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UCLA men’s golf leaves Georgia with 11th place finish, Morales’ individual medal

Junior Omar Morales walks up to the tee on the putting green. Morales earned the second medal of his career at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics/Ross Turteltaub)

MEN'S GOLF

Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational

11th place (E, 864)

By Alexis Hinkle

Oct. 20, 2023 3:52 p.m.

Omar Morales added yet another accolade to his career.

The junior capped off his second year with the Bruins as the leading scorer and headed straight to the 123rd U.S. Open from June 15 to 18 – his first major tournament.

And without competing in the qualifying round, Morales dominated the greens at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational to earn his second medal behind an 11-under 205 finish – his second-best score with UCLA men’s golf. The Puebla, Mexico, local birdied 15 holes and bogeyed just four across three rounds of play to climb to co-champion honors.

“It feels rewarding to have success at one of the biggest collegiate tournaments there is,” Morales said. “And it also feels rewarding that my second win has come about because I’ve worked really hard the last couple of months to have good play in big tournaments.”

This is the second time in five years UCLA has won back-to-back individual medals. Freshman Luke Powell – who was named Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Week on Oct. 10 – earned the first win of his career at the Hamptons Intercollegiate just two weeks prior.

The Bruins landed in 11th place in Alpharetta, Georgia, shooting an even 864. This marks their lowest finish in regular-season play since April, but coach Armen Kirakossian said the players’ teamwork truly reflects the quality of play.

“The guys are playing as a team and a unit, and so they look good out there,” Kirakossian said. “Even though the team results may not reflect that, I believe that we’re on the right track. And so that’s encouraging, and I think the guys also feel that same way.”

Sophomore Kyle An and junior Pablo Ereño finished tied for 56th. Both players hit a double bogey each in rounds one and three, respectively, but were able to inch their way up the leaderboard to prevent a bottom-15 mark and graze the middle of the pack.

Graduate student Mason Greene and Powell finished in 49th and 67th, respectively, shooting nine birdies across the course to place at 4-over 220 and 10-over 226.

Morales, on the other hand, was near the top of the leaderboard from start to finish. But after sitting in a tie for third after the first two rounds, he hit a drive that went out of bounds on his 16th hole of the tournament, and East Tennessee State’s Algot Kleen – who was later named his co-champion – took possession of the lead.

But Morales didn’t let one mistake stop him. He hit a birdie later to put him back in first. Kirakossian said his comeback was a testament to his mindset the whole tournament.

“He didn’t let the out-of-bounds ball totally crush him,” Kirakossian said. “He was clearly upset but wasn’t discouraged. It’s about that mental space for those moments, and it came through.”

The Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Invitational marks the Bruins’ penultimate tournament before their hiatus, and they will head to Carmel, California, at the end of the month to wrap up fall-season play.

Morales said he will continue to make strides and prepare for what’s to come.

“Just doing what I’ve been doing, practicing a lot and trying to challenge myself each and every day,” Morales said.

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Alexis Hinkle
Hinkle is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's tennis, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. She is also a second-year sociology student.
Hinkle is a 2023-2024 assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's tennis, men's golf and track and field beats. She was previously a reporter on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats. She is also a second-year sociology student.
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