned the Division I-AAA All-Sports Trophy, an award based on postseason success that’s given to the top non-football school, three times (most recently in 2021-22). Located in scenic Malibu, California, the university overlooks the Pacific Ocean and its campus and athletic facilities are regularly voted among the nation’s most beautiful. Pepperdine, which is affiliated with the Church of Christ, ranks #55 overall on U.S. News and World Report’s list of America’s best colleges.

 


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