Today 7 a.m.
Bel-Air Country Club
They say familiarity breeds contempt, as if UCLA and USC needed any more reasons to dislike each other. After competing in many of the same tournaments throughout the year, the UCLA and USC men’s golf teams will conclude their regular seasons with a unique head-to-head match play event beginning today at Bel-Air Country Club.
This will be the first time any of the current Bruin golfers, including veteran starter and senior Pontus Widegren, will get the chance to face their crosstown rivals one-on-one.
“We’ve actually never done this the four years I’ve been here. It’s a different format, but it’s a lot of fun, I think,” Widegren said. “It’s always fun to play against them. It’s a great rivalry between the schools. … It’s not as bloody as the football rivalry, but we definitely want to beat them and they obviously want to beat us, so it makes for a good matchup.”
While the players are certainly excited for this unique opportunity, they haven’t let it distract them from their ultimate goal: the postseason.
Rather than shift their focus to the head-to-head matchup, the UCLA golfers and coaches are looking at the competition as a chance to gear up for a deep postseason run.
“It will be real nice to have some actual competition before the Pac-12 Championships, especially against a strong team like USC,” said senior Pedro Figueiredo, who won the individual tournament title at the Western Intercollegiate this past weekend.
Not only will the Bruins get a chance to gear up for postseason play, they’ll get a look at someone they could potentially face again very soon.
“It’s six head-to-head matches and its likely to be their line-up that we’ll play against at the Pac-12 Championships at L.A. (Country Club) in a couple weeks so it’ll be a good little preview,” Widegren said.
In a sport that is both highly mental and physical, losing focus on the ultimate goal can often be the difference between hoisting the trophy and coming in second.
UCLA coach Derek Freeman knows this and has been preaching to his players the importance of using each event as a building block.
“More than anything, this is good preparation for the NCAA championships,” Freeman said.
“Because when you get into the finals of the NCAAs, the top eight teams go into match play, so this is great practice for that.”