The UCLA men’s golf team will look to tee off its season the same way they hope to end it ““ with a victory at Karsten Creek Golf Course.
The No. 9 Bruins head to Stilwater, Okla., this weekend for the Ping/Golfweek Preview hosted by Oklahoma State. The tournament takes place at the same course where the NCAA Championship will take place in June, making it a great opportunity for teams to get a feel for the course that will determine this year’s national champion.
“We have a young team, it’s a challenging golf course, and it’s a place that I wanted these guys to see,” coach Derek Freeman said.
“It’s not normally a tournament that we go to. I just felt like this was a good opportunity for our guys to get some good competition on the national championship course.”
UCLA will certainly get some good competition this weekend. Of the 15 teams competing in the tournament, 14 are ranked in Golfweek’s preseason top 25 including No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Augusta State and No. 3 Georgia.
Making the trip for the Bruins will be juniors Gregor Main and Alex Shi Yup Kim, sophomores Pedro Figueiredo and Pontus Widegren, and freshman Patrick Cantlay.
Main and Kim are both ranked in the top 50 of Golfweek’s individual rankings and will likely lead the Bruins in their first tournament of the fall season.
“We’re getting there early and getting ready and trying to play the course as much as we can,” Main said. “Hopefully it will better prepare us for nationals when it really counts for that final tournament of our season.”
Freshman Cantlay will be making his UCLA debut. Cantlay, who won the CIF State High School Championship while he was at Servite, is coming off an impressive summer during which he advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Championship.
“(Cantlay has) got a game that’s just very, very good: doesn’t get into a lot of trouble, hits it straight off the tee, chips and putts it well,” Freeman said. “It’s just a matter for him to be in this sort of competition, this high level, and really see where he stacks up compared to the rest of the world.”
The Bruins have not played in the Ping/Golfweek Preview since 2004 when they finished in 12th place, and have not won the tournament since 2003 when they captured first place both as a team and individually.
The tournament will be played in the five-count-four format in which a team has five players compete and drops the lowest score each day.
While much of the talk surrounding the tournament has focused on the course’s national championship implications, Kim said that he will head into this tournament as he would any other.
“I think we’ve got to approach it the same way ““ it’s still a golf tournament,” Kim said. “So maybe pay a little more attention to the golf course, but other than that you have to approach it the same way.”