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UCLA men’s golf places in the middle of Pac-12 championships

Junior Omar Morales swings his club after hitting the ball. Morales tied for third at the Pac-12 championships. (Courtesy of David Venezia)

Men's Golf

Pac-12 Championships

6th place (64-over 1484)

By Owen Pesenhofer

April 30, 2024 12:31 p.m.

This post was updated April 30 at 9:28 p.m.

The Bruins had one final chance to win a Pac-12 title.

But after rough conditions tinted their opportunities, they came up short.

UCLA men’s golf placed sixth in the Pac-12 championships at the Desert Forest Golf Club over the weekend, ultimately finishing in the middle of the pack in the tournament that was its last before a potential NCAA regional appearance.

Adverse weather was commonplace for the Bruins this tournament, with high winds for the first three rounds at speeds up to 43 miles per hour. Additionally, Friday featured 36 holes of golf, which, coupled with the wind gusts, only added to the team’s obstacles.

“I don’t know if they’ve ever faced a single round of golf as difficult as that in competition,” said coach Armen Kirakossian. “How they responded, I think really well.”

After these two rounds of golf on the same day, the Bruins still placed sixth, but a 26-over 381 in the second round showcased how the wind and fatigue proved difficult to overcome. But as Kirakossian said, the team would respond over the final two rounds.

The Bruins’ 2-over 357 was tied for the second-best mark in Sunday’s fourth and final round, trailing only the eventual champions, Arizona State.

As for individual achievements, junior Omar Morales – who finished in third place at the tournament – shot a 2-over 286, and in the final round, his 6-under 65 scorecard was the lowest in the clubhouse that day.

Morales also got support from an unlikely contributor in sophomore Kyle An. Having sat out the previous two tournaments, there were questions as to how well he would perform.

“Personally, I had my own doubts going into this event,” An said.

But An proved his own doubts wrong.

His 11-over 295 proved good enough for a tie at 15th place. This finish was An’s best outing since the Hamptons Intercollegiate in October. On the other hand, junior Pablo Ereño and freshman Luke Powell couldn’t reach the same heights as their teammates, finishing tied for 29th and 59th, respectively. 

“At the end of the day, it’s just a game,” An said. “Obviously I want to do well, but the main goal is boosting my teammates and making sure that we’re all doing well.”

While the team did not ultimately win the conference, the Pac-12 championships offered the Bruins more competitive experience before the NCAA Regionals.

With the selection show Wednesday and the regional tournament following soon after, Morales said any practice in a playoff environment helps.

“It’s great preparation because it’s a really competitive tournament,” Morales said. “It really wears you off, and I think just having more reps before regionals helps.”

If the Bruins are selected Wednesday, they will compete in one of six regional tournaments, the closest of which takes place in Rancho Santa Fe, California, near San Diego.

In order to prepare, Kirakossian said he wants to keep morale high as the team pushes for a national championship.

“We’re just going to try to make practice fun, keep the energy light and really try to enjoy this moment,” Kirakossian said. “I just want to make the best of it and make it a really memorable experience for these guys.”

While the Pac-12 championships did not end with a podium finish, An said the team’s eyes are set on bigger trophies.

“We all believe that we’re the best team in the country – there’s no doubt about that,” An said. “Our goal is obviously the national championship, so whatever we have to do to get us there are steps that we’re going to take.”

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