Stanford men’s golf competed for its second consecutive Pac-12 title this week at Mayacama Golf Club in Santa Rosa, but fell short of capturing the conference title. Entering the final round in fifth place, the Cardinal shot the second-lowest single-round score in Pac-12 Championships history to finish in third.
Fifth-year Henry Shimp narrowly missed out on the individual title, falling to Arizona’s Brad Reeves in a playoff.
At just 6,785 yards and with several reachable par fives, Mayacama lent itself to low scoring this week. Throughout the 36 holes of play on Monday, the Cardinal took advantage of Mayacama’s easy holes, but a few big numbers kept them from advancing past fourth place.
In the morning round, junior Ethan Ng played the par fives in four-under-par en route to a 68. Shimp and freshman Karl Vilips both shot rounds of 71, while senior Nate Menon and sophomore Barclay Brown each posted 74.
In the afternoon, Ng birdied three holes on the front nine to reach a seven-under-par total for the tournament. Unfortunately, a triple bogey on the 10th hole and a double bogey on the 12th hole dropped him down the leaderboard. Vilips also fell victim to the big number, recording a quintuple bogey on the short par four 16th hole.
The score of the afternoon belonged to Shimp, who made seven birdies in his round of 69. He finished the round in a tie for eighth place at four-under-par.
As a team, the Cardinal recorded a five-under-par total for the 36 holes on Monday. Stanford trailed Oregon by 10 strokes, Arizona by 19 and Arizona State by 20 at the end of the day.
In the third round, the Cardinal improved to 11-under-par for the tournament but fell behind Oregon State.
Shimp continued his rise up the leaderboard. He made eight birdies to go against four bogeys and shoot 68. Freshman Michael Thorbjornsen made eight birdies as well, but a pair of costly double bogeys prevented him from breaking 70. Vilips also posted 70, highlighted by an eagle on the par four seventh hole.
At the conclusion of the third round, Stanford stood in fifth place — 18 strokes behind Arizona’s lead. The Cardinal led the field in birdies for the first three rounds, but struggled with par three scoring and overall consistency. To contend for the conference championship, the Cardinal needed to post an extremely low final round score.
And that’s exactly what they did. In the last round, the Cardinal shot a sizzling 24-under-par 336. Stanford’s final round was the lowest of the tournament by eight strokes and the second lowest in Pac-12 Championships history.
Teeing off first, Brown paced the Cardinal with a smooth 67 that included eight birdies. Vilips and Menon followed Brown with rounds of 71, while Ng shot a solid 69.
Thorbjornsen blitzed the front nine, making five birdies and no bogeys. An eagle on the par five 15th hole brought his score to seven-under-par. After his only bogey of the day on the 16th, Thorbjornsen finished with a birdie on the 18th to shoot 65. When Thorbjornsen signed his scorecard, his 65 was tied for the lowest round of the week.
Shimp started the final round in a tie for fifth place, four shots behind Arizona’s Brad Reeves, Oregon’s Yuki Moriyama and Arizona State’s Ryggs Johnston. Slowly but surely, he chipped away at the lead. He made birdies on the second, fourth, eighth and ninth holes to shoot 32 on the front nine and get within striking distance.
With two holes to play, Shimp was at 13-under-par for the tournament and three strokes behind Reeves. Since 18 was a reachable par five, a birdie-eagle finish was not out of the question, but Shimp would have to play flawless golf to do it and force a likely playoff.
On the long par three 17th, he striped a long iron to within 10 feet of the hole. He lined up his birdie putt and stroked it in the center of the cup to get to 14-under-par.
At the par five 18th, Shimp faced a long second shot over a water hazard. With his back against the wall, he hit another brilliant approach, expertly using the slope behind the pin to feed his ball close. He was left with just four feet for the eagle.
With the championship on the line, Shimp rolled in the short eagle putt to get to 16-under-par. The eagle was the finishing touch on a course record-tying, eight-under-par 64.
Reeves had a chance to win the tournament outright with an eagle of his own on the 18th, but his putt slipped just past the hole. Shimp and Reeves would then enter a sudden death playoff, alternating between the first and 18th holes until a winner was crowned.
After tying the first playoff hole, Shimp and Reeves returned to the 18th. Both players found the fairway with their drives, leaving long iron shots in for their approaches.
Shimp played first. To no one’s surprise, his approach shot cleared the water and headed right at the pin. In regulation play, Shimp had used the backstop behind the pin to make eagle. This time around, the ball did not bounce. It barely hung up on the back fringe, leaving Shimp an exceedingly difficult putt for his third. Reeves played next. His approach shot landed next to the pin and rolled off the slope to within eight feet of the hole.
These bounces decided the tournament. From Shimp’s position, he could not stop the ball near the hole due to the severe downslope. In the end, Reeves had an easy two-putt for the victory.
The final playoff hole was a bitter end to an exceptional round for Shimp and Stanford. The Cardinal beat every team in the field by at least 12 strokes in the final round, leading them to a third place finish behind Arizona and Arizona State.
Since Stanford did not win the conference championship, the team’s postseason future is uncertain. Given that the Cardinal have now finished in the top three in three of their last four tournaments, they may earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals. The team will know for sure on May 5 at 11 a.m. PT, when the selections will be made on the GOLF Channel.