Worth the wait: With NCAA triumph, Pepperdine finishes what it started last year

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Just seconds before Clay Feagler struck the most important approach shot of his life, a spectator couldn’t resist cracking open an ice-cold beverage from just outside the rope line. The noise caused the Pepperdine senior to back off and prompted glares from the Waves faithful at the oblivious culprit.

Quickly, though, the attention turned back to Feagler, a fifth-year senior, who was clinging to a 1-up lead over Oklahoma’s Ben Lorenz in a crucial match Tuesday in the NCAA Championship final. From 195 yards out on Grayhawk’s finishing hole, Feagler hit 7-iron, catching it a tad thin but still finding the front portion of the green. With Lorenz missing his birdie try, Feagler then cozied his 35-foot putt up to the hole to earn the concession and, more importantly, the title-clinching third point.

Crack open as many open as you’d like now.

This one was sure worth the wait.

Pepperdine was the No. 1 team in the country last spring when the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but with no postseason, the Waves were unable to prove themselves on the national-championship stage. More than a year later, they finally earned that validation with a 3-2 victory over Oklahoma, this year’s top-ranked team.

“Everyone said our year was last year,” Feagler said, “and our coaches at the beginning of the year sat us down and said, ‘A lot of people don’t think you can do it this year,’ and that gave us a little chip on our shoulder, a little motivation, and look at us now, we’re standing here as national champions.”

William Mouw and Joe Highsmith also won matches for Pepperdine, which also won it all back in 1997.

“It felt like we just didn’t get to see it through last year and these guys came back better,” Pepperdine head coach Michael Beard said. “It really wasn’t me, they just came back with more fire and more determination and motivation.”

Story to be updated…