A Fight to the End

Commodores nipped by Arkansas in title match of SEC Match Play

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Vanderbilt got victories from Cole Sherwood and Michael Shears on Tuesday in the championship of SEC Match Play against Arkansas, but Luke Long was able to edge out Vandy senior Reid Davenport 2-and-1 to clinch the title.

Tuesday’s final was a rematch of the 2021 SEC Championships in April in which the Commodores won 3-2 over the Razorbacks on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

“My hat’s off to Arkansas. We knew that it would take our best today. They are a really great team and a really great match play team,” Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh said. “You come to events like this to replicate, hopefully, what you’re going to get in the spring and championship season.”

Sherwood beat Juan Vesga on four holes and didn’t lose any over the course 16 completed. Shears bounced back from an early deficit against Segundo Pinto and won five holes through 16 played.

Davenport left himself a chance by trailing by two with two holes to play, but Long was able to par the 17th to clinch the match.

Jackson Van Paris fell 5-and-3 in his match against Wil Gibson while Gordon Sargent dropped his matchup with Mateo Fernandez de Oliveria 5-and-3. Van Paris, in his Vandy debut, went 1-2 this week while Sargent finished 2-1 in his matches.

Vanderbilt had gotten to Tuesday’s championship thanks to a 5-0 win over South Carolina that started Sunday and ended Monday then a 3-2 win over Georgia later Monday. Sherwood finished the event 2-1 overall, Shears went 3-0 and Davenport had a 2-1 record.

“I thought it was a great learning experience for the (freshmen), one of the reasons we wanted to see them in this kind of environment against this kind of competition,” Limbaugh said. “Match play is different. It’s like a fight. You got to throw a punch back when somebody throws a punch at you.

“I’m extremely proud of the way Michael and Cole went out today and really played awesome golf. Cole was six or seven under par out there today and Michael played a really great player – that really says a lot about Michael’s maturity and a lot about his growth as a player.”

The Commodores have less than two weeks before they head back out on the road to complete their fall schedule. Vandy will take part in The Williams Cup on Oct. 25-26 in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Vanderbilt’s spring schedule will then begin in February.

“We’ve got to become more accountable to all the little things that we constantly talk about. We’re not ever going to reach our full potential until we get everybody accountable to what Vanderbilt golf is all about,” Limbaugh said. “Sometimes that takes a little time, some times that takes a longer time, but we’re only going to be the team that we know we can be when we got everybody that wants to fight for Vanderbilt golf, that wants to hold themselves to high standards.

“It’s great for us to get to have that opportunity right now because if we don’t do some of those little things as well later on, your season can end. So the consequences get greater and that’s what we’re trying to get our team to understand.”