Nicolo Galletti, Jesse Mueller lone ASU representatives to make cut at WM Phoenix Open

Jesse Mueller, who has 24 career wins under his belt, proves he can thrive through the chaos of the WM Phoenix Open crowd. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE – Arizona State’s golf program has long been intertwined with the WM Phoenix Open, with some of the school’s most successful golfers becoming the tournament’s biggest draws. This year, however, probably only true historians of collegiate golf recognized the two ASU players who survived the cut.

TPC Scottsdale usually plays host to former ASU greats such as reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm and three-time tournament winner Phil Mickelson. This year, only a former ASU player making his PGA Tour debut, Nicolo Galletti, and another who spends most of his time with another local college program, Grand Canyon volunteer assistant coach Jesse Mueller, were there for the final two rounds.

Mueller has won 24 times as a professional, dominating the Southwest Section of the PGA and winning 17 times on the entry-level Gateway Tour.

TPC Scottsdale, and the raucous crowds that the WM Phoenix Open attracts, are familiar to Galletti and Mueller, who embrace the scene.

Mueller, has witnessed both sides of the infamous 16th-hole crowd after he had one of the best shots in the field Saturday. He had seen the not-so-pleasant side before.

“It was funny. I think I got booed five times. I got booed on the tee shot, my chip, both my putts and while leaving,” Meuller said. “It’s fun being at it just to be able to hit that shot in that kind of circumstance was awesome.”

Mueller has competed in Scottsdale before, but unlike a large portion of the field, does not compete regularly. At 40, he has carved out a tenure close to his hometown of Mesa.

Mueller is the general manager of Grand Canyon University Golf Course and serves as a volunteer assistant golf coach there. His father, Brian Mueller, is the school’s president.

“I know that I can play out here,” he said. “I’m not trying to do it full time anymore, but when I get the opportunity, it just gives me a little more confidence to know that I am able to do it.”

The confidence was key this week as Mueller became the first PGA pro from the Southwest PGA Section to make the cut at the Phoenix Open since 2005. The 2022 PGA Professional Champion rode five birdies in the second round to climb up the leaderboard. It was his third time playing at the “Greatest Show on Grass,” and he had never felt more comfortable.

However, he was ready to return to his normal life Monday in his office at the busy GCU course in the Maryvale area.

”I’m behind right now.,” he said. “(Monday) is going to be a big catch-up day for me. I’ll be in, probably like 7 (a.m.) or so. We’re packed, so they need me. I’m thankful for my staff. To take over this week, this is like our busiest week of the year, and I happen to be here the whole week.”

Galletti has been even busier.

Despite a tumultuous journey through various tours and injuries, Nicolo Galletti's debut at the WM Phoenix Open turns out to be a success. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Despite a tumultuous journey through various tours and injuries, Nicolo Galletti’s debut at the WM Phoenix Open turns out to be a success. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

He had to get into the tournament by emerging from a pre-qualifying tournament, then finishing among the top three in the PGA Tour Monday qualifier. He finished in a four-way tie for first, and when one player was eliminated on the first playoff hole, the other three had a spot in the WMPO.

Galletti wasn’t received with the fanfare that greets most former Sun Devils at the tournament. While Galletti, who was Rahm’s roommate during his time at ASU, had been to the tournament many times as a fan, he had never played in it. Or in any other PGA Tour event.

However, he had seen the crowds, experienced the energy and entered the week intending to fire up the crowd.

Galletti started to get some traction on Saturday. He made his presence known on the 16th, hitting a solid tee shot onto the green. Then the guy who had paid to sit in the seats as a fan, paid back the patrons Saturday by tossing earbuds into the crowd as he walked up to the green. When he buried a long birdie putt, the crow exploded in appreciation.

Galletti had an entourage of family and friends there to watch as he finished above the cut line and was able to make it into the final rounds.

Unlike his former roommate, Galletti’s path to the Tour has been difficult. Between various tours, he has been all over the world map. His journey has included injuries and struggles with his game, but after receiving his card for the DP World Tour, there is promise ahead.

There were six former ASU players in the field this year, but none of the headliners the tournament has drawn in the past. Mickelson left first for the LIV Tour. David Puig, who some believed had the potential to be the next star out of Tempe, also turned pro with LIV rather than pursue a PGA Tour card. Then Rahm jumped ship to the Saudi-backed league in a move that shook the world of golf.

“I get why they’re leaving,” Mueller said. “It’s hard to turn down that much money. Totally understandable. So I get it.”

Even with the absence of many ASU greats, the fans continue to support the school’s former players, and the two Sun Devils who carried the program’s banner at the TPC Scottsdale felt the love.

“Just being from Phoenix and getting a lot of support that way and then having a lot of GCU folks out here. So, both ways, it definitely felt like a home event,” Mueller said.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Stephen Buxton expects to graduate May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Buxton has experience with Varsity Sports Show calling football games for Desert Mountain this last season and AZPreps 365 reporting on local high school sports. After graduating he hopes to get a broadcasting job dreaming of one day doing play by play for football or baseball.