Coming off of a quarterfinals exit against Florida in last year’s NCAA Championship, Virginia has supplanted itself right back amongst the nation’s best with a No. 13 ranking heading into the beginning of the season. The Cavaliers took convincing wins at the Streamsong Invitational and the Hamptons Intercollegiate last year along with a string of wins and top-five finishes for individual players. With similar hopes ahead for the fall and spring seasons, here is a quick look into some of the old faces, as well as a few new ones, that are sure to make an impact on this year’s squad.
Sophomore Ben James
In his freshman season, James quickly fulfilled his role as Virginia’s newest prodigy, grabbing individual wins at the Streamsong Invitational, Hamptons Intercollegiate, General Hackler Championship and the NCAA Las Vegas Regional, along with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz.. These performances earned him the 2023 Phil Mickelson Outstanding Freshman Award given to the best freshman golfer of the year and a First Team PING All-American nod.
He built on these achievements over the summer with his second career PGA Tour appearance at the Travelers Championship, a trip to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Amateur, and key match wins in a spectacular victory for the U.S. in the Walker Cup last weekend. It is safe to say that the Cavaliers’ season will rely on the ability of their best player to continue his winning ways in his sophomore year.
Junior Deven Patel
Patel’s sophomore season got off to a hot start with an early second-place individual finish at the Hamptons Intercollegiate. Unfortunately, he struggled to get his name high up on the leaderboard throughout the rest of the season until he found his way again at the NCAA Las Vegas Regional, posting Virginia’s second-best score and earning himself a 14th-place individual finish. It will be important for Coach Bowen Sargent and the rest of the coaching staff to maximize his good performances and limit the midseason slump he found himself in last year.
Freshman Josh Duangmanee
The Cavaliers were lucky to reign in the top-ranked high school junior player in the state of Virginia for the class of 2023. A 6A state champion in his junior year and a runner-up as a senior at Fairfax High School, Duangmanee has performed at every level of junior golf and established himself as one of the best recruits in the country. He will look to join his older brother, Virginia senior George Duangmanee, amongst the starting group and, although some struggles are bound to meet him eventually during his opening campaign in orange and blue, his propensity to put up low scores across varying competition levels could mean a lot not only for the Cavaliers’ performance this season but also for the hopes of the program in years to come.
Sophomore Bryan Lee
Another Fairfax product who has already made an impact early in his collegiate career is Bryan Lee. The sophomore burst onto the scene with a runner-up individual finish at the Wake Forest Invitational during his freshman season, and fans can certainly expect more to come from Lee as he matures into a mainstay within the Cavaliers’ starting group. Lee was one of only two Cavaliers who won their NCAA Quarterfinals match against Florida, beating the future individual champion Fred Biondi. This pedigree at such a young stage in his career makes him one of the foremost players to watch coming into this new year of Virginia golf.
With many returning players from last year’s team that took Virginia the farthest it has ever gone in NCAA competition, the 2023-24 season looks very bright for the Cavaliers. With a multitude of players sharpening their skills over the summer in some of the most high-profile events on the amateur golf calendar, coaches and fans alike will expect to pay big dividends from all of the players above — and a few more — during this upcoming season, beginning with the Valero Texas Collegiate in San Antonio this weekend. The first round will begin Saturday, and action can be tracked through the Virginia golf Twitter account.