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With strategy in mind, UCLA men’s golf heads into 2024 Southwestern Invitational

Junior Omar Morales walks up to the tee. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics/Ross Turteltaub)

Men's Golf

Southwestern Invitational

Monday to Wednesday

Westlake Village

By Austin Tran

Jan. 29, 2024 1:53 p.m.

Half of the Bruins’ lineup will be traveling to the deep valley for the first time.

UCLA men’s golf is heading to the Southwestern Invitational in Westlake Village, California, from Monday to Wednesday. This will be its second tournament of the spring slate but its first stroke play event after the alternate shot format of the first spring tournament. The Bruins are coming off a runner-up finish at The Copper Cup in Maricopa, Arizona.

While some of the lineup have never competed at the North Ranch Country Club at the collegiate level, the team has three Bruins returning from last year’s lineup, including junior Pablo Ereño, who finished in a tie for ninth place in last year’s go-around.

Coach Armen Kirakossian said he is looking for the third-year to be a leader in the practice rounds and show the younger players the ropes, especially with the varying pin locations at North Ranch.

Ereño said he has a few insights about the course from last year that he hopes to share with his teammates.

“I love this event – I think the course is super cool,” Ereño said. “I noticed last year that having good pace on the greens is going to be really important, and then driving it well off of the tee is also going to be super important. I think that’s going to be key to succeed.”

Ereño added that during the offseason break, he switched his golf ball to one that has less spin in order to gain more control on his iron shots. In addition, he said his offseason workouts allowed him to increase his distance on the course.

Junior Omar Morales is coming off of a runner-up finish at the Latin America Amateur Championship. While it has been a quick, one-week turnaround since the event, Kirakossian expects him to be ready to go.

“As he acclimates back into campus, he probably has a lot of schoolwork to catch up on,” Kirakossian said. “We are also going into a tournament right away, which I think it’s a good thing for him just to get back out and competing again. I would expect that he is ready to continue his good play.”

While Ereño, Morales and sophomore Kyle An are returning from last year’s lineup, freshmen Luke Powell, Alex Papayoanouand Luciano Conlan will be making their debuts at the Southwestern Invitational.

Powell – the top-ranked freshman in the country – is coming off of a fall stretch where he had eight of his 12 rounds finish under par and three of his four events end with top-three finishes. Morales is also coming off of a fall season rounded out with three consecutive top-five finishes.

Powell said after his first taste of match play in the fall, he needs to adjust before going back to stroke play at the Southwestern Invitational.

“The main thing is … you have to stick to your own game plan and just focus on yourself and stay within your own realm,” Powell said. “You’re staying within yourself, staying patient and understanding that the opportunities will come and you’ll capitalize on them in the future and not trying to force anything.”

Kirakossian, who has taken many different teams to this event dating back to his head coaching stint at Arizona State, stressed the need to focus on strategy and ball placement, especially at a course like North Ranch.

“This golf course takes a lot of discipline,” Kirakossian said. “Going into this week, we’re going to talk a lot about strategy.”

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Austin Tran | Sports reporter
Tran is currently a Sports reporter on the men's and women's golf beats.
Tran is currently a Sports reporter on the men's and women's golf beats.
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