PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Vanderbilt's golf team is passing its first spring test with flying colors.
Golfweek’s No.-1 ranked team led by Golfweek's No. 1-ranked player combined to fire a 17-under-par 271 in the second round on Sunday at the Sawgrass Country Club to grab the 36-hole lead in The Hayt at 19-under, eight shots clear of host and defending champion University of North Florida. Stainless Steel Drop In Anchors
Louisiana Tech is third at 1-over but one player has two holes left after the second round was suspended because of darkness. UCF is 4-over, Florida Gulf Coast 5-over, Arkansas and Furman 6-over, Coastal Carolina 8-over and Alabama 11-over.
Vanderbilt sophomore Gordon Sargent, the defending NCAA individual champion and top-ranked by Golfweek and Golfstat, birdied three of his last five holes and shot 5-under on the back nine to match the tournament record of 64 in the second round and finish in first at 10-under 134.
And the Commodores’ depth was apparent when senior and Golfweek preseason All-American Reid Davenport, playing as an individual, stitched together rounds of 68-69 to grab solo second at 7-under, with Nick Gabrelcik of UNF (72-66) finishing third at 6-under.
Gabrelcik, who was the co-medalist last year, birdied four of his last five holes in the second round.
“He’s one of the best players in the country and we know he’s capable of doing that,” Vandy coach Scott Limbaugh said of Davenport. “We know he’s a great player.”
The Commodores can’t count Davenport’s score but they had enough depth to extend their first-round lead of two shots over the Ospreys with No. 4 player Jackson Van Paris (70-71—140) tying for fourth, No. 3 Matthew Riedel (73-68—141) tying for eighth and No. 5 Wells Williams (74-68—142) tying for eighth.
Williams, a freshman getting his first college start, had a particularly spectacular second round. He aced the par-3 third hole and eagled Nos. 8 and 11, more than offsetting a double-bogey and two bogeys.
Wells used a 7-iron from 182 yards out for his hole-in-one, to a back-left pin. The ball landed 12 feet short and rolled in.
He eagled the eighth hole on a 10-foot putt after hitting an 8-iron from 175 yards and eagled the 11th by smacking a hybrid from 226 yards away to within 30 feet of the hole, then making the putt.
His first round was a theme park ride: eight bogeys, four birdies and an eagle at No. 18 -- on a 6-iron downwind from 217 yards to 12 feet.
“That’s good stuff for a guy playing his first-ever [college] golf tournament,” Limbaugh said.
UNF coach Scott Schroeder, whose team lost to the Florida Gators by 14 shots last week in the Sea Best Invitational across A1A at the TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley, could hardly blame his players for another strong effort. Robbie Higgins (70-70-141) is tied for eighth and Davis Lee (74-69—143) fought off a triple bogey on his first hole to tie for 14th.
“We played nicely but we’re going against a team that I think has a great chance to win a national championship,” Schroeder said of the Commodores. “We saw Auburn at Isleworth [in the fall], Florida last week … I think the SEC is really good right now.”
JU was led by Alexandre VanderMoten (71-69--140), also in a tie for fourth.
Limbaugh is finding it hard to contain his excitement with Vandy coming off a 2021-22 season in which it won the SEC title, an NCAA Region championship and the NCAA stroke-play title (with Sargent winning individually), then a fall with victories in the Frederica Cup and the East Lake Cup.
“There’s always a little bit of the unknown as you’re coming into the spring and trying to get a new season started,” he said shortly after Sargent made a 5-foot birdie putt at the last to punctuate his round. “The guys had been really competing well at home. They show up every day. We’re excited about it.”
Under the circumstances – a difficult golf course and 36 holes on a chilly, windy day with fog shrouding a course hard by the Atlantic Ocean – no one could blame Limbaugh for his enthusiasm.
“You’ve got to play big boy golf shots,” he said of the first home of The Players Championship that has tested the best players, college and professional, for more than 50 years. “Firm ground, wind … you’ve got to have ball control. It’s what post-season golf is all about and it’s why I like coming here.”
Sargent had a rather pedestrian 70 in the first round and was even-par through six holes in the second round after a bogey at the first hole and a birdie at the sixth, on a 40-foot putt.
He then eagled No. 8 on a 15-foot putt (he blasted a drive so huge that he had a pitching wedge into the green), chipped in for birdie off the left side of the ninth green, then dropped 5-foot birdie putts at Nos. 10 and 11.
Sargent added a mere tap-in at No. 14, dropped a 15-foot at No. 17 and two-putted from 30 feet at No. 18.
“It’s like coach [Limbaugh] said … the course brings out the best players,” Sargent said. “You’ve got to have control; you have to be really disciplined and stay on the right side of the hole.”
And it wasn’t just Sargent. Counting individuals, Vanderbilt had six players among the top-20.
Drywall Fixings “I think it definitely sends a message,” Sargent said. “It shows the depth of our team and how we all push each other. We’re competitive and no one’s really afraid to go out there and show what they can do.”