The UCLA men’s golf team went to sleep Monday night with a first-place lead and dreams of an early-season tournament victory. The only problem was that they woke up.
For the No. 5 Bruins, who opened their season at the Ping/Golfweek Preview in faraway Alpharetta, Ga., the final round proved to be an unwelcome reality, as the team finished in fifth place in spite of going into the final round with a first-place lead.
“I’m happy with our guys getting us to that point; we just have to learn how to finish it off. We have a young team that needs to grow and understand the feeling of having the lead overnight and waking up the next day and playing their best golf,” said coach Derek Freeman.
The Bruins finished with a score of 854 ( 14), nine strokes behind co-champions California and Georgia Tech, and played their worst golf in the tournament’s third and final round, when they shot 288 ( 8).
It would be easy for the golfers to blame their performances in the final round upon a tough, unforgiving course, or even the cross-country travel and three-hour time difference. But this wasn’t the case, with the team focusing instead on personal accountability.
“We’ve done this before and have actually won tournaments in Georgia. We were well rested coming into this tournament, so it wasn’t fatigue or anything like that. We just came up short,” said senior Pedro Figueiredo.
In a sport that is notoriously unforgiving of technical errors, UCLA made just enough to allow the lead slip away from them. It was a reality that even Figueiredo, who led the Bruins with an overall score of 212 ( 2), good for 12th-best in the tournament, wasn’t immune to.
“My putting wasn’t great. It wasn’t great throughout all three rounds, but today it was very bad. And that’s what made the difference,” Figueiredo said. “I didn’t feel comfortable.”
One Bruin who did feel comfortable in the final round was sophomore Matt Pinizzotto, who finished the round with a score of 70 (E), the best round of the day for UCLA.
It was was his first start since seeing limited action last year.
The Bruins lineup also included two additional underclassmen ““ freshman Lorens Chan and sophomore Manav Shah.
Although the young team experienced its share of struggles, the team said the overall results were encouraging. The Bruins left Georgia without a victory, but with a common sentiment.
“We were up there with the top teams, but I still don’t think any of us played to our potential today,” said junior Anton Arboleda.
UCLA hopes this weekend’s lessons sink in quickly, as the Bruins prepare for the Pac-12 Preview on Oct. 8.
Last season, the Bruins weren’t able to break through for their first victory until their third tournament.
That year, they went on to win one more tournament and advance to the quarterfinals of the National Championship.
Freeman said he anticipates UCLA will return to similar prominance if they learn from experiences like this weekend’s.
“They’re disappointed about not playing well today but very excited about what the future holds,” he said.