In last week’s Golfweek Preseason Men’s Team Rankings, Arizona State was ranked the No. 5 team in the nation and was expected to build upon last year’s appearance in the National Championship finals.
However, those hopes took a blow on Monday. One of the nation’s top amateur golfers, David Puig, announced his intention to void his senior year of eligibility at Arizona State and sign a pro contract with the newly formed LIV Golf. With their top player now moving on, the rest of the Sun Devils golf squad will be left to fill Puig’s massive shoes.
Replacing a two-time All-American and the ninth-ranked amateur in the world is quite the tall task, which becomes even harder with the timing since the season has already begun. So who can step up to the tee for Coach Matt Thurmond and lead the Sun Devils through this untimely departure?
The youth movement will likely be relied upon in Tempe to live up to the numbers Puig posted. Highly touted freshman Luke Potter is expected to play a big role on the team this season and those expectations just increased. Early on, it seems like the No. 1 recruit from the class of 2022 was up to the challenge as he holed seven birdies in his debut at the Jim Maui Invitational last weekend. Thurmond’s praises for the former California State Individual Champion were high during the preseason and so far, Potter’s proved him right.
Aside from Potter, young talent is aplenty on a roster that not only lost Puig but a good amount of senior experience. The reigning Pac-12 Freshman of The Year Preston Summerhays is looking to build upon a fantastic 71.33 stroke average in 2021, the second-highest among freshmen Sun Devils in the program’s history. With eight top-10 finishes in 13 tournaments as a rookie, Summerhays will take a step up both as a golfer and leader for one of the nation’s top squads.
The true high horse of this team though is senior Ryggs Johnston, whose already off to a hot start in the 2022 season. In the Jim Maui Invitational last weekend, Johnston ended the tournament at 12-under par, good for 5th among the individuals while spearheading the Sun Devils to a second-place finish at Mirabel Golf Club in Scottsdale. After finishing as a third-team All-American selection in 2021, Johnston’s talent and experience will be leaned on by Coach Thurmond this season.
These three stars, alongside talented underclassmen, have the ability to pick up the slack with ease following Puig’s departure. Their first official match without the newest member of the LIV Tour will be September 16th at the Fighting Illini Invitational in Olympia Fields, Illinois.