Gray Skies Follow Triton Golfers to Sonoma State

    MEN’S GOLF — For the second straight week, the UCSD men’s golf team endured a rain-soaked affair from Oct. 19 to Oct. 20. Gray clouds followed UCSD to the Sonoma State Invitational, where the Tritons equaled their finish from last week’s wet and soggy InterWest Wildcat Classic with eighth place.

    The rain shortened the event from three rounds to two, and marks the first time in recent history that UCSD has played in back-to-back rain-shortened events.

    After posting their best team round this season with a nine-over-par 297 team total in difficult conditions, the Tritons couldn’t keep pace with eventual winners Chico State over the final 18 holes.

    Despite matching their 297 total in the final round, the Tritons dropped three spots: from fifth to eighth place overall. While the other teams seemed to be firing on all cylinders, the Tritons caught a few bad bounces and couldn’t get their putts to fall.

    “I have no idea why we couldn’t keep pace,” junior and captain Keith Okasaki said. “I had a good feeling going into the tournament that we would play well. We showed it during the bad weather on day one and beat some good teams. But we just weren’t able to capitalize on some of the birdie opportunities we had.”

    Okasaki fired the low total for UCSD, bouncing back from a 74 on day one with a 71 in the final round on the 6,711 yard, par-72 Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club course. His 145 total put him in a tie for eighth overall.

    A pair of three putts in his first round — followed by six missed birdie putts inside six feet during the final round — kept­ Okasaki from going lower.  While pleased with his overall performance, Okasaki said he felt like he had missed key opportunities.

    “Yesterday I played really well,” he said. “I hit the ball well but putted terribly. In my first round, I played better than the score reflects.”

    After a long search for a fifth man to fill his tournament roster, head coach Mike Wydra is keeping his eye on sophomore Justin Gabbert.

    The second-year golfer was Wydra’s final selection to compete in Sonoma, and he made the most of his opportunity, carding a five-over-par 145 over the two rounds.

    Finding a fifth man has been a chore for the team during its fall campaign, but Okasaki said he was impressed with Gabbert’s effort.

    “[Gabbert] came up really big,” he said. “He finished three under his final four holes. That’s what we’ve been looking for all year: someone who can step up and bail out a bad round. We’ve really needed that, and it was nice playing with five guys this week.”

    With the fall season complete, UCSD won’t compete as a full team again until Feb. 2, at the San Diego Collegiate Classic.

    The Tritons must now find ways to maintain a team-play mindset during the long break — something they have had trouble with during previous seasons.

    To counteract their recurring problem, the men will continue to practice as a team until the quarter ends, and again when they pick back up in the spring.

    During the offseason, it will be up to the individual players to stay sharp.

    “I’ll be out on the range putting and chipping almost every day,” Okasaki said. “The offseason is the time to work on your game and make changes to make yourself better.”

    Readers can contact Matt Croskey at [email protected].

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