LA QUINTA, Calif. — When Texas and Oklahoma State withdrew from the Prestige men’s college golf tournament over concerns about California’s COVID-19 restrictions and whether the tournament in La Quinta would be played at all, the Arizona Wildcats were happy to take one of the open spots in the event.
While Texas and Oklahoma State had their replacement tournament in Houston postponed by snow and sub-freezing temperatures, the Wildcats enjoyed three days of breezy sunshine on the way to a share of the Prestige crown with the North Carolina Tar Heels.
“I don’t even know, to be honest with you,” Arizona head coach Jim Anderson said when asked what his team would be doing if the Prestige slot hadn’t opened up. “So much of COVID is a little bit one step at a time. If this didn’t work, we did have a massive contingency plan to maybe try to host another tournament ourselves in our desert.”
Instead, the Wildcats survived both some swirling and strong desert winds and the Greg Norman Course at PGA West to tie North Carolina, which finished an hour earlier and had slowly moved up the leaderboard most of the day Wednesday as Arizona, Arizona State and Pepperdine struggled to finish their rounds in freshening winds in the final nine holes.
Arizona, fourth in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin team rankings, and North Carolina each finished 54 holes at 4-under 848 under the five-play, four-count format, one shot ahead of Pepperdine, which finished in the top three of the desert tournament for the fourth year in a row, all without winning the event.
Arizona State, which at times on the back nine held the outright lead of the event, stumbled down the stretch and finished fourth, six shots behind the co-winners.
North Carolina’s 4-under total for the final 18 holes was the second-best total of the day behind only Stanford’s 8-under performance. Arizona finished 1-over for the day, while Pepperdine, the second-round lead, struggled to a 5-over final round.
Climbing up the leaderboard
“I don’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing,” North Carolina head coach Andrew DiBitetto said about finishing an hour ahead of the three leading teams for most of the day. “I just know the golf course was very difficult and very demanding and obviously some windy conditions. So we talk to our guys all the time about being mentally tough and resilient and executing at a high level under pressure. And that’s exactly what they did.”
With North Carolina finished at 4 under and a team or individual playoff ruled out by officials as the sun drifted behind the Santa Rosa Mountains, the final threesome came to the 18th hole with Arizona still alive for a solo victory and Pepperdine looking for a share of the title. Arizona’s Trevor Werbylo’s approach shot on the 461-yard par-4 missed the green and kicked about 40 feet from the green with another 20 feet to the pin.
His delicate pitch shot climbed a slope, found the putting surface and rolled to just three feet from the cup. He made the three-footer to not only clinch a tie for the team victory for the Wildcats, but also part of a three-way tie for the individual title. Werbylo, Ludvig Aberg of Texas Tech and Jacob Skov Olesen of Texas Christian all finished the three rounds at 4-under 209 on the par-71 Norman Course.
Pepperdine had a chance for a team tie, but Joey Vrzich’s 12-foot birdie putt burned the right edge of the cup and stayed out.
“The 18th hole, that green is tough,” said Werbylo, who had made a tough par putt on the 17th hole to keep the Wildcats’ title chances alive. “Especially with the wind coming out of the right. It’s a small target. I pulled it. I had a tough chip, but it was doable. I kind of landed it right where I wanted to.”
“There’s not a guy I would rather put in that position beside Trevor,” Anderson said. “He’s been our anchor for a couple of years. But we have a great team around him, all of the guys.”
Werbylo’s up-and-down par on the 18th gave him a 2-under 69 for the day. Aberg shot 73 in the final round, while Skov Olesen shot 70. But Aberg and Skov Olesen were gone from the course by the time Werbylo finished his round, with COVID-19 restrictions meaning teams were asked to leave the golf course when their rounds were over rather than congregating around the clubhouse.
North Carolina’s final-round charge was led by a 67 by Ryan Burnett and a 69 by Austin Hitt, including a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. Burnett, Hitt and Dylan Menante of Pepperdine all finished the event at 3-under 210, one shot out of the three-way tie for the individual title.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/02/17/college-golf-arizona-north-carolina-tie-the-prestige/