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Despite multiple All-Pac-12 honors, men’s golf swings short at NCAA regional

Junior Omar Morales and coach Armen Kirakossian fist-bump each other on the course. UCLA men’s golf finished in seventh place at the NCAA Stanford Regional. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

Men's Golf

NCAA Stanford Regional

7th place (5 under, 835)

By Connor Dullinger

May 17, 2024 12:08 p.m.

Coach Armen Kirakossian had the chance to lead his squad to the impossible heading into round three of the NCAA Stanford Regional.

With only the top five teams advancing, the Bruins had to move up two spots to reach the NCAA championships – a feat last reached in the 2017-2018 season.

Despite key birdies from junior Omar Morales to keep the Bruins within reach of the top five spots, No. 6 seed UCLA men’s golf ended Wednesday with a seventh-place team finish at the NCAA Stanford Regional.

Competing among an arsenal of top-ranked opponents – including four top-20 programs – the Bruins were five strokes short of the cutoff for the NCAA championships. Although the team’s season ended early, it was nothing short of positive, Kirakossian said.

“None of our six guys have ever even experienced what a regional looks like,” Kirakossian said. “For us to go out and shoot no rounds over par – as far as team scores go, and to be in it with nine, maybe six holes to go, they got a taste of what a regional feels like.”

In UCLA’s first appearance at the NCAA regionals since the 2018-2019 season, the squad finished with three top-20 individual performances.

Junior Pablo Ereño tied for eighth place, while Morales finished tied for 14th place and sophomore Kyle An tied for 18th place. Notably, freshman Luke Powell – who received All-Pac-12 Second Team honors – failed to finish in the top 20 individually.

While the Bruins were on the hunt until the end, it was a lack of execution on the putting green that contributed to a finish that prevented them from reaching the NCAA championships.

“Even if you hit really good putts with good speed and good lines, they sometimes can hit a bump. They can hit the lip and go out, and they can hit the lip and go in,” Ereño said. “It’s just a little bit of luck sometimes, and I feel like we didn’t have it.”

Although UCLA’s season ended early, it was a season full of accomplishments and milestones, with the team notching three All-Pac-12 selections – its most since the 2012-2013 campaign.

Morales earned All-Pac-12 First Team honors, while Powell and Ereño were both named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team. Powell was also selected to the conference’s All-Freshman team.

Coming off a strong season, it remains to be seen if the squad can simultaneously click – something it has struggled to do throughout this year.

“It is not that we lack skill – it is that we haven’t really peaked at the same time yet, and that’s what a lot of great teams do,” Morales said.

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