Precision shots are essential when playing a course as treacherous as the one at San Diego Country Club, where even the slightest mistake can prove costly.
The price the No. 3 UCLA men’s golf team paid for its miscues was a combined score of 884 ( 20) for the San Diego Intercollegiate Classic tournament, resulting in a third-place finish behind No. 9 USC and No. 5 Washington.
“If you didn’t place your ball in the right position, sometimes the best you could’ve done was bogey,” said senior Alex Kim, who finished tied for 10th with a 220 ( 4) after shooting a tournament-low 68 (-4) in the final day of the San Diego Intercollegiate Classic.
“You couldn’t hit bad shots and get away with it on this course; it really exposed your bad shots.”
The favorable conditions and friendly course the Bruins experienced at their previous event, the Amer Ani Invitational in Hawaii, provided a stark contrast to the San Diego Intercollegiate Classic, which was marred by bad weather, a challenging course and playing three rounds in two days.
The combination transformed the golf course into a formidable opponent for the entire field.
“(On) this golf course, it was like you were just trying to survive, it was so tough,” Kim said.
On a course where long drives are not necessary, an effective short game and close approaches are key to staying on top of the leaderboard.
“The course requires a lot of accuracy, and you really have to be on top of your iron game,” said junior Pontus Widegren, who shot a 223 ( 7) for the tournament.
“The course demanded more than we showed up with, and that’s why we finished in third. I don’t think we played our best at all,” he added.
In his first event with the varsity team since October, freshman Jay Hwang fell victim to the pitfalls of the tournament’s gold course, shooting 229 ( 13) over two days, but he gained important experience.
“It’s invaluable. It says a lot for him, and it shows that there’s a lot of improvement and areas of growth that he needs to understand, and he does,” coach Derek Freeman said.
“He’s willing to learn and do what he needs to do,” he added.
Although UCLA did not play up to expectations, members of the team will once again use what they learned in this defeat to capitalize in the long run.
“The more times I can put these guys in tough conditions, pressure situations, hard courses and professional tournaments, it’s going to pay off in the end,” Freeman said.
The Bruins will have the week off from competition following the three rounds in two days the team played in San Diego.
UCLA’s next competition will take place against Long Beach State at the Del Walker Invitational, held at the Virginia Country Club.