The Bruins were just four shots away from winning their first tournament of the year.
UCLA men’s golf finished third at the Marquette Intercollegiate at Erin Hills Golf Course in Erin Hills, Wisconsin, with a 5-under 859. Purdue and Northwestern placed first and second, respectively, and all three of the top teams were within four shots of each other.
“All we’re looking for is a chance to win and we did – we had a chance,” said coach Derek Freeman. “It was a battle with three teams until the very end, and we had an opportunity to win and we came up a little bit short. The other team made some putts and we missed some putts – four shots between first and third is not a lot.”
After the first round of competition, the Bruins were on top of the standings with a 4-over 292 but the rest of the field was close behind. Each of the 12 teams finished the first day within 11 strokes of each other, which Freeman attributed to the good weather conditions.
UCLA dropped into second place after the second round Monday, shooting an even par in comparison to Purdue’s 10-under 278. Five of the 12 teams finished under par in the second round, which Freeman said bunched the field going into day three.
“The round that probably hurt us was the second round,” Freeman said. “It was good conditions, and we did not play very well. That was our chance to break away from everybody and because we didn’t do that, we let everybody back in the tournament.”
UCLA’s 9-under 279 in the final round wasn’t enough to retake the top spot. Instead, UCLA dropped to third as Northwestern shot a 13-under 275 on Tuesday and Purdue remained in the top spot.
Junior Eddy Lai’s 4-under 212 was good for a fifth-place tie and for UCLA’s top score. He climbed five spots in the last two rounds, birdying three of the last five holes on both Monday and Tuesday.
“I don’t think I played that great any of the days – all three days I just finished (very) strong,” Lai said. “I knew the easy holes were toward the end of the round. … I thought I did a good job capitalizing on that.”
Senior Hidetoshi Yoshihara was next up for the Bruins, finishing tied for 10th after making five birdies in his final round. Sophomore Bryan Wiyang Teoh tied for 12th, junior Devon Bling tied for 19th and sophomore Sean Maruyama tied for 50th.
Yoshihara improved each day, shooting a 73 on Sunday, a 71 on Monday and a 70 on Tuesday. Wiyang Teoh scored 1-over 73s on days one and two before finishing the tournament with a 3-under 69 on the final day.
“I was trying to stay a little more committed, because in the first and second rounds I wasn’t as committed to my shots,” Wiyang Teoh said. “Part of it was I had to change my swing a little bit. There were changes I knew I needed in order to hit well.”
The tournament was UCLA’s first of the season, which Freeman said created some difficulties for his players.
“We hadn’t played in a tournament – for some of these guys, it’s been a couple months – and you could tell that they struggled with tournament jitters and making good decisions and having the pressure on them,” Freeman said. “I think the one thing I saw (to improve on) was just getting back into tournament mode.”
The Bruins have less than a week off before they head to another competition.