Laughter was thick in the air as the Bruins sat on the team bus, riding home from their first tournament victory of the season.
It was a sound that proved victory wasn’t the only thing the fourth-ranked UCLA men’s golf team took home from the inaugural Stanford Classic at Cypress Point Golf Club.
“I saw a lot of great things that I normally don’t see. Guys are talking about shots, they’re helping each other out and doing everything they can to help their teammate,” said coach Derek Freeman.
“Normally, guys are worried about their own shots. You have this team bonding experience that is great for down the road, the postseason and everything we want to do later on in the season.”
The victory was a breath of fresh air for the Bruins, who, after a somewhat slow start to the season, have enjoyed second- and first-place finishes in their last two tournaments.
The tournament was unique not only in that it was the Bruins’ first match-play experience of the season, but also because of the prestige and beauty of the Cypress Point Golf Course, an exclusive and unique gem that rests adjacent to Pebble Beach.
“The golf course is spectacular; some of the views are incredible,” said senior Pontus Widegren.
Widegren’s sentiments were echoed by senior Pedro Figueiredo, who recently returned to the United States following an international tour that forced him to miss the team’s last two tournaments.
“This course made the tournament special. Cypress Point was definitely the best course I’ve played at so far. It felt great to be back with my teammates,” Figueiredo said.
UCLA was split into three pairs, a format that the team was well-prepared for ““ as evidenced by its victories over Georgia, Texas and, in the final day, an 18-6 victory against Duke.
“I felt really comfortable with (sophomore teammate) Matt (Pinizzotto), we matched up really well. I think we had a little advantage over the other teams because we felt so good playing together and had good chemistry in all of our pairings,” Widegren said.
The Bruins won’t have long to bask in the afterglow of their victory, however, as they will be traveling to San Martin, Calif. in less than a week to compete in the Gifford Collegiate Championship. Freeman believes, though, that this quick turnaround will not prove too large an obstacle for a team that has overcome its slow start in convincing fashion.
“It’s a tight group. They all are trying to get better, figuring out a way to become the very best. All of our guys are doing that. They’re all pushing each other, trying their hardest to be successful,” Freeman said. “They’re responding really well to the idea that no matter how much success we have, we always have room for improvement.”