- He completed the Korn Ferry Tour ranked eighth, following a 4th and 6th place in the final two events of the year.
Indian American Sahith Theegala has earned his 2022 PGA Tour playing rights, following two top 6 finishes in the final events of the Korn Ferry Tour. The top 25 ranked players at the end of the Korn Ferry tour earned their PGA Tour cards.
Theegala finished the tournament ranked eighth following a 4th and 6th place in the final two events of the year, reported India Golf Digest. “Playing in the last event of the three-event stretch of KFT Finals, Theegala shot 69-71-68-67 (13-under 275) to finish solo-6th at the KFT Championship. Last week, at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, he shot 14-under total to finish tied-4th. This year, the 23-year-old earned sponsor invitations to six events on the PGA Tour, per India Golf Digest. Last year, he made cuts in three matches, with a season ranking of $170,000. His best performance last year was in the $6 million Safeway Open in September, where he ranked 14th.
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.
“In light of what’s going on, I’m proud of who I am and what I’m adding to the golf community in terms of diversity,” he told the New York Times last year. “Ultimately, we’re all trying to do the same thing in pro golf and that makes a successful career. Hopefully, there is some inspiration behind that, for people who watch me and realize that you don’t have to be the stereotypical white golfer.”
His father, Muralidhar Theegala, who immigrated to the U.S. from Hyderabad, is hopeful, as well. “I always believed that my boy is something special,” he told the New York Times. “Hopefully things work out, and by the grace of God, he’ll do wonderful. But I believe that he was born to do something great.”
In an in-depth profile, the New York Times reveals 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.”
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.
It’s no wonder that Theegala’s golf record made him a sought-after asset by a lot of schools, but Golf Digest reported that he committed to Pepperdine, because “playing at a mid-major, albeit in glamorous Malibu, and staying close to home was more Theegala’s speed.”
On the college website, Theegala wrote that he chose to attend Pepperdine because of “the amazing coaches, great location, awesome campus, close to home, the school’s small feel, the good academics and the great golf facilities.”
During his five years at the university, Golfweek says “Theegala took the reigns 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’s favorite thing about golf, according to information on the Pepperdine website is that even though the sport may not necessarily require the most physical ability, it needs “mental toughness,” to play it “at a high level,” and “requires your attention all the time.” During is golf career he did face a few setbacks, especially during his senior year.
In January 2019, Theegala had wrist surgery and missed 10 months. The Golf Channel reported then that “the long layoff, however, matured Theegala, giving him better perspective, making him a better teammate.” Despite not being able to play, he insisted on traveling with the team to regionals and nationals that year. He returned to playing in June 2019 with a tournament at Sunnehanna Country Club in Pennsylvania.
Earlier last year, a few days after Kobe Bryant, Theegala’s childhood hero, died in a plane crash on Jan. 26, he played the Southwestern Invitational at North Ranch Country Club in West Village, California. Bryant’s helicopter reportedly crashed less than a mile from Theegala’s apartment.
Golf Channel reported that during that tournament, Theegala wore Bryant’s jersey for the final two putts, “followed that performance with a truly Mamba-like run – top-6s in three of the spring’s toughest events, the Amer Ari, Prestige and Southern Highlands.” He later told the Golf Channel that “there were so many stars that seemed to align perfectly for this year to be our year.”