As the No. 3 UCLA men’s golf team prepares to enter NCAA regional play, senior Alex Kim will look to take his college career full circle.
The Central Regional will be hosted at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ky., where, in his freshman year, Kim and the Bruins took first on their way to nationals.
“This was the first victory we had that year, so that brings out a lot of good memories,” Kim said. “It’s a really good golf course and I’m looking forward to playing it.”
Kim remains the only current golfer from that team, but he returns accompanied by four fresh faces who have the Bruins in a position to replicate the 2009 success.
Junior Pontus Widegren, who has been pivotal in helping UCLA secure the region’s top seed, has struggled lately, failing to finish better than 36th place in the last two tournaments.
The Bruins have had an abundance of time since their last tournament at the end of April to refine the areas of their games in need of improvement.
Widegren, a fixture for UCLA atop individual leaderboards throughout most of the year, will look to capitalize on the last two weeks he has had to train ““ time he has used to put an emphasis on improving one aspect of his play in particular.
“I’ve been working a lot on my driving; putting the ball in play off of the tee. That’s a big key for me,” said Widegren, who hopes accurate tee shots will allow him to take advantage of other parts of his game. “My short game has been great all season long, so if I can just give myself opportunities I know I’ll play well.”
After weeks of practice, sophomore Anton Arboleda is optimistic the national stage will provide him with an opportunity to elevate his play.
“I’ve been tuning up my game and playing a lot lately. I’ve played steady in the last couple tournaments, but I haven’t had any really good tournaments,” Arboleda said. “I just have to stay patient out there, and good things will happen.”
While the course will be foreign to most of the players, there are two things they are certain to encounter in Kentucky: heat and humidity.
“Whenever it’s hot and humid, the ball compresses a little bit more, so you’re able to hit the ball further,” Widegren said of the effects of the weather. “So that might be a bit of an adjustment for us to make in the practice round.”
Although UCLA’s top priority is finishing in the top five in order to advance to the NCAA Championship, the Bruins will look for a repeat of the team’s performance four years ago.
“We’re looking forward to playing well and not only qualifying for nationals, but winning the tournament,” Arboleda said.