For the UCLA men’s golf team, the journey to being crowned Pac-12 champions begins today at the Los Angeles Country Club.
The Bruins will send six golfers to the tournament: seniors Pontus Widegren and Pedro Figueiredo, junior Anton Arboleda, redshirt sophomore Manav Shah, sophomore Jay Hwang and freshman Jonathan Garrick. The team will also serve as hosts for the tournament, which gives them the added benefit of playing at a familiar course.
“We’ve been preparing for this tournament for a long time,” Figueiredo said. “We’ve been practicing there a lot recently and I think that’s a great advantage because it’s a course where you can’t just play one practice round and figure it all out. … The greens are tricky and hard to read, so I think we’ll be more used to the lines and more aware of what the ball is going to do than the other teams.”
With strong competition, a challenging course, and the added pressure of having the Pac-12 championship on the line, several of the Bruins said the expectations and pressure are about as high as they can get.
Still, the team said they understand that they must approach it like any other tournament and that’s exactly what they have been doing.
“I think one of the keys this week is to not heighten the expectations too much,” Widegren said. “We just have to be patient and do things the correct way. There might be more outside pressure on us because we’re hosting and know the golf course, but I think the key for us is to set that aside and be as efficient as we can.”
Both Figueiredo and Widegren have been in this situation in their previous years on the team, and coach Derek Freeman has used their experience as an example for the entire team to model as they try to keep focused on the goal.
“Our approach does not change, and that’s by design,” Freeman said. “We want to approach it just like any other tournament and try to be successful there.”