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Two players with local ties win NCAA golf championship at Pepperdine

Pepperdine Athletics
From left, Pepperdine’s Clay Feagler, Joe Highsmith, Joey Vrzich, Dylan Menante and William Mouw pose with the NCAA Championship trophy. Vrzich and Menante both have local ties. (Roger Horne and Morgan Davenport/Pepperdine Athletics)

The Pepperdine men's golf team won a national championship Wednesday, and two-fifth of the Waves' starting lineup had strong ties to Northern Nevada.

Senior Joey Vrzich began his college career at Nevada, playing for the Wolf Pack for two seasons before transferring to Pepperdine. And sophomore Dylan Menante was born in Reno to two parents who played for the Wolf Pack.

No. 3-seeded Pepperdine beat top-seeded Oklahoma in the match play championship Thursday at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Thirty teams advanced to the national championship from the NCAA Regional round, which Nevada compete in. The top-eight teams at nationals moved on to the match play portion of the tournament. Pepperdine finished third among teams that qualified for match play with Menante finishing tied for 17th individually (3 over) and Vrzich tying for 22nd individually (4 over).

In the match play quarterfinals, Pepperdine beat Florida State, 3-1-1. Vrzich won his match, 4 and 3, and Menante tied his opponent. In the semifinals, the Waves rolled over Oklahoma State, 3-0-2, with Menante winning his matchup, 3 and 2, and Vrzich earning a tie. In the championship round, Pepperdine beat Oklahoma, 3-2. Menante and Vrzich both lost their matchups 1 up. But Pepperdine got victories from its three other players to clinch the national championship.

Vrzich, a native of El Cajon, Calif., starred at Nevada from 2017-19, helping the Wolf Pack reach an NCAA Regional both seasons. As a sophomore, he won two events and finished runner-up twice more en route to All-Mountain West honors. He then transferred to Pepperdine, which at the time was the No. 1 team in the nation.

While enjoying his time at Nevada, the transfer to Pepperdine was necessary to get Vrzich to the next level, he said at the time.

“He was a big fish in a small pond, and then he just decided he wasn’t getting any better, so he needed to become a guppy and he had to fight,” his mother, Nicol, said in a recent Golf Channel story on Vrzich.

Menante was born in Reno before his family moved to the Carlsbad, Calif., area. His father, Dean, went to Reno High and golfed for the Wolf Pack. His mother, Lisa, was a Wolf Pack tennis player. The Menante surname dates back many generations in Northern Nevada to the early 1900s when Reno Vulcanizing Works was formed in 1920 by Italian immigrant Frank Menante.

In his second season at Pepperdine, Menante earned his way into the starting lineup and averaged 70.74 strokes per round, second on the team behind only Vrzich, who averaged 70.11 strokes per round. Vrzich and Menante both had six top-10 finishes this season and were two of Pepperdine's most consistent players. Vrzich finished the year ranked 18th in the nation in the GolfStat college rankings; Menante was 54th.

The championship was long awaited for for Pepperdine, which was the No. 1-ranked team last season and the favorite to win the national title before COVID-19 canceled the rest of the season. Despite losing three-time All-American and Haskins Award winner Sahith Theegala and first-team All-American William Mouw during the offseason, Pepperdine earned its second national title in school history and first since 1997 with Wednesday's victory.

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