Talent is rarely considered a limitation, but it is this very quality that will see the Bruins without two of their most experienced golfers in today’s Pac-12 Preview.
The No. 4 UCLA men’s golf team will compete in Oregon today without seniors Pedro Figueiredo and Pontus Widegren. Both players were in Turkey this past weekend, representing their countries ““ Portugal and Sweden, respectively ““ in the Men’s World Amateur Team Championship.
Bruins coach Derek Freeman said he is excited for the opportunity to test his team’s depth.
“It’s going to be a great event, a great challenge because of the quality of the teams that will be there,” he said. “That being said, our approach doesn’t change whether or not we have Figgy or Pontus in the starting lineup.”
The loss of Figueiredo is especially significant, as the senior played the best golf of any Bruin in the team’s season-opening tournament last month. His replacement in the Preview will be Jay Hwang, a sophomore who made eight starts last season.
Hwang, who secured his starting position in the team’s intrasquad qualifier, said he is very conscious of the level of competition that he will have to match this weekend.
“I’m sure I will be nervous by the time I get to the tournament,” he said. “It’s the Pac-12; there are some strong teams. Berkeley is playing really well and Washington has two of the top-six amateurs in the world. We just have to play our own golf.”
The last time UCLA faced Cal, a strong effort by the Golden Bears brought the Bruins from an from a second-round lead to a disappointing fifth-place finish.
One Bruin who attempted to right the ship was sophomore Matt Pinizzotto, who hopes the momentum from a strong final round will help the team overcome its Pac-12 foes.
“I was happy with my last round. It was nice to get into that tournament mode and have my score count for the team. It gives me confidence moving forward for this tournament and here on out,” Pinizzotto said.
Confidence is one thing, experience is another.
UCLA’s five-man lineup will be composed of four underclassmen ““ a group that will set out to prove that their youth will not be an obstacle in closing out their first tournament victory of the season.
“They’re in great spirits and excited about competing again. We’ve had a great week of practice and it will be exciting to see these guys put into action,” Freeman said.