Sahith Theegala, who was named the top collegiate golfer in 2020 while at Pepperdine, held a one-stroke lead going into the final round of the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi on Sunday.
Alas, after achieving three birdies on the front nine, Theegala had three bogies on the back nine and finished tied for eighth after a final round 71.
Sam Burns, who started the final round three shots behind Theegala, shot a 67 to win the tournament by a stroke. He had 12 birdies over the final 24 holes and won $1.26 million.
Burns told The Golf Channel, “I saw the leaderboard when I was on 17 green and I kinda thought the guys behind us weren’t quite close enough to catch us. Just not enough holes. That’s when it kinda hit me that if I could just get it up there around the green and make a four or a five, we could do it.” He parred the hole.
The purse for the Sanderson Farms was $7 million. Theegala tied for eighth with Seth Reeves and Si Woo Kim at 19 under, and each received $204,750 — Theegala’s best finish as a rookie PGA pro. He led the field with an opening-day 64, then shot 67 and 67.
At the Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades last February, Burns led for much of the tournament before finishing third. He won the Valspar Championship in April, and nearly won two weeks later in Fort Worth, finishing second at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude.
Theegala, now 23, first gained national attention when he won the collegiate tournament at the Genesis Open in 2017 and then made the tournament cut.
At the end of 36 holes, he was tied for 40th at 2-under 140 with Phil Michelson (who has won five major championships) and J.B. Holmes (a four-time PGA Tour winner). Theegala and Michelson had identical opening rounds of 67-73.
Theegala would finish T49 at even par, besting some 23 pros. Dennis Johnson won that event at 17 under par.
Theegala, who is 6-3, told Circling the News in 2017, “I love all sports. I played basketball until my freshman year of high school. I was a pretty good shooter and I’m also pretty good at sand volleyball.”
His father, Muralidhar, and his mother, Karuna, immigrated from Hyderabad, India and their son started his golf career at the age of three, swinging plastic golf clubs in the living room. He was a young phenom, like Tiger Woods, winning world golf championships at age 6, 8 and 10.
With Theegala leading the way, Diamond Bar High School won or shared the league golf title four years and captured CIF Southern Section titles in 2012 and 2013. Theegala also made the honor roll every year.
He secured his Tour card this year after finishing T-4 and sixth in the two Korn Ferry Tour events and then made the cut at the Fortinet Championship, the PGA Tour’s season opener in mid-September, where he finished T-47. He shot 69, 70 and 69 the first three rounds, then was undone by a final day 75.
If Palisadians are lucky, they will see both Theegala and Burns at the Genesis in February at the Riviera Country Club.