- The 24-year-old has entered 32 events with five top-10s, highlighted by a T2 at the Travelers Championship and T3 at the WM Phoenix Open.
Indian American golfer Sahith Theegala is nominated for 2022 Rookie of the Year (Arnold Palmer Award), along with Tom Kim, and Cameron Young, the PGA Tour announced this week. Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Smith are nominees for the Player of the Year Jack Nicklaus Award.
The Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards are determined by a member vote, with PGA TOUR members who played in at least 15 official FedExCup events during the 2021-22 season eligible to vote. The voting will close on Friday, Sept. 9, at 5 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced at a later date.
The 24-year-old Theegala of Chino Hills, California, has entered 32 events with “five top-10s, highlighted by a T2 at the Travelers Championship and T3 at the WM Phoenix Open,” according to 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.
The young golfer 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.
Before entering the pro circuit, Theegala 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.
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 All-American first teams by both the GCAA/PING and Golfweek magazine.
According to a university press release, Theegala holds Pepperdine’s career records for scoring average (70.61) and below-par rounds (74).
Theegala has scoliosis, the New York Times said, adding that it causes “a pretty big bend to the right,” and is the cause of his “somewhat unorthodox swing.” The condition doesn’t cause him any pain, the Times noted but restricts certain movements.
In an in-depth profile, the New York Times says that Theegala grew up in a typical Indian American family that “emphasized academics and was enthralled by American sports,” particularly, basketball. He grew up becoming a lifelong Lakers fan. There were frequent trips to India as well, “at least once every two years,” to visit paternal and maternal grandparents.
According to the New York Times report, Theegala’s maternal grandmother came to the U.S. to help his mother, her daughter, Karuna, who was suffering from thyroid cancer. Since then The New York Times says Theegala’s grandmother, Vijaya Laxmi, has spent six months in California and six months back in India. “I’m definitely very proud of my background and my Indian heritage,” Theegala said. “But when I’m around my friends and other golfers, it’s not something that I think about.”