WM Phoenix Open: Spurred by family support, Sahith Theegala records life-changing finish

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Sahith Theegala stood beside the 17th tee box at TPC Scottsdale late Saturday afternoon. The No. 318 player in the world waited there because the No. 4 player in the world, Patrick Cantlay, was lining up his par putt on the reachable green.

Beside Theegala, two of golf’s biggest stars — Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele — prepared for shots of their own, each pining for the 54-hole lead. But from the makeshift stands separating holes 16 and 17, the chant wasn’t about Koepka or Schauffele. Instead, it was a drunken cheer of “Let’s Go Heeth.”

That the fans mispronounced Theegala’s name didn’t particularly matter.

“Is this the most wild s–t ever?” Carl Smith, Theegala’s caddie, said, walking up to Josh Loyo, his trainer.

For those most invested in Theegala’s journey, the answer is yes.

That’s why, on Sunday morning, dozens of members of Theegala’s family lined the first tee box, waiting for the hero they call son, or nephew, or brother, or cousin to start his final round — which he began with a one-shot lead.

“It means a lot,” Theegala, who was a sponsor’s exemption at the WM Phoenix Open, said of the support from his family. “That’s awesome that they feel like I’m somebody they can root for. Yeah, it means a lot to me, and hopefully, I can keep being someone that they can root for.”

The ringleader of this group is unquestionably Muralidhar Theegala, Sahith’s dad.

Thirty-five years ago, Muralidhar made the most important step in the family’s journey, when he immigrated to the United States from Hyderabad, India. As an undergraduate student interested in pursuing a master’s in industrial engineering, Muralidhar worked on research with a professor who recommended he attend Kansas State for graduate school.

Initially, Muralidhar planned to return to India after finishing his studies, but he “fell in love” with the U.S. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, many members of the Theegala family made similar moves, establishing a base in southern California.

In the years after Sahith was born in 1997, the family bond strengthened, with birthday parties serving as regular reunions.

“That’s what we do as a family,” Muralidhar said. “We always love to meet each other.”

All of which brings us to Sunday.

Speaking beside the eighth green, Muralidhar pauses mid-sentence when Sahith begins lining up a putt. It’s a difficult, multi-level putt that requires a deft touch to even get close to the hole.

Theegala judges it perfectly, leaving himself with a tap-in for par. Standing beside his cousin and son, Muralidhar leans back, raising both his arms in the air and yelling, “Great putt buddy, great putt,” before high-fiving everyone in sight. Typically, this celebration is reserved for birdies — of which Theegala had 24 this week. But the eighth hole had been a trouble spot, with two bogeys in his first three rounds.

“After this hole, everything

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By: Theo Mackie
Title: WM Phoenix Open: Spurred by family support, Sahith Theegala records life-changing finish
Sourced From: golfweek.usatoday.com/2022/02/15/wm-phoenix-open-sahith-theegala-family-life-changing-finish/
Published Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2022 12:00:02 +0000

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