Stanford men’s golf looked to qualify for its seventh consecutive NCAA Championship this week, competing in the NCAA Albuquerque Regional at the University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course. The Cardinal needed a fifth place finish to advance, but their season came to an end as they finished in a tie for seventh.
Stanford was missing two of its top golfers this week: sophomore Barclay Brown and fifth year Henry Shimp. Brown had the lowest scoring average on the team (71.10) before the NCAA Regional and was named to the All Pac-12 First Team. Shimp, the only other Cardinal golfer to receive all-conference honors, recently finished second at the Pac-12 Championships.
Before the tournament, a Stanford Athletics representative told GolfChannel.com that Brown and Shimp were unable to compete “due to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing protocols.”
With Brown and Shimp unavailable, Coach Conrad Ray looked to senior Nate Menon and fifth year David Snyder to fill the starting lineup. Junior Daulet Tuleubayev also traveled to Albuquerque as a substitute.
In the first round of the NCAA Regional tournament, it was Snyder who led the way for the Cardinal. Snyder, after having finished in a tie for second place at the 2019 NCAA Regional, looked poised for another top finish in the opening round. He shot a two-under-par 70 to crack the top-10 on the individual leaderboard. Junior Ethan Ng and freshman Karl Vilips posted rounds of 72, while Menon shot a 73 to round out the Cardinal’s scoring.
At the conclusion of the first round, the Cardinal were in eighth place with a one-under-par total. However, Stanford was only six strokes behind the lead and two strokes behind fifth place.
In the second round, the Cardinal improved to four-under-par but remained in eighth place. Menon, Vilips and freshman Michael Thorbjornsen all shot two-under-par. Snyder followed his first-round 70 with a second-round 73.
Entering the final round, the Cardinal were four strokes behind the projected cut. To qualify for the NCAA Championship, Stanford would have to surpass some very talented teams including No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 14 Texas A&M.
On the front nine Wednesday, it looked like the Cardinal might do just that. The team came out firing and, through the first five holes, was in a tie for fifth place. Menon and Ng led the Cardinal with bogey-free scores of 34 on the front.
After a tough start to the back nine, the Cardinal made one final push to qualify for the NCAA Championship. Following bogeys on the 10th and 13th holes, Thorbjornsen birdied the 14th, 15th and 18th holes to shoot 71. Vilips played the back nine in one-under-par to finish at three-under-par for the tournament. Menon, who recorded a triple bogey on the 14th hole, rebounded and finished birdie-eagle.
Unfortunately, it was too little, too late for the Cardinal, who ended the tournament four strokes behind fifth-place San Diego.
Texas Tech won the tournament at 26-under-par, while Arizona State, Oregon State, Oklahoma and San Diego all punched their tickets to the NCAA Championship as well.
Although the Cardinal came up short, head coach Conrad Ray said he was pleased with how the team handled adversity.
“Our guys gave it their all this week,” he told GoStanford. “The guys battled and did their best. I’m proud of the progress we made as a team in a very challenging year.”
Overall, the Stanford men’s golf team had a successful season. With its entire fall schedule halted as result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford still managed to record four top-five tournament finishes, including a second place at the Western Intercollegiate and a third-place mark at the Pac-12 Championships. With Brown, Menon, Ng, Thorbjornsen, Tuleubayev and Vilips all returning, the Cardinal should be on everyone’s radar next season.