Coach Scott Limbaugh took over the Vanderbilt Men's golf team in 2012-13 and has proceeded to lead the Commodores to the NCAA Tournament all 5 years including Elite 8's in 2015 and 2016, and a Final Four in 2017. The results are superb.
Scott is not only a tremendous developer of talent, but he's also an exceptional recruiter, and with the makeup of his 2018 team, this could be an even more spectacular season for Vanderbilt Men's Golf.
The 36 year old Limbaugh's 6th team is headlined by senior Theo Humphrey, juniors Patrick Martin and Will Gordon, and sophomore John Augenstein. They are a phenomenal quartet. And there's depth behind them. So this season looks very promising to be a special one.
I spoke with Scott a couple of weeks ago before his team competed in the Suntrust Gator Invitational, which we won at -18, 9 clear of second place and No.7 Florida in a field of nationally ranked teams that was loaded with talent. The team will tee it up at Los Cabos, Mexico this Saturday through next Tuesday in the Querencia Cabo Intercollegiate featuring No.1 Oklahoma State, No.5 Baylor, No.12 Cal, No.13 Stanford, and No.16 Texas among the nationally ranked teams in the 16 team field.
We are presently ranked No.2 in the latest Golfweek rankings. A&M is No.3, Auburn is 6, Alabama is 7, Florida is 8, LSU is 9, Arkansas is 20 and Missouri is 24. So the competition nationally and in the conference is fierce. But with Coach Limbaugh and our 2018 roster, we've got a chance to do some really good things.
Here's my conversation with Coach Limbaugh.
DW: How do you like your group so far?
SL: Theo has turned into quite the player. He's one of the hottest players in the country after the SEC's last year and through amateur golf and making it the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur. He lost the Jones Cup in a playoff over at Sea Island (in January), so with his consistency, as long as we can keep him in a good spot, we'll have a chance to be all right. And obviously, with Will, Patrick and John. We're starting to see some guys step up who want to play it looks like.
DW: Now what is the Jones Cup that Theo played in?
SL: It's a big amateur event at Ocean Forest in Sea Island. Theo didn't have a bogey in the last 2 days on what was a very hard course. Theo lost in a playoff, John finished tied for 5th, Patrick finished tied for 8th, and Will finished tied for 15th, so it was a good showing for us, real good.
DW: Coach, I was looking at your stats from the fall and it looked like Will had a good fall too.
SL: He had a great fall. He's gotten back to his form from his freshman year. So we've got him in a good spot. When he's playing at a high level, he's got a whole different gear, more than a lot of people. He just won the East Lake Cup individually and won both of his matches we played over there, and he just brings a dynamic to the team. He's got an infectious personality, so those are good things.
Note: The East Lake Cup was a four team competition against the 2017 Final Four contenders last season. National champion Oklahoma, runner-up Oregon and Final Four contenders VU and Illinois competed. We emerged victorious.
DW: Coach in the Elite Eight when Patrick sank that putt on 18 to win his match your reaction was awesome. What does that experience do for this year's team?
SL: It kind of started at the SEC's last year. As well noted, we had struggled with match play up until that point. Last year was the first time for match play in the SEC Championships (which we won). We played really well in the stroke play and won that and the biggest match of the year was when we were able to get over the hump against Ole Miss in the first round, as Matthias (Schwab) makes a huge putt on 18 to beat Braden Thornberry to win his match and kind of got a monkey off our back I felt like. It kind of relieved us. And John Augenstein did some absolutely heroic things in the final 2 matches against Florida and Texas A&M to win it. He won 2 matches in extra holes which was great. We played in the nationals and played well and won the stroke play by 11 or 12 shots. We lost in the first round the past 2 years of the national championships, so to get over it was big. That was a well talked about celebration. I'm an emotional coach and I had walked every hole with Patrick and he kind of let the guy hang around in that match and then he made a big putt to win it. We see it as stuff we practice every day. And to see a guy rise to the occasion like that, and to see it as a coach, especially for a kid like Patrick who you coach, you just get excited for him. It's not about me, it's about a kid living their dream out.
****Note: Matthias was a senior last season and the No.1 player on the team. He is now on the European Tour with hopes of getting on the PGA tour) Thornberry was the 2017 individual national champion from Ole Miss who is back and ranked as the top player in the country by Golfweek.****
DW: This team is not too much different though you don't have Matthias. How good can this team be?
SL: This team won't ever look like the team from last year, and that does not mean this team can't be better and accomplish more, because we can. But you're don't get there by thinking or talking about those things. As a coaching staff, we're trying to find the right pieces and also keeping those guys, who have been here a while and done a lot of things, real focused. And honestly, I've really liked the leadership that our upperclassmen have shown with the team. They trust us, Coach Todd and myself, to find the right pieces. But it's not about what Coach Todd and I do, it's about who's going to step up and take ownership. Who's the guy who wants the shot, who wants the ball. Matthias is a full member on the European Tour, so he's over there, so it's not going to do us any good to worry about where he is. We're starting to see guys like Harrison Ott, a freshman from Wisconsin, Mason Grennberg, a redshirt freshman from Dallas, guys like that starting to show themselves and do the right things in the offseason.
**** Assistant coach Gator Todd is our first year assistant taking the place of Dusty Smith, who is not the coach at Mississippi State.****
DW: Coach do they take the top 5 scores or is it 4?
SL: Everything we do is 4 in stroke play. We play 5 and count 4.
***In match play, 5 players compete.****
DW: You've got some talent with that top 4
SL: Yes, I think that's fair to say. We do feel good about that. We want those other guys to focus on what they're doing and not worry about the top 5. Somebody will step up, and if not, ,we'll just be another team. We've already had a good fall season. We've just reset our focus this spring. It's a long golf season from the fall. They play in a lot of tournaments in the summer, so fall is just a grind. The challenge for me is to not wear them out. Yes, we like what we see from the team, I will say that. Our leadership is good. We're not where we need to be physically, yet. But I like what we're seeing from a leadership standpoint early on.
***Here's the roster for the 2018 team***
John Augenstein, Sophomore, Owensboro, Kentucky
Michael Decker, RS SR., Pebble Beach, California
Will Gordon, JR., Davidson, N.C.
Mason Greenberg, RS freshman, Southlake, Texas
Theo Humphrey, SR., Greenwich, CT.
Andrew Jacobs, RS Sophomore, Houston, TX
Patrick Martin, JR., Birmingham, AL.
Harrison Ott, FR., Brookfield, Wisconsin
Cooper Sears, FR., Mount Juliet, TN.
Luke Zieman, FR., Nashville, TN.
Luke had a spectacular PGA tournament this past weekend at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Luke lost in a playoff to Justin Thomas after finishing -8 for the tournament in regulation. Luke lost on the first hole of the playoff. If Luke can keep his accuracy with his driver in good shape, and his putting keeps cookin like it did over the weekend, he'll win this season, sooner rather than later. Luke moved to No.16 in the Fed Ex Cup rankings. Can't wait to keep up with Luke some more. Proud of our 32 year old from Seattle, by way of Baylor High School in Chattanooga. Luke is a 2007 graduate of VU. He now lives in Long Beach, California.