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Vanderbilt standout Gordon Sargent elects to return for senior season

8 Min Read


Vanderbilt standout Gordon Sargent elects to return for senior season

With a TOUR card secured for June 2025, Sargent stays at Vanderbilt for his final season, deferring his Accelerated performance benefits

    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    Gordon Sargent is ready for one more ride.

    The standout Vanderbilt junior announced Thursday that he will return to Vanderbilt for his senior season, deferring his performance benefits from eclipsing the PGA TOUR University Accelerated 20-point threshold.

    Sargent was eligible to accept PGA TOUR membership this June but will wait until he turns professional in June 2025. He will then have exempt TOUR membership through the 2026 PGA TOUR season.

    "I am excited to announce that I’ll be returning to Vanderbilt for my senior year in 2024-25,” said Sargent. “It’s been an honor to represent this university alongside my teammates and coaches, and I look forward to continuing to compete - and further my education - at this amazing place that has given so much to me.”

    The PGA TOUR University Accelerated program was announced in November 2022 as a way for high-achieving underclassmen – juniors, sophomores or freshmen – to earn PGA TOUR membership. Players earn points based on their accomplishments in college, amateur and professional golf. If a player earns at least 20 points by the end of his third year of NCAA eligibility, he becomes eligible for TOUR membership. Sargent’s performance benefits closely resemble those earned by the No. 1 player in the final PGA TOUR University Ranking.

    Sargent is the first player to earn TOUR membership via PGA TOUR University Accelerated, and he’s the first to earn a TOUR card on collegiate merit prior to his senior year.

    In an exclusive interview with PGATOUR.COM, Sargent explained why he decided to stay, where he can still improve, and what he’s learned from Nick Dunlap.

    “Being with my teammates, traveling to some great places–it's one of those situations where you kind of never want to leave.”

    Gordon Sargent

    Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    PGATOUR.COM: Take us through the timeline of how you decided to stay at Vandy another year. You crossed the threshold for PGA TOUR Accelerated, and then…

    SARGENT: I got (to 20 points) in October in Abu Dhabi (at the World Amateur Team Championships) and then reviewed my options over the offseason. I was kind of hoping a decision would come clear, and obviously, nothing's just going to. There's not going to be a perfect answer. After playing a few college events in the spring, I think you really appreciate how much you enjoy college golf. I've talked to Nick (Dunlap) a little bit since he's turned pro, and it's one of those things where you're only going to have four years in college. My dream is playing on the PGA TOUR. With having the same status if I come back to school for one year, it was kind of a no-brainer. I can still take advantage of another year of school, be with my teammates, get my degree and continue to get better.

    If you talk to anybody who's played college golf, they really do say it's the best time of your life. I definitely valued that. I don't think anybody was going to be mad at me if I left or mad at me if I stayed. But after reviewing with my parents, coaches and team-wise, it just seemed like it was the best thing for me. I could stay in Nashville and continue to get better. And I mean, obviously, it worked for Ludvig (Åberg), him staying all four years. It kind of seemed like one of those decisions where with how competitive college golf is, you're kind of prepping for the PGA TOUR in college and I feel like having another year definitely would not hurt.

    PGATOUR.COM: What advice did Nick Dunlap give you?

    SARGENT: Obviously after him winning, he's playing well, it’s a no-brainer to take advantage of those (2024) Signature Events. Obviously, the adaption was going to be tough, I mean it’s the next day, he's a PGA TOUR pro and I can tell you a week before he probably wasn't necessarily thinking that. So even with me being able to plan for however many months, it still kind of seemed like, personally, I just wanted to have another year to just continue to develop. I feel like I can get the most out of the prep. Nick started to play a little bit better recently, he played well in Houston, but in talking to him, he definitely misses college a little bit, hanging out with teammates and stuff. Pro golf is definitely a different animal. So yeah, I mean we didn't necessarily talk a ton about that. He definitely loves the situation he's in, but I think anyone you talk to on the PGA TOUR would say the more time you have to prep before you get to the PGA TOUR, then the better off you're going to be.

    PGATOUR.COM Sounds like you basically said, “Hey, things are moving fast, I would like to slow down for one more year.”

    SARGENT: For sure. I would have good status if I turned pro this June and it was one of those decisions where it's like, is there a right or a wrong answer? Probably not. But I have been a planner my whole life, so it's nice to–I can plan that I have one more year and turn pro next June. I continue to have that freedom of getting better, being with my teammates and then the decision's already made. It just seemed like everything fit the mold more perfectly when it came to staying another year, continuing to develop and trying to almost use it as a “TOUR” year, trying new things, trying to be a pro golfer in college, which I feel like is definitely possible with how good college golf is now.

    For me, it’s trying to make the transition that much smoother. I feel like watching Ludvig, you can tell it's not like he's trying to learn courses and learn how to be a PGA TOUR player. I feel like he did a really good job of his senior year, playing it like a “TOUR” year and then when he came out on TOUR, you could tell he was ready.

    PGATOUR.COM: You played the Masters, a couple of TOUR events – are there areas of your game that you’d still like to refine before you start full-time on TOUR?

    SARGENT: The bad shots, where they end up, is the biggest thing when you watch a PGA TOUR player when they're on. Their misses are in better spots. So just continuing to develop consistency–Scottie Scheffler was a great example of playing boring golf, right? He's not doing anything crazy, not doing anything stupid. You can do that in college golf. I mean, is it going to be as fun? Maybe not, but just kind of seeing and making slow progress. Even this spring, (I) feel like I haven't played very well in the first couple events, but I felt like I matured and found ways to hit different shots and had the freedom to work on things that I know that I'll need.

    I feel like that's one of the real big benefits in college is that, every single week on the PGA TOUR you're trying to win. As a college program, we have had our eyes on the NCAAs all year, but if we have to take a step back at one tournament, I don't think it's too big of a deal – just being able to have the freedom to work on things. Being with my teammates, traveling to some great places–it's one of those situations where you kind of never want to leave.

    PGATOUR.COM: Did you feel pressure – external or internal – to turn professional now?

    SARGENT: I think from people who've never played college golf, who don't understand the situation that college golfers are in, where it's the best time in their lives. I didn't love the idea of not knowing what the next couple of months held, so I may have put a little bit of pressure on myself. I was trying to make a decision, but I figured, get through the first few events in the spring and it'll kind of unfold itself. I just came to the point where everyone around me decided staying was a good option, and if pro golf is always going to be there and you can have another year to get some reps under your belt, I feel like it's really beneficial.

    PGATOUR.COM: What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to over the next year now that you know you’re staying in college?

    SARGENT: Being on a new team is always fun. I think being a senior will be cool, too, just kind of being one of the leaders. Obviously, Jackson (Van Paris) and I will be the two seniors, so it'll be nice to be one of the guys on the team that everyone looks up to. It'll be cool next year when we have some younger guys, we can as seniors go to take some freshmen, sophomores under our belt and see how good we can get. I think there were a lot of expectations this year and we're looking forward to the postseason, but I think just staying another year, being a senior, enjoying the college life and while also knowing, I mean knowing there's a PGA TOUR card still waiting for you, it gives you a lot of freedom if you need to make some changes. Then off the golf course, just continue to mature as a person and just better prepare myself for the future.

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