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Indian American Golfer Sahith Theegala Wins Fortinet Championship Claiming His First PGA Tour Title

Indian American Golfer Sahith Theegala Wins Fortinet Championship Claiming His First PGA Tour Title

  • The 25-year-old made more than enough birdies to cover for his mistakes, getting entry into Sentry Tournament of Champions and assuring his spot in the Masters.

Indian American golfer Sahith Theegala has won the Fortinet Championship for his first PGA Tour title. The 25-year-old “made more than enough birdies to cover for his mistakes, shooting a 4-under 68 for a two-shot victory at Silverado, his first win in 74 starts on the PGA Tour,” ESPN reported. It gets him into the Sentry Tournament of Champions and assures his spot in the Masters,  the first major golf tournament of the year. Starting in 2024, The Sentry will officially kick off the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup season, and is played in Hawaii on the island of Maui.

He finished with seven birdies and three bogeys, “including one after he hit a tee shot that landed in a fairway bunker on a different hole, the ESPN report said. “With a three-shot lead, he hit his drive and his layup into the rough on the par-5 18th hole and tapped in for a 6. He finished at 21-under 267.”

Prior to this win, Theegala had close calls at three major tournaments. Last month, he made a bogey on the final hole of the BMW Championship Olympia Fields Country Club, in Chicago, Illinois, “that prevented a return to East Lake in Atlanta, ending his season on a sour note,” ESPN reported. 

Before entering the pro circuit, the Southern California native, a son of Indian immigrants, was a star player during his five years at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where he was named Player of the Year. He was ranked among the Top 20 in the American Junior Golf Association or AJGA ranking. He made the Tour Championship as a rookie last year. 

“It doesn’t feel real,” Theegala said after the Aug. 18 win. “It’s probably not going to set in for a while. But man, that was a lot of good golf.” The venue of the championship also mattered. Since the Napa Valley venue is close to Chino Hills where Theegala grew up, his family and friends could witness live his win. Chants of “Thee-gal-a” reverberated around the course as he “approached the 17th green holding a four-shot lead,” said.  The crowd was led by his father Murali, the website reported, adding that Team Theegala was most “energized when Theegala curled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole to extend his lead back out to four.”

He told ESPN that even though he is already set for “all the $20 million signature events next year, he wanted to play at Silverado because he loves the tournament and competition.” 

Speaking to the channel after his win, the young golfer said the tournament was “some of the most fun” he’s ever had in his life.  had so many family and friends cheering me on, and just the support I have is mind-blowing. I go to bed at night these last few days and I’m like, I can’t believe how many people are cheering for me and rooting for me.”

Last year, he was nominated for 2022 Rookie of the Year (Arnold Palmer Award), along with Tom Kim, and Cameron Young.  He entered 32 events with “five top-10s, highlighted by a T2 at the Travelers Championship and T3 at the WM Phoenix Open,” according to the PGA Tour. He qualified for the TOUR Championship and finished No. 28 in the FedExCup, and has recorded a total of 11 top-25s and made 26 cuts. He earned his 2022 PGA Tour playing rights, following two top-six finishes in the final events of the Korn Ferry Tour. He made his professional debut in June 2020 at the Outlaw Tour’s Lone Tree Classic, where he tied for third place, after which he finished T-14 at the 2020 Safeway Open. His first Korn Ferry Tour event was in 2021 where he finished T-19, followed by a T-9 finish at the MGM Resorts Championship at Paiute, a tournament on the Korn Ferry Tour. He played a few PGA Tour events as well, in the last two years, mainly on sponsors’ exemptions.

Along with academics and spending time with family and friends, and his love for basketball and the Lakers, Theegala always found time for golf, which has been a pivotal part of his life. He graduated from Diamond Bar High School in 2015, where he was on the All-Sierra League first team all four years. He was the Sierra League’s Athlete of the Year as a senior and the League MVP as a junior. In 2019, Theegala, then a student at Pepperdine, received the Fred Haskins Award, an honor recognizing the nation’s top college player. He is the first player from the university to get this coveted award.

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During his five years at the university, Golfweek says “Theegala took the reins of the Pepperdine program and showed the nation his talent.” Golfweek says, Theegala, a sports administration major, developed a reputation “for intentionally hitting high-handicap shots before tournaments – shanks, tops, chunks, slices, hooks, you name it – all in an effort to throw off his opponents.” 

He helped the school reach its first-ever number-one regular-season ranking in program history during the 2019-2020 season. The season was cut short because of the pandemic, but it ended the season ranked number one in the Bushnell/Golfweek coaches poll and by Golfstat.

In his senior year at Pepperdine, Theegala was the top-ranked player in the nation by both Golfstat and Golfweek/Sagarin when the season ended. He was named to the All-American first teams by both the GCAA/PING and Golfweek magazine.

(Top photo, courtesy PGA Tour)

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