Men’s golf looks to defend Southern Highlands Invitational championship

In Las Vegas, it’s unlikely to win two jackpots in a row, but the UCLA men’s golf team is trying to do just that ““ on the golf course, of course.

No. 3 UCLA will attempt to repeat as champions starting Friday at the Southern Highlands Invitational hosted by the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Because of its challenging layout and strong competition ““ the field of teams boasts four of the top 10 teams in the country, including No. 1 Oklahoma State ““ the invitational is a much-anticipated tournament for the Bruins.

Part of the challenge presented is that Southern Highlands Golf Course is known for being firm and fast, junior Pontus Widegren said. The course also has several holes with large elevation changes and protective sand bunkers, forcing golfers to alter their game accordingly.

“It’s a tough layout, it’s a class golf course,” said Widegren, the No. 25 golfer in the nation. “It takes more of you as a player to get yourself around and to play well there.”

Joining Widegren in Las Vegas will be freshman phenom Patrick Cantlay, who is coming off an individual victory at the USC Invitational and was named the Pac-10 Golfer of the Month for February.

“It’s just a byproduct of playing well, and my goal is just to play well,” Cantlay said of the award. “I keep it pretty simple.”

Although UCLA’s lineup for the tournament has not been finalized, freshman Anton Arboleda, senior Connor Driscoll and junior Gregor Main are also likely to make the trip.

Earlier this week, Main, who had uncharacteristically fallen out of the Bruins’ lineup, won the Del Walker Intercollegiate while competing as an individual.

“It was my first individual event in a long time,” Main said. “I was just motivated to try to get back in the starting lineup, so I really had to play well this week.”

Main certainly played well, finishing six strokes ahead of second place while not recording a single bogey on the final day of the tournament.

Last year at the Southern Highlands Invitational, Main dropped a 7-foot putt on his final hole to bring the Bruins into a first-place tie with UNLV.

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