Oftentimes, a single win can outweigh a handful of losses, which is what the No. 5 UCLA men’s golf team found out after taking first place in the Del Walker Invitational in Long Beach.
The win marks UCLA’s first tournament victory since winning the U.S. Collegiate Championship in October.
“It’s very important. It’s been a while since we’ve won a tournament as a team,” said junior Pontus Widegren, who won all three of his matches. “It means a lot for us to get that confidence back that winning gives you, and doing it in match play is great; it prepares you well for the NCAA Championship.”
UCLA went undefeated in the tournament, beating host Long Beach State, Oregon State and No. 7 Washington.
Adding to the win’s significance is the tournament’s format: match play, the same as the final stage of the NCAA Championship in June.
“We don’t play match play a lot, but it is a part of the NCAA Championships, which is the one you win at the end of the year,” senior Alex Kim said. “It was a really good experience. To say that we won a match play tournament gives us a lot of confidence.”
Joining Widegren in success were sophomores Anton Arboleda and Patrick Cantlay, who each won two matches, with Cantlay finishing off one competitor in just 11 holes.
Making things easier for the Bruins was the fact that each player had played the course at Virginia Country Club before, including Cantlay, whose home course it is.
“Patrick at his home course is really hard to beat. You can take it for granted, but that was almost like an automatic point for us, even though he’s playing the other teams’ No. 1s,” said junior Pedro Figueiredo, who won one match and lost the other two.
In addition to the varsity team’s victory in Long Beach, UCLA’s second unit had two players atop the leader board in Goodyear, Ariz.
At the Snowman Getaway on the Palm Valley Golf Club, junior Mario Clemons finished first, shooting a 208 (-8), and freshman Jay Hwang’s 209 (-7) was good for a second-place finish.
After dropping their previous two tournaments, players return with a lighter attitude and hopes of creating momentum with the win.
“All in all, it was just a great week. We had a fun time together,” Widegren said. “It’s really fun to win with this group of guys; we’re all very close and really good golfers, so we have a great time when we’re playing.”