UCSD Ends Fall Season in Seventh

MEN’S GOLF — The Tritons concluded their fall schedule with a seventh-place finish at the Dennis Rose Intercollegiate in Hawaii on the Mauna Lani North Course on Oct. 27 and 28.

Sophomore Keith Okasaki led the Tritons, shooting 71-72-70 to card a three-under par 213 to tie for 11th place overall. Okasaki was followed by junior transfer Raj Samra, who finished in a tie for 21st, four strokes behind Okasaki.

St. Edwards University overcame a four-stroke deficit to defeat Valdosta State University in a playoff. Both teams finished 16 strokes better than UCSD’s 872. While the stroke difference may seem large, head coach Mike Wydra described just how misleading it is.

“Think of it this way,” he said. “One stroke per round per counting player is a 12-stroke difference. The difference between a seventh-place finish and a third-place finish is very, very small.”

Wydra said it was no surprise that St. Edwards and Valdosta State were battling for the championship because of their familiarity with the Bermuda greens.

“We play on bent-grass greens at home,” he said. “In a tropical place like [Hawaii] or the Sun Belt, the grain of the Bermuda grass is important and the greens are a little slower. St. Edwards and Valdosta State regularly play on those types of greens and getting used to that condition is easier for teams that play on those types of greens.”

Despite the customary practice round all teams receive prior to actual play, the Triton men struggled on the greens early in the first round. Late in the round, UCSD finally began capitalizing on opportunities and made putts down the stretch to post a one-over par 289 total after the first 18 of day one’s grueling 36 holes.

In the second round, Okasaki got off to a hot start going to four-under par after five holes. He gave himself multiple opportunities over the next few holes to push that number to five-under par, but couldn’t get short putts to drop.

Samra, who made a triple bogey with eight strokes on the par-five seventh hole in the first round, played the same hole five strokes better, carding an eagle in round two on the way to his one-under 71.

As a team, the Tritons were nine under with only seven holes to go, but watched the putts stop falling as they started to pile up bogeys. UCSD finished the second round with a two-over par 290.

Part of playing collegiate golf is dealing with that demanding 36-hole schedule on the first day of tournament play. It’s nothing new for these seasoned players, but for Samra it is much more rigorous than junior college golf.

“It’s a much different experience,” he said. “Instead of having only 18 holes, you have 54 holes to make birdies to lower your score. But it’s challenging and mentally draining walking 36 holes in one day.”

As the Kona and trade winds worsened in the final round, the Tritons fought to a five-over 293.

The seventh-place finish didn’t prevent Wydra from expecting great things from the team’s spring-season opener.

“Our future is so bright we need sunglasses,” he said. “We’re averaging 12 to 14 strokes better than last year and we have the potential to go even lower.”

With their fall schedule now complete, the Tritons will be on the honors system, as it is up to each player to continue improving his game.

“It’s everyone on his own,” Okasaki said. “We’re going to play a few rounds as a team, but mainly it’s work in the gym and work on the game to come back sharp.”

UCSD returns to competition Jan. 26 at the San Diego Intercollegiate Classic, where it hopes to improve upon last season’s last-place finish.