Devon Bling didn’t even know it went in.
“As we were driving up, I didn’t see a ball around the hole anywhere,” the sophomore said. “Originally, I thought I hit it long.”
Coach Derek Freeman couldn’t tell where it went either – the view of the pin was blocked by a bunker in front of the green. But Freeman did say Bling’s tee shot on the seventh hole was nearly perfect.
“It was his best golf shot of the tournament,” Freeman said. “It looked under control, it looked like he knew what he was trying to do, how he was trying to hit the shot, he had great balance – those are all things that are important to his golf swing. He just hit a beautiful golf shot right at the pin.”
Sophomore Eddy Lai was the one who discovered the ball nestled in the bottom of the hole, and he and Bling went on to celebrate Bling’s first collegiate hole-in-one.
While Bling may have had the highlight play of the week, UCLA men’s golf finished in sixth place with a 17-under 835 at the Arizona Intercollegiate in the team’s first tournament of the spring season. Bling finished last among the five Bruins at the tournament, but his 1-under final round Tuesday was his best of the week.
Junior Hidetoshi Yoshihara was UCLA’s top golfer, finishing the week with an 8-under 205 and tying for eighth-place in the process. Yoshihara was tied for third heading into Tuesday after he shot 67 and 68 in the two 18-hole rounds Monday.
The junior said the long, 36-hole day was tough for him stamina-wise, but getting a second look at the same holes on the same day made it easier the second time around.
“We also got carts for the tournament, so it wasn’t that bad,” Yoshihara said. “And it helped a lot with course management and strategy, for sure.”
Behind Yoshihara’s top-three day, UCLA entered Tuesday tied with Arizona for second place and five strokes behind Arizona State.
But a 1-under, 283-stroke performance for the Bruins in the final round left them in the Wildcats’ and Sun Devils’ dust.
“We got cold, our putters got cold, we missed some opportunities early and we just never could get it going for the rest of the day,” Freeman said. “When you don’t make birdies on this golf course, you fall back, and that’s what happened.”
Arizona won the tournament, with Arizona State three strokes back, while UCLA saw the five-stroke deficit grow to 20 by the end of the final round. Yoshihara had some tips for the Bruins to be more efficient and said he still had high expectations for the fresh spring season.
“Preparation is a big part of it, I think we need to train a little bit better,” Yoshihara said. “Besides that, I think we’ve got a good chance of winning this year, for sure. We’re pretty excited for the rest of the season.”
UCLA also sent three players to the Arizona Medalist on the other side of Tuscon. Freshman Bryan Wiyang Teoh tied for fifth with a 7-under 209, while seniors Patrick Murphy and Jack Ireland tied for 10th and 18th, respectively.
UCLA will have three weeks off before hitting the links at the Prestige at PGA West in La Quinta, California, on Feb. 18.