The Western Intercollegiate was played on April 10-12 at Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz where it has been held for the past 76 years. The tournament is hosted by San Jose State University and boasts a field of outstanding golf programs West of the Mississippi. A plethora of some of the best collegiate stars in the country play in this event evidenced by the number of amateur and professional titles won by the participants. Scottie Scheffler was the individual medalist in this event in 2015 and past legends including Johnny Miller, Mark O’Meara, Peter Jacobsen and Ken Venturi have all medalled in this event. In 1996 Aaron Oberholser bested Tiger Woods and Jordan Speith was also edged out in 2012.
This event is special and extremely competitive as Alastair McKenzie’s gem requires precise shotmaking to navigate a course that is only 6,610 yards as a par 70. The course will not be necessarily conquered by the long hitter but it certainly helps on some of these holes. I watched in horrific envy as players drove the ball to the bottom of the fairway on the iconic 16th hole where eagles flew during the tournament. The 16th is one of the most difficult holes on the course boasting a triple decker green where some horrible numbers can be made with three and four putting depending on the pin position. The 11th hole requires two very accurate shots to get a birdie attempt as most of us pray for the opportunity to make a par there. The tee shot must hug the left side of the slightly elevated fairway to approach the elevated green with an iron shot that must thread the needle of all the surrounding bunkers and stay below the pin. Any shot about the pin brings dangerous lightning putting conditions into play. The speed of all the greens in this tournament setup are usually the biggest test for these players.
Pepperdine has become increasingly dominant in the West Coast Conference and is fast becoming a national powerhouse as it came into the tournament ranked 11th in the country. Team tournament play is governed by counting the best 5 balls out of 6 team participants over 54 holes. Pepperdine went on a tear in day 2 of the event with a team score of 22 under par and held on on day 3 to win by 9 strokes over the University of Oregon. Derek Hitchner became the third Pepperdine player in the last three years to be the medalist. Fellow Waves, Dylan Menante and Joe Highsmith won in the prior two years.
I’m not sure how this event will be conducted in the next few years as after the conclusion of the Western, Pasatiempo will begin a complete restoration of the course by redoing the greens and the bunkers and perhaps some other subtle changes. Personally, I don’t know why this is necessary but it has been decided and the course will operate with 9 holes as the renovation will be done 9 holes at a time. Members will be playing 9 holes with alternate tee boxes to get their rounds in. I’m also not sure how public play will be accommodated as Pasatiempo is semi private with significant revenue generated by public tee times.
I miss Bryson DeChambeau. I miss the 375 yard tee shots. I miss the swashbuckling errant shots that are offset by miracle chip shots and putts. I miss the errant chip shots and putts that are followed by 400 yard tee shots. I miss the occasional worm burner that goes 85 yards followed by 265 yard, 7 iron. I miss the yardage books full of algorithms denoted yardage tendencies, wind conditions and caddy personality tests. I miss the dietary requirements of his protein shakes and kale recipes. I miss the extended negotiations with rules officials regarding drops in fear of red ants. What has happened to Bryson? Well, he had a number of maladies, which affected his play and then he decided to join the LIV crowd. He is still battling some injuries and then missed the cut at the 2023 Masters. He had been quoted in the past that Augusta National should be a par 67 so I would imagine that his handicap there has soared. Imagine watching the entire Masters without one second of air time devoted to Bryson. He has literally disappeared from being one of the most exciting players on the PGA Tour to virtual extinction. He played reasonably well at the Open Championship last July at 12 under par (finishing 8th) but you never really know how he is “LIVing.” I hope this is a temporary condition and that there is a revival in the offing. It’s a tough life being a professional golfer when you’ve been on top and now the game is a struggle with all the incredible great experiences on the resume. Golf is indeed a tough game.