Golfers Cut Short By Stormy Weather

    MEN’S GOLF — Gusty winds and a steady downpour forced tournament officials to suspend play after only two rounds at the Oct. 12 InterWest Wildcat Classic. The Tritons finished in a soggy eighth place at the rain-shortened event, and are now fine-tuning for the Sonoma State Invitational on Oct. 19 to Oct. 20.

    A rarity on the West Coast, the suspended tournament was the first since the 2005-06 season, when the downpour was so heavy that players were using bunker rakes to squeegee water from the greens. Head coach Mike Wydra asked for play to be suspended at that tournament, much like he did this week in Chico.

    “The veteran coaches took a look at the weather report and lobbied against starting [the third round],” he said. “Once you start the round, you have to finish it. The game stops being a test of golf ability and starts being a test of the bad conditions. Eighty-three becomes a good score, and no one wants to shoot a good eighty-three.”

    Junior Keith Okasaki, who survived winds gusting upward of 45 mph, and was the low man for UCSD on the 6,906 yard, par 72 Butte Creek Country Club course. His total of 151 tied him for 26th place.

    Okasaki struggled through the first 14 holes on Monday, before Wydra provided him a crucial swing tip that turned his game around.

    “It was something simple that made a big change,” Okasaki said. “I was really struggling, so I asked if [Wydra] could follow me and give me some advice. It’s a bad habit, and the same problem I had in Washington.”

    After Wydra’s tip, Okasaki finished his final three holes of the first round one-under par, and cruised through round two at even-par. Having finally found the glitch in his swing, he was looking forward to the third round, but Mother Nature wasn’t having it.

    “I really wanted to keep playing,” he said. “Bad weather fixes my game. A lot of players hit the ball high, but I hit it low, so playing in the wind doesn’t affect me as much. It gives me an advantage.”

    Senior Raj Samra finished one stroke behind Okasaki, with back-to-back rounds of 76. Sophomore Michael Tilghman’s performance dipped after previously leading the Tritons in Washington two weeks ago, and junior Brian Olshock played his first season tournament.

    Junior-college transfer Richard Morris — finally OKed by the NCAA Clearinghouse, after updating his amateur status — competed in his first Division II tournament as a Triton. Morris shot rounds of 77 and 79, finishing in a tie for 48th. While he was not entirely satisfied with his performance, he did note some big differences between playing Division II and at the junior-college level.

    “It was pretty apparent in my first event that if you don’t play well, it will show,” Morris said. “The competition here is at the next level. Some say the Division II isn’t the greatest, but there is a high level of golf out there.”

    Individually, UCSD is reaching top form; however, the men are struggling as a team. Wydra’s squad did not post low scores during the opening round of either tournament this season, but seemed to have fewer problems in rounds two and three.

    The Tritons are averaging nine strokes better in the second and third rounds, compared to their first round.

    Wydra said the team’s struggle is like that of a running back needing the first hit of a game before hitting his stride.

    “We always play better as we get going,” Wydra said. “We need to just stay in our routine and get into automatic. I also think some of it is team chemistry. The teams that have started out better than us have been playing together longer. If we can get one guy going, I think others will follow.”

    The Tritons have their top four golfers in place, but are still looking to fill the all-important fifth spot for next week’s Sonoma State Invitational. Because collegiate golf uses the best four of a team’s five individual scores for a team total, the fifth spot provides some cushioning.

    “It’s hard when two guys play bad in the same round,” Okasaki said. “We need that fifth guy to contribute. You can’t expect the top four to play well every round. It’s just unreasonable.”

    Wydra will take Okasaki, Samra, Morris, Tilghman and the to-be-determined fifth player to Sonoma next week. Last season, UCSD finished eighth, with Okasaki and Samra finishing in a tie for 24th.

    Considering their familiarity with the Sonoma course, both players are expected to perform well this week.

    “Knowing that I’ve played a couple of good rounds on the course before is a huge benefit,” Okasaki said. “It gives me confidence knowing that I have done well there before. We have been really underachieving as a team with the talent we have. I’ve had the chance to play with our top four, and we’re all starting to play really well.”

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