Everything is bigger in Texas, a reality even the golfing world cannot escape.
But for the No. 5 UCLA men’s golf team, the 36-hole Aggie Invitational was much anticipated, as the Bruins’ trip to the Lone Star State marked the conclusion of nearly a month without team competition.
In spite of a strong final round, UCLA left Bryan, Texas tied for fifth place with host Texas A&M.
“I feel like we’re so close on so many different fronts. We just have to continue to work and make sure that we continue to progress,” said coach Derek Freeman. “Anytime you take a long time off, you’re going to have some rust, and I definitely think we had some rust. But these guys have played a lot of tournament golf in their lives, so taking a couple of weeks off shouldn’t have hurt them too badly.”
Despite the time off, senior Pontus Widegren was unwilling to blame that as the reason for the team’s performance over the weekend.
“I felt a little bit nervous if anything. Most of the nerves came from being excited to have the opportunity to play tournament golf again. I’d had two weeks off from golf but I wouldn’t really say it was rust, it was just poor execution, really,” Widegren said.
Senior Pedro Figueiredo was a bright spot for the Bruins. The Portugal native continued his strong campaign with a team-best score of 214 (-2).
As was the case during Figueiredo’s first-place finish at The Prestige, the wind was a factor this past weekend, ideal circumstances for someone with substantial European golfing experience.
“My game suits the wind. I have a pretty low ball flight and I used to play in the wind a lot back in Europe. I played a lot in England, Scotland and Ireland; places where the wind really blows. So you get used to playing with it,” Figueiredo said.
Apart from the elements, UCLA was forced to contend with the rigors of a 36-hole tournament, a task that required nearly 12 hours spent on the green.
“Patience is key for me, especially when playing 36 holes,” Widegren said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a 36-hole tournament but we’ve got two of them coming up so it was a good experience for me … going through all of the emotions you feel during the course of 12 hours on the course.”
This time, the Bruins won’t have to wait a month to compete again as a team. This weekend, the Bruins will face their second 36-hole challenge, as they prepare to travel to Santa Cruz, Calif. to compete in the Western Intercollegiate tournament. Such events present both physical and mental challenges for a golfer with limited room for error, issues that Freeman wants to emphasize in coming weeks.
“More than anything we have to help our guys not get flustered and impatient when things aren’t going well. When you’re not hitting the ball well, not hitting it close, you just have to understand that over time we’re going to overcome all of those things,” Freeman said. “I need to do a better job of making sure our guys really understand that and believe in that when they’re not pressing.”