If the UCLA men’s golf team lives up to its ranking, it should have no problem this weekend at the Pac-10 Championships.
Fresh off the heels of their third team victory of the season, the No. 3 Bruins head into the postseason carrying the momentum from their impressive regular season.
“We played against teams two weeks ago up in Pasatiempo, and we won by eight shots,” sophomore Pontus Widegren said. “That was a win that gave us a lot of confidence, and we’re not sure of our position in the field, but we are one of the strongest teams and we just have to prove it.”
UCLA is the top team in a conference that includes No. 18 California, No. 20 Stanford, No. 21 USC and No. 22 Oregon. Two-time defending champion Washington is not currently ranked in the nation’s top 25 teams.
The Stanford Golf Course in Palo Alto will be hosting the tournament, which includes four rounds from Friday to Sunday and is played in the six-count-five format in which each team drops the lowest score of its six players each day.
Friday, the Bruins will join the rest of the field to kick off the tournament with a two-round first day. A slow start on their first day of competition last year is something Widegren said was responsible for the team’s eighth-place finish.
“The tournament might well be decided in the last three hours of a 12-hour day on the golf course,” Widegren said. “It’s a tough first day, and I don’t think we did a great job last year in that.”
Heading to Palo Alto in the Bruins’ quest for their sixth Pac-10 championship will be freshman Patrick Cantlay, sophomores Widegren and Pedro Figueiredo, juniors Gregor Main and Alex Shi Yup Kim and senior Connor Driscoll.
While Cantlay is the No. 3 collegiate golfer in the nation, he will have to get by No. 2 Andrew Yun of Stanford if he is to join the likes of Bruin alumni Daniel Im and Corey Pavin as individual Pac-10 champions.
“I think it’s important to treat it just like any other event,” Cantlay said. “Not to do anything special or psych yourself out. I’m just going to approach it just like any other tournament.”
These players will all share a Stanford Golf Course that is not long, but challenges golfers with its narrow fairways and fast greens. Not very tricky, the course is still known as being a tough, traditional golf course. Accuracy off the tee will be essential for golfers to give themselves a chance to score.
“I’m sure they will have the rough at a very high length, so it’s going to be an advantage for anyone who drives it straight,” UCLA coach Derek Freeman said. “You’ve got to be able to place the ball in the right part of the fairway.”
If the Bruins are to win this year’s Pac-10 Championships, it is essential for every player on their roster to play well and go low.
“I think the guys feel good, and they understand that if they do what they’re supposed to do each round, they prepare the proper way and they have a good game plan, we can hopefully have some success in the postseason,” Freeman said.