Eddy Lai emerged victorious for the first time as a Bruin.
After sharing a tie for 22nd at even par through round one, the UCLA men’s golf junior shot 7-under over the final two days to finish with a 7-under 209 at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational. Lai tied for first, earning his first career collegiate victory in the process.
“I was pretty mad after round one because I didn’t really capitalize on the easy conditions,” Lai said. “The second round was very rainy, windy and cold, and I felt like I used the weather to my advantage. … After the second round, I knew I had never been in this spot before, so I thought I might as well try to win (the tournament).”
The entire field endured rain and gusty winds Saturday, but Lai managed a 3-under 69 – tied for the lowest score of the day. He was two strokes behind William Paysse of Texas A&M heading into the final day.
In the final round, Lai once again tied for the lowest score at 4-under 68, overcoming the two-stroke deficit. Lai claimed a share of the individual title alongside Paysse. Lai shot a tournament-low 5-under on par-fours this weekend.
“I couldn’t be more excited about (Lai’s) win in one of the best fields of the entire year,” said coach Derek Freeman. “He was just super patient at a very difficult golf course.”
While Lai stood atop the individual leaderboard, UCLA finished fifth out of 14 teams at the tournament, shooting an 8-over 872.
The Bruins were one of six teams to shoot under par in the first round, putting them in a tie for fourth. Junior Devon Bling and sophomore Bryan Wiyang Teoh paced the team at 2-under, tying for 11th on the first day. Teoh scored five birdies Friday, all on the second nine.
On Saturday, no team improved upon its first-round score. UCLA shot 10 strokes worse in the second round, yet stood just five shots behind first-place Duke. However, the Bruins shot 4-over 292 on Sunday, sliding them into a fifth-place finish.
“We did not play well (Sunday), and it’s very unfortunate,” Freeman said. “We were in a nice position to play well and to have a chance to win. … But our guys did not perform well outside of (Lai).”
Teoh was in a tie for fifth after shooting even par in round two. The sophomore shot 4-over in the final round, dropping into a tie for 19th. Bling finished tied for 35th after shooting 4-over and 3-over in rounds two and three, respectively.
Senior Hidetoshi Yoshihara was the next best scorer for UCLA, finishing 9-over to tie for 52nd. Sophomore Sean Maruyama tied for 71st at 16-over to round out the Bruin score card.
Freshman Mason Greene, who competed as an individual, shot 12-over, tying for 62nd. Greene was in a tie for 25th in round two but shot 9-over Sunday.
UCLA was in the top five for par-four and par-five scoring but tied for last in par-threes, shooting a collective 27-over.