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UCLA men’s golf stays consistent, ties for 3rd at Southwestern Invitational

Junior Omar Morales swings on the golf course. Morales finished in eighth place at the Southwestern Invitational Collegiate. (Courtesy of Owen Main/Cal Poly Athletics)

Men's Golf

Southwestern Invitational Collegiate

3rd place (-2, 280)

By Austin Tran

Feb. 2, 2024 4:42 p.m.

The Bruins finished a few shots away from victory once again.

UCLA men’s golf finished in a tie for third at the Southwestern Invitational Collegiate with a total score of 9-under 843 on Wednesday. While half of the lineup consisted of freshmen who have never played a competitive round at North Ranch Country Club, the Bruins were well within the hunt going into the last day. The team trailed eventual winner Ohio State by as little as one stroke before finishing four behind.

“Our execution wasn’t perfect, but they’ll definitely learn from that,” said coach Armen Kirakossian. “They maybe didn’t adjust quick enough to how firm the greens got at the end, and they were maybe choosing clubs that weren’t quite right and that led to some uncommitted swings.”

While the Bruins finished a few shots from victory, they were able to maintain consistent play. Only two strokes separated their highest and lowest scoring rounds.

Kirakossian said the team’s consistency is attributed to a commitment to its approach, especially at a difficult course like North Ranch.

“It’s a really tricky golf course,” Kirakossian said. “To the guys’ credit, they really bought in to playing that strategy. Because we were so disciplined on the strategy is what led to such consistency in our scores. Our guys really bought in, and they took ownership of that strategy … that’s really what gave us the chance.”

After a runner-up finish at the Latin America Amateur Championship the week before, junior Omar Morales recorded his fourth top-10 finish in the 2023-2024 collegiate season. He finished with a total of 6-under 207, good for an eighth-place finish. However, he said he felt there might have been some shots left on the course.

“I played really well today on the front – the back not so much,” Morales said. “I was really close to posting a low round today (Wednesday). It felt as if I was making close calls at birdies; a couple shots that barely missed the hole. Not the finish we all wanted, but lots to build on from this week.”

Freshman Luke Powell carded a total of 5-under 208, good for ninth place. This marks his fourth top-10 finish of the season and his fourth under-par finish in five events in his first year with the Bruins.

Junior Pablo Ereño, who finished in the top 10 in last year’s event, landed in a tie for 13th in this go-around, with a total of 3-under 210. Although he narrowly missed the top 10, he overcame a slow start on the first day. Beginning the tournament at 5-over par through the first four holes, Ereño played his remaining 50 holes at 8-under par. On the final day, he carded a season-low 4-under 67.

“I was super excited coming in,” Ereño said. “It was kind of a tough start, but honestly what kept me fighting was that bogeys are going to happen … I just wanted to be patient. I just thought that my game was there, I can play better, and I just kept … sticking to my game plan.”

Sophomore Kyle An and freshman Luciano Conlan rounded out UCLA’s lineup at the three-day tournament. An carded a total of 3-over 216, whereas Conlan finished at 8-over 221 – good for 32nd and 53rd place, respectively.

The Bruins will return to action Feb. 8 at the Amer Ari Invitational.

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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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